Why drive when you can bike?
One of Canada’s prettiest stretches of blacktop is now sporting a sister bike route that links the town of Banff to the historic park gate.
25 May 2011
Spring may still mean skiing for some, but for most Canadians it means it’s time to haul out our bikes and go for a ride. For those in Alberta, returning to the saddle means getting to pedal the spiffy, new and mellow Banff Legacy Trail—a testament to last year’s 125th anniversary of Banff National Park and this year’s centennial of Canada’s national park system.
Stretching 16 km (10 mi) so far (it will be 26 km or 16 mi when fully completed), from the town of Banff
east to the park gates that nudge Canmore
, this gentle romp straddles the backside of Mount Rundle and the Trans-Canada Highway
with jaw-dropping views from the Valleyview picnic area. Although the $6.75 million, multi-use trail didn’t officially open in 2010, enough of it was paved that a whopping 500 cyclists a day were clocked on it last August. That’s when I went for a spin, along with numerous young families pulling bike trailers as well as mountain bikers and inline skaters. No thigh-mashing, heart-throbbing climbs along this trail—not a one. Despite the fact you can hear the highway for most of the 65-minute ride (one-way), the trail does weave in and out of forest and skirts along a series of bluffs, making it much more enjoyable and safer than cycling on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada.
Last year’s lack of interpretive plaques, signage and distance markers will be not be an issue when the Trail officially opens by the end of this spring, promises Judy Glowinski, Product Development Specialist for Banff National Park. That’s when you’ll be able to stop and read the history of Canada’s first national park as well as learn about the environmentally friendly initiatives used to build this three-m (10-ft)-wide pathway. You’ll discover:
Those odd, rubbery sheets you cycled over are actually solar-powered electric mats that are used in certain sections to allow cyclists to cross trail fences without having to negotiate tricky bits like cattle guards.
The trail sub-base is made of recycled block taken from the demolition of the Lawrence Grassi Middle School in Canmore.
Other parts of the paved trail used materials acquired from excavation projects such as the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway.