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Bike the Icefields Parkway

Improvement District No. 9, Alberta


Added by Samantha Culleton

Bike wide, well-paved cycling roads with plenty of camping opportunities. Enjoy great scenery, stunning mountain views of the Canadian Rockies, and up-close views of wildlife.

The Icefields Parkway is a spectacular highway to ride (you can see the short video here). The shoulders are wide and well paved. Drivers are typically courteous, slowing down and giving you space as they pass, making the ride a great deal more enjoyable. Starting in Jasper you load up your bike, head for one last beer, and hit the highway for a challenging yet unforgettable week on the road. The scenery changes from hour to hour, kilometre by kilometre.

The Icefields Parkway has numerous points of interest including the Columbia Icefield, the Saskatchewan River Crossing, Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, Banff, and an un-ending list of waterfalls. Aside from the awesome scenery there is also a variety of wild animals to be seen. Make sure to brush up on your animal safety before you head out.

There are campgrounds along the way that have potable water during the on season. If you are traveling in the off-season, there is ground to cover between the odd restaurant or gift shop. Typically, you'll come across somewhere to refill your water, get your fill of coffee, and free wifi, once every day or two. So it is recommended you bring enough food and water to last you at least a couple of days. Bear Mace and water purification drops are great to have on hand. There are many small bodies of moving water to fill your bottles from if necessary.

When you enter Jasper National Park there will be fees. Cost varies depending on how many people you are traveling with. If you are riding with a small group, up to seven people, I would recommend getting an annual group pass. A list of the fees for each campsite, and for the park itself are available on the Parks Canada Website. Information is also given on what amenities are available at each campground.

Leaving Jasper on the first day there are a few campsites within 100 kilometres. Honeymoon Lake Campground, 53 kilometres south of Jasper, and Jonas Creek Campground at 73 kilometres south. Jonas Creek Campground is especially nice for cycle tourists. Both campgrounds have potable water, food lockers, fire pits, and dry toilets.

If you decide to take it fairly easy on the first day and stay at Honeymoon Lake Campground; there is a very short ride to Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Jasper Lodge. If you are willing to spend the money you can stay there overnight and have a good feed before the next days ride. A deli and a gift shop are available as well. The beautiful, yet tourist filled, Sunwapta Falls are only a 5 minute ride away and the views are well worth the minor detour. Just make sure to fill your bottles or water bladders and make sure you have enough food before leaving.

The following day to the Athabasca Glacier is not an easy one. You have a grueling 900m climb ahead of you. There is no shade once you start. On a hot day, with no cloud cover, be sure to drink plenty of water, take as many breaks as you need, and slap on a layer or two of sunscreen. When you finally reach the peak there is a marvelous view of the river below and of the Athabasca Glacier straight ahead. From the Glacier Skywalk you have a short ride to the Columbia Icefield Campground at about 106 kilometres south of Jasper. The campground is tents only, has a payphone, potable water, food lockers, dry toilets, a camp kitchen, and fire pits.

Between the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields Campground is where you can find the Glacier View Inn. I would advise biking back the to the Inn if you stayed at the campgrounds to refill your bottles and grab a bite to eat in either the dining room or the cafeteria. The Inn is around 5 kilometres from the campground.

What is likely your third day is an especially fun one, the first half in particular. You have an adrenaline filled 700m descent almost right off the bat. We hit between 70-75 km/hour on the way down the mountain. Expect a few switchbacks and make sure to hold on tight to your handlebars. Try to remember to stop and enjoy the view a few times on the way down, it won't be easy. The second half of the day is a 600m climb with a lot of ups and downs. At the end of the day you can stay at Rampart Creek Campground, which lies 88 kilometres north of Banff. Wilcox Creek Campground is another option at 57 kilometres North of Banff. Both sites have fire pits, camp kitchens, and water stations. It was not specified if they were potable or not. This is when water purification drops come in handy, especially if you are rolling in late and there is no one to ask.

Leaving the next morning you should be on your way to Lake Louise. This day is a fairly easy one. There is a small restaurant and gift shop on the way, the Lake Louise Village Grill & Bar. The trees become a lot denser and you have a 450m descent with a few ups and downs along the way. When you arrive in Lake Louise there are numerous amenities. The Lake Louise Campground has flush toilets and showers, not withstanding the usual fire pits, food lockers, and potable water. Keep an eye out for squirrels, they run rampant here and will get into your food if it is not kept in a locker. There are many small stores and restaurants in town, just 5 minutes away from the campground. We stopped in to a local hostel for our biggest meal in days, and a few pitchers of beer.

The final leg of the journey is short. I recommend taking the Bow Valley Parkway, a secondary highway, to Banff. It is fairly quiet and you will encounter many friendly road cyclists along the way. Once you arrive in Banff take a few days to see as much as you can, there is a lot going on. When we arrived, the Tour Divide was starting the next day. Several hundred cyclists riding from Banff to Mexico were about to set out. Watching them leave the starting point was a great end to the trip; it also gave us an idea of what could be possible on our next adventure.

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