NOTE: For an updated (2014) review of the Legacy Trail, read this blog post instead.
Last fall, the 26 km Banff Legacy Trail opened: a multi-use paved pathway running from the eastern gates to Banff National Park into the Banff townsite (16 km) or alternately connecting to the Bow Valley Parkway (26 km) which will take riders all the way to Lake Louise.
Since our longest rides so far this year have all been less than 20 km, we decided to head for Banff townsite. Until the Province of Alberta completes a 2 km connector to the Canmore pathway system, access to the Legacy Trail can be hazardous. One option is to park on the westbound side of the TransCanada near Harvie Heights, ride across the overpass and then ride the wrong way down the westbound ramp onto the shoulder of the TransCanada (we’ve even spotted occasional cyclist crossing the TransCanada)! On the advice of a local resident, we approached the gates to Banff National Park and then made use of the U-turn to turn back towards Canmore and park on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes, near the exit signs for Harvie Heights. It’s best to do this early in the morning on weekends, before traffic builds up so much that crossing to the far side of the highway becomes difficult.
UPDATE AS OF AUGUST 3, 2011: When we last came eastbound through the gates leaving Banff National Park, we noticed that there are now several “No Stopping” signs along the south shoulder of the eastbound lanes. According to a CBC Radio interview with Mayor Ron Casey, broadcast this morning, representatives from the Towns of Canmore and Banff are working with Alberta Transportation to establish interim and permanent access routes to the Legacy Trail. Check this link to CBC’s website for the full interview.
NOTE: Visitors to Canada’s National Parks require a Park Pass, which can be purchased at the gates into most National Parks, from the Parks Canada website and from some local motor associations.
It’s a pretty easy ride, made a little more challenging by underinflated tires and a headwind. Riding required much less effort once we pumped up our tires to pathway (rather than single-track) pressures at the 12 km mark.
The 3 meter wide pathway (a 5 km section was paved with recycled concrete from the old Banff high school) sits between the TransCanada highway and the tall wildlife fence. The toughest section (a short climb gaining about 25 m) is right at the start of the ride. After that, it’s pretty smooth riding, providing plenty of opportunity to study Mount Rundle, the Fairholme Range and Cascade Mountain while pedalling.
At one point, the train tracks ran parallel to the path, and Mrs. GeoK found herself in a losing race against a train that lasted almost a kilometer! There were plenty of wildflowers along both sides of the path (although several varieties are considered noxious weeds according to the Province of Alberta website).
We spotted some old mileage markers along the way and passed through a handful of gates equipped with electric eyes to track pathway usage.
Once in Banff, we followed the on street bike lanes most of the way to the Whyte Museum, where we quickly located GC28KA4 Conrad Kain – Banff. The cache description includes a lot of biographical detail about Conrad Kain and references a world-wide series of geocaches dedicated to this mountaineer.
Our next stop was the riverside park, where we eyed the accumulating clouds with a wary eye while eating our packed lunch. Then Mrs. GeoK took a short walk to GC2FR5M Swiss Travel Box. This one was a little difficult to reach, but with her long arms, Mrs. GeoK finally managed to nab the container.
Then, it was time to head back to where we parked out bike rack-equipped vehicle. By the time we loaded them up and headed for home, we’d cycled 37 km at an average moving speed of 18 kph (on mountain bikes, with Youngest GeoKid still on a kids’ bike). The ride was pretty easy, the views are great, but we probably won’t ride this one too often. It’s great for endurance training, but there’s just too much traffic noise!
NOTE: There is a handful of other caches in the Banff townsite, but we found them all a couple of years ago. All geocaches placed within Canada’s National Parks must be placed in accordance with Parks Canada geocache guidelines, so there aren’t too many to find while enjoying Canada’s mountain parks.