Story Ideas

Jasper offers the ride of a lifetime.

Beginner, intermediate and expert mountain bikers can choose from cross-country single-track trails galore in the Albertan national park.

04 September 2013

Suggested tweet: Jasper offers the ride of a lifetime with cross-country mountain bike trails galore @JasperNP

It’s hard not to become lost in the scenery when mountain biking, especially on trails like the Maligne Canyon single track in Jasper National Park, AB. The Athabasca River slides softly beside me with barely a ripple as I ride toward the canyon, but my eyes remain fixed three feet ahead of my front wheel. Cycling trails can throw a surprise (an exposed root, large rock or low-hanging limb) at any moment, the source of a good anecdote but perilous for someone who employs his wrists for his living.

Jasper may sit more than 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) high in the Rocky Mountains, but beginners and intermediate riders can find plenty of relatively flat cross-country mountain-biking trails.

The recent formation of the Jasper Park Cycling Association(JPCA), founded to preserve formerly off-grid trails, indicates the sport’s growth. In addition, three bike shops now cater to cyclists. Clearly, Jasper is joining Banff, Whistler and Cumberland as a critical spoke in western Canada’s mountain-biking culture. 

Parks Canada describes Jasper mountain biking as “cruisy, cross-country fun” in its new Jasper National Park Mountain Biking Guide. The park has posted yellow, diamond signs to designate maintained cycling trails. Fortunately for the seasoned rider who hopes to rock hop off the grid, the Three Valley Confluence planners worked closely with JPCA to incorporate favourite wild rides such as Magic Ridge and Razorback into the “Wildland Trail” roster. All unsigned trails prohibit bikes.

My trail creeps upward as I enter the Maligne Canyon, a smooth, centre-of-the-track pedal that transforms into a ride-high, gear-down challenge. The Maligne River, flowing far below, meets me face-to-face upon descent, where a quick face splash both quenched and cleansed the way only an alpine river can.

The Maligne Canyon trail can get busy with hikers during the peak season, so beginners and intermediates should also consider the 9-km (5.6-mi) “Valley of the Five Lakes Trail,” a quintessential cross-country single track with gradual climbs and smoother-than-smooth descents into the forests. Beginners and intermediates will also find more than enough “encouraging challenge” on the Pyramid Bench trail system.

Jasper’s mountain-biking reputation is clearly on the rise, but fear not. Like Jasper National Park itself, there will always be plenty of dirt to chew on both for those in the know and for those pressing the pedal for the first or second time.

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