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  1. #1
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Credit Card Touring of Icefields Parkway?

    I have been seeing some of the pics of the Icefields Parkway and I just have to go. It is so beautiful!

    But I would probably be interested in credit card tour. Is this possible? I would like to take it nice and
    easy. How many lodging options would I expect to see between Calgary and Baniff? Baniff and Jasper?

    Do I need to make reservations a year in advance like some of the US National parks or can I wait a few weeks.

    What should I expect in the way of climbs between Calgary and Jasper? What altitudes? I know Jasper and Baniff aren't too bad at 4.3K feet.
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    I can't tell you anything about Calgary to Banff, but I did Banff to Jasper (& back to Lake Louise) last year.

    There are a ton of hostels, you probably do need to make advance reservations, but not a year in advance, just a couple of weeks (but you should ask them!) I stayed at one - Rampart - which was really awesome - it was a "wilderness hostel" meaning it didn't have much in the way of services, but it was very quiet and rustic, in a pretty setting, with a wood-fired sauna. You would need to carry in your own food for some of the hostels, so you probably should plan it instead of winging it.

    There are two pretty big passes between Banff and Jasper - it's not at all flat. Nothing very steep though. I think the altitude was around... maybe 7000 feet or so.

    Here's a map linked by our favorite rocky mountain specialist -- print this out, it answers a lot of questions about locations of services and hills.
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/resou...ce_id=1103&v=F

    And my bike, at the Sunwapta Pass marker
    ...

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Have you got a healthy amount available on your credit card?

    You could easily cycle from Calgary to Banff (Banff, not Baniff, and pronounced Banff, not Ban-iff) in one day. It's only 125 km from the middle of Calgary to Banff, and probably only about 100 km from the western edge of Calgary. I'd recommend flying into Calgary, and then just cycling to the western side of Calgary the first day. That'll give you time to get your bearings, pick up any additional supplies you need, and maybe see something of Calgary. Then on the second (or third) day, cycle from the western edge of Calgary to Banff. I'd recommend sticking with Hwy 1 all the way and not bothering with Hwy 1A. There are rolling hills, but nothing too major. A good warm up.

    Once you get out into the Banff area, you could stay in Canmore, or go all the way into Banff. You will likely have to book in advance (2 or 3 months) if you're doing the trip between June 25th and August 15th, but you might get away with just showing up outside of that time period. Especially if you've got a large budget. Brace yourself for $200/night during the summer. You might be able to find places for less than that, but some might be more.

    Banff to Jasper is 289 km. The first place with accommodations you'll come to is Lake Louise at about 60 km up the road (oh, there are some accommodations at Castle Junction about halfway to Lake Louise). Lake Louise would be a good place to aim for. Again, you might want to book ahead, and accommodations aren't cheap. Take the Bow Valley Parkway to get to Lake Louise. There are a few good climbs along that route, but nothing unmanagable. I can ride all the way up everything. If 60 km is a short day for you, I'd recommend checking into your room, removing any excess luggage you have, and then tackling the climb to the lake. That'll keep you busy for a bit.

    Lake Louise to Saskatchewan River Crossing would make a good ride at about 80 km. You'll hit Bow Pass in there. Long, but not all that steep. There are accommodations at SRC, but you will want to book ahead or you might need to have a first-born ready to pay for them.

    I'd recommend heading east on Hwy 11 at this point. Everyone misses this bit of the Canadian Rockies and it is gorgeous ... quite possibly the most beautiful part of the area. You could cycle to the David Thompson Resort (45 km) and you would likely need to book in advance there. I'm really not sure how busy they are because they are kind of out of the way. Or if you're feeling particularly energetic you could cycle all the way to Nordegg (105 km). Again you'd likely need to book ahead. The hostel there sells out a couple months in advance, so I assume the other places in the area would as well. But Nordegg isn't quite as expensive as some of the other places on the route. The route is hilly, but has a beautifully wide shoulder and no traffic. Just one note ... when you head west again, toward the Icefield Parkway, you'll be riding into a headwind. I've never ridden that stretch without battling a wind.

    Back to SRC ... it's 154 km from SRC to Jasper. That might be challenging because of the Sunwapta Pass. Sunwapta Pass will be the big climb on the route. Accommodation options might be at the Columbia Icefield (50 km) at the top of the Sunwapta Pass. You'll definitely want to book ahead for that. Beauty Creek is about 70 km from SRC. It has a hostel which you'd want to book this week for next year (I hear it books up quickly and solidly for the summer), and some other accommodations as well, I believe.

    And then you'll arrive in Jasper.

    Where did you want to go from there?

    I've got a collection of photos of that area here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7619203595712/

    Here's a nice shot of the Sunwapta Pass climb:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7606151284624/

    And this set has some photos of that route as well:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7602332361993/

    This is Hostelling International:
    http://www.hihostels.ca/
    If you look at Alberta as a Destination, it shows the hostels available along the route. If you want to go that route (it's less expensive than the motels/hotels along the way), you'll want to be checking into booking asap.

    Here's the Saskatchewan River Crossing resort:
    http://www.thecrossingresort.com/

  4. #4
    Member lane's Avatar
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    Hostels are definately your best bet. Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, and Beauty Creek all be good choices for a nights stay while letting you enjoy the parkway at an easy pace. The most important thing would be to prebook through hostelling international before you start your trip. Food along the way is sparse. There are a few places to eat but they're expensive and pretty grim in terms of quality. Pick up some groceries in Banff and cook for yourself . Theres still some good options for accomodation in both Banff and Jasper in the way of tourist rooms in private homes but your easiest option may still be the hostels. Keep in mind that the Jasper hostel is a ways out of town and halfway up a mountain.
    Last edited by lane; 08-04-09 at 08:58 PM. Reason: repeating myself due to senility.

  5. #5
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone.

    The climbs don't scare me as much as the altitude. I just wonder how I would adapt. I am 50, in better shape than most people my age but in no means a great athlete. Also we are only at 1,200 ft. Lots of hills but shot steep ones.


    Some of the support tours charge $2k or more. From the sounds of it, they are really not gouging you all that much considering the costs.


    I guess the cost of things and the scarcity of food are concerning me a bit.

    I really don't want to camp here and I am not to sure I want to do any cooking.

    It is so beautiful though. Probably worth the pain and cost.


    Are there other options for getting to the top of the passes? Shuttle of some kind?
    Last edited by spinnaker; 08-05-09 at 05:45 PM.
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  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    What's the concern about the altitude? It's not that high. What's the altitude where you live?

    If you're thinking of going supported, look into companies like Backroads Bicycle Tours ... they've been doing it for ages. I've seen them out there just about every time I've ridden it.

    Cost is definitely a factor. If you don't want to camp, and don't want to do the hostel thing, count on $200/night. You might be fortunate and have some nights less than that, but I'd plan for $200/night to be on the safe side.

    As for food, you can get meals in restaurants in Calgary, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise (definitely stop by the bakery there!), Saskatchewan River Crossing, Beauty Creek, and Jasper. (And the David Thompson Resort and Nordegg, if you head out that way) You can pick up groceries for lunches and snacks in all those places (except Beauty Creek, unless things have changed there), and I would recommend travelling with some food on board all the time, just in case.

    And shuttles?? No, there are no shuttles. Well, the Brewster runs up and down the Parkway, but they're not too keen on taking bicycles ... at least they weren't when I inquired about it a few years ago. If you don't want to ride up the passes, you can walk your bicycle up them. But like I said, the only one I'd be concerned about is Sunwapta. You might want to practice climbing moderately steep, long climbs with a loaded touring bicycle a bit over the next year ... if you're not already used to riding that sort of thing.


    Edit: If you go with Backroads, they've got shuttle vans that will haul you down the road. I swear some of the people who "ride" with that tour spend more time on the shuttle van than they do on their bicycles. The first year I rode it, I'm cruising down the road and I catch up to and pass a woman in a fuzzy pink track suit plodding her way down the road on her Backroads bicycle. About 10 km later ... I catch up to and pass the same woman in a fuzzy pink track suit. About 10 km later ... same thing. I figure the Backroads people were picking her up a short time after I passed her, and deliberately dropping her off just around the corner in front of me.

  7. #7
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Thanks Machka.

    You made me feel a little better. As said I am at 1,200 ft. Sunwapta is at 6.5K feet. I guess not all that bad but I have never ridden at that altitude. Actually I have never been at that altitude, except maybe in a private plane w/o pressurized cabin.


    You said I can walk up the pass? Aren't we talking miles long?

    And no I don't mind staying at hostels. It would be nice if they had private rooms but I could also stay in a dorm, I have before. Maybe a nice room every couple of days.

    I was planning on taking it nice and easy. I would put in short days and do rides after I get to my place for the night. Maybe just go one way and get the train to Edmonton from Jasper then fly out of Edmonton or bus back to Calgary.

    I was very apprehensive about my PCH trip too and I did just fine. I am probably worried about nothing.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    About the hostels ... check out that link I posted in Post #3 for Hostelling International in Canada ... those are the hostels in that area, and I'd start thinking about some concrete plans and booking them soonish if that's the route you want to go. Or at least make contact with them and see when they recommend booking. You can likely email them for information.

    Sunwapta, from the side you'll be approaching it, is maybe 3 or 4 km, possibly less, from the point where it starts to get challenging to the top. Bow Pass, you just have to take slowly. I'm thinking the hills in your area tend to be steeper and shorter. On the Icefield Parkway, they tend to be longer but more gradual ... more manageable. The Bow Pass might be an 6-8% grade or so. Sunwapta, from the side you're on might be that or a bit more. If you were going the other way, Sunwapta is 12% and that's the steepest grade on the whole trip ... but you'll be going down that bit.

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    Spinnaker, you'll be fine and it's TOTALLY worth it. It's soooooo beautiful. The altitude might make you out of breath and you might have a headache, but nothing an over the counter painkiller and some water won't cure. It's not going to make you unable to ride.

    For the hostels, when you leave Lake Louise (northbound) carry a package of spaghetti, a couple of packets of tuna and a couple of packets of powdered sauce mix (like pesto) - it's not gourmet, but it's food. THey have all the cooking utensils. The hostel at Lake Louise has a restaurant and there are other restaurants and a grocery right there. North of there, no real groceries, but if you carry some ride-food (pop tarts, granola bars, etc.) and the spaghetti, you'll be fine. There are a couple of lame rip-off tourist trap restaurants north of Lake Louise and the hostels.

    Really it's totally worth it.
    ...

  10. #10
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    At the intersection of 11 and 93 between Lake Louise and Jasper there is a small deli that had a good selection of items. I had this lunch there;

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  11. #11
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone. I hope I can convince a buddy or two on doing this. Unfortunately, my touring buddy for the past couple of years (we get along well) might not be interested. He is more into the town thing. Hopefully if I can put together a low mileage / low stress itinarary, I can convince him.

    I noticed there is a train track from Calgary to Baniff. Is that a people train? Schedule? Cost? Just thinking of alternatives.

    That trip would probably actually be more like two days for me by bicycle. I am comfortable with about 60 miles (with the altitude maybe a little less). After that I start getting cranky.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    BTW I downloaded the Great Parks route from ACA and loaded it into Mapsource.

    Looks like there are tons of places to stay between Baniff and Jasper.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    1) It's Banff ... not Baniff. There's no "i" in Banff. If you go about pronouncing it Ban-iff, people are going to look at you funny.

    2) The only passenger train in Canada is VIA Rail and it goes various places, but in particular between Edmonton and Jasper. There is no passenger train between Calgary and Banff. There is, however, Greyhound ... but whether they'll take a bicycle or not is anyone's guess. If you contact them, they'll tell you they'll take it if it is in a box and it might travel on your bus or another one at some other time, or they might ship it freight at a later date, whatever their whim is at the time.

    3) The western side of Calgary to Banff is about 100 km ... which is 60 miles. As I suggested in my first post, I'd recommend arriving in Calgary and spending a day or two getting over to the western side of Calgary. That would give you a bit of time to get yourself settled, and give you a chance to see some of Calgary's sights, before heading off on the trip. And then you can do the 100 km to Banff on the second or third day.

    4) If you're not familiar with the metric system, you might want to brush up on it over the next year.

    5) What places does that software say there are between Banff and Jasper?

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Not much between Banff and Jasper except Canmore and Cochrane and the Indian reserve. And Canmore is only 24km from Banff. I don't suppose the ride is all that bad?


    BTW Other people spell it with an i too? But you explained it above and I guess my dyslexia kicked in.

    Metric system - the tool of the devil.


    I have been looking high and low for elevation profiles. Looks like bikely is down and mapmyride does not seem to have elevations.
    Last edited by spinnaker; 08-05-09 at 09:42 PM.
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    Member lane's Avatar
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    the easiest non cycling option between calgary and banff is either the Airporter or Sundog tours. They both offer shuttles thoughout the day. The hostels are quite nice and a couple of them offer private cabins or rooms. Do a search for both the Banff and Jasper chamber of commerce. They should have lists of private home accomodation which is your cheapest non hostel option.

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Yeah looks like those shuttles are $115 if I read it correctly. Ouch!



    Would I be missing out if I just did Banff and maybe part of Jasper turned around and came back?

    Again just looking for options.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    Not much between Banff and Jasper except Canmore and Cochrane and the Indian reserve. And Canmore is only 24km from Banff. I don't suppose the ride is all that bad?


    BTW Other people spell it with an i too? But you explained it above and I guess my dyslexia kicked in.

    Metric system - the tool of the devil.


    I have been looking high and low for elevation profiles. Looks like bikely is down and mapmyride does not seem to have elevations.

    Not much between Calgary and Banff except Canmore and Cochrane. And the ride between Canmore and Banff is fine ... it hardly takes any time at all.

    If other people spell Banff with an "i", they are spelling it incorrectly ... or they are making fun of people who insist on pronouncing Banff as "ban-iff".

    The only places left who use the imperial system are the US and Myanmar(?) I think.

    The RM1200 route goes down through the Icefield Parkway. They might have an elevation map:
    http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/rocky/rm1200.html

    Yes, as a matter of fact, they do:
    http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/rocky/p...-sections.html ... you'd be looking at the second section going from Lake Louise to Jasper.

    My father also talks about the route on his website, and includes some elevation profiles at the bottom of the page:
    http://www.motorera.com/tandem/banff.htm

    And if I were you, I'd allow 2-3 weeks for this adventure and take in as much as you can. There's a lot to see! A few days will only give you a tiny taste of it all. You could even plan in days where you do some of the hikes in the area too ... or enjoy the hotsprings ... or take in the atmosphere of the towns. It's easy to spend a whole day in the towns of Banff or Jasper.

  18. #18
    Member lane's Avatar
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    If youre going to do the climb up over sunwapta pass, you may as well finish the trip and coast on into Jasper. Its not nearly as busy as Banff and theres a few nice day trips you can do from the townsite. Do a search for Maligne Lake and Mt edith Cavell which are excellent road rides and a great way to spend a day. Plenty of good dining options once your in town too.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I really like the Jasper area ... Rowan and I got married there almost a year ago.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7607097344648/

    We drove into Jasper, camped at the Whistler Campground (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/Jasper/visit/visit2a_e.asp), and spent a couple days cycling around the area. On the day we got married (Aug 24), we cycled a century by riding out to Athabasca Falls and back, then along the Yellowhead to the Park Gates and back, and some extra to round out the century. Then we got married on a dock on Lake Annette. It was a wonderful day ... just the way a wedding day should be!!

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Regarding altitude...

    I suspect that everyone is different. Just to calibrate my comments I will say that I am currently 58 (turned 56 on the TA) and a so so athlete at best. I can say that I felt a little different when above first 5000' and whenever we went a thousand feet or so higher on my the Trans America, but mostly only as a feeling of being a bit less in shape than I thought I was. I live at close to sea level and started the TA at sea level. We topped out at 11,500' or so but had a chance to acclimate along the way. It was never a huge problem. It might be tougher if you fly into a place and start out at higher altitude rather than riding to it.

    On my latest tour I started in KC and rode to Santa Fe. I topped out at 7500' and didn't really notice the altitude. I suspect that the reason I didn't notice was that I had been running a lot before that trip and was fitter than when I started past tours even though I didn't have many miles of riding in.

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    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi,

    [QUOTE=spinnaker;9429477]
    Metric system - the tool of the devil.
    [QUOTE]

    As far as I know is the metric system the official system also in the US.

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    Would I be missing out if I just did Banff and maybe part of Jasper turned around and came back?
    No. I would skip the Calgary and prairie parts of the trip if there's a time constraint. Starting in Baniff would be a decent way to go. There's a very flat ride between Baniff and Lake Louise along Hwy 1A to use as a shakeout.
    I would take advantage of potential side routes along the way. Hwy 93 South would provide an entertaining out-and-back diversion with great views just a few miles from Castle Junction.
    There are fun rides around Lake Louise. Stay at the LL hostel, ditch your bags there and enjoy riding up to the Chateau (by going up the TramLine shale trail, not the roadway), to Moraine lake, and to the Continential divide (where some railway workers engineered an interesting water feature) along the 1A.

    Mosquito Creek hostel at Saskatchewian Crossing had beds suitable only for short people and curled-up sleepers when I was there. Check this.

    The Icefields Parkway is enjoyable in both directions. Be prepared, though. I've experienced a snowstorm at the Icefields Summit in July. That might be the biggest altitude related issue you encounter.

    With some planning, you could have a fantastic experience. Some of my favourite places lie in that region between Canmore and, wait for it...


    ...Jaspier.


    Sorry, Matchka, couldn't resist. My brothers and I jokingly called it Ban/nuf/fuh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    Yeah looks like those shuttles are $115 if I read it correctly. Ouch!



    Would I be missing out if I just did Banff and maybe part of Jasper turned around and came back?

    Again just looking for options.
    Just saw this part of your question, and I think no one answered it, so I will:

    The highlights of the scenerey are between Lake Louise (including the lake itself, you MUST bother to ride up there) to Jasper. The stretch between Banff and Lake Louise is pretty, and is on a very quite back-road (take the "a" road not the highway) but is not that spectacular.

    Last year I road in from Radium, headed south to Bannf, then north to Jasper, then back south to Lake Louise, repeating that section of road, then out of the parks via Kickinghorse Pass on the west side of the rockies. I was very happy to repeat that section - the views are different in the two directions, and it's just gorgeous.
    ...

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
    No. I would skip the Calgary and prairie parts of the trip if there's a time constraint. Starting in Baniff would be a decent way to go. There's a very flat ride between Baniff and Lake Louise along Hwy 1A to use as a shakeout.
    I would take advantage of potential side routes along the way. Hwy 93 South would provide an entertaining out-and-back diversion with great views just a few miles from Castle Junction.
    There are fun rides around Lake Louise. Stay at the LL hostel, ditch your bags there and enjoy riding up to the Chateau (by going up the TramLine shale trail, not the roadway), to Moraine lake, and to the Continential divide (where some railway workers engineered an interesting water feature) along the 1A.

    Mosquito Creek hostel at Saskatchewian Crossing had beds suitable only for short people and curled-up sleepers when I was there. Check this.

    The Icefields Parkway is enjoyable in both directions. Be prepared, though. I've experienced a snowstorm at the Icefields Summit in July. That might be the biggest altitude related issue you encounter.

    With some planning, you could have a fantastic experience. Some of my favourite places lie in that region between Canmore and, wait for it...


    ...Jaspier.


    Sorry, Matchka, couldn't resist. My brothers and I jokingly called it Ban/nuf/fuh.
    You've got all kinds of extra letters going on in the names in your post! (But just so spinnaker knows ... Banff is all one syllable, just how it looks. )


    On the bit between Calgary and Banff, you'll be in the mountains by about halfway through that day, so it's not all prairie there.

    But I agree that there are numerous side trips to enjoy. If you stay a few days in Banff, there's the Lake Minnewanka loop to ride, or up the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnson's Canyon where you can do a challenging hike up to the waterfalls and ink pots. Or a quick run out to Canmore.

    From Castle Junction, Hwy 93 is good all the way to Radium Hotsprings, although that last climb just before Radium is challenging. In fact, you could do the whole Golden Triangle ... Castle Junction to Radium, to Golden, to Lake Louise. I've ridden it twice with the Calgary cycletouring club and have enjoyed it, but a person could make it part of a longer tour, and join back in with the Icefield Parkway at Lake Louise.

    And again, I recommend Hwy 11 east from SRC. If you're tired of the traffic along the Icefield Parkway, take a break from it on Hwy 11. Have a look ... is that not a gorgeous piece of road? I've ridden it many times, and I don't get tired of it.


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7605871338498/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1430288...7619203595712/


    I also agree that you've got to be prepared for all kinds of weather ... you just never know what you'll get!!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    2) The only passenger train in Canada is VIA Rail and it goes various places, but in particular between Edmonton and Jasper. There is no passenger train between Calgary and Banff. There is, however, Greyhound ... but whether they'll take a bicycle or not is anyone's guess. If you contact them, they'll tell you they'll take it if it is in a box and it might travel on your bus or another one at some other time, or they might ship it freight at a later date, whatever their whim is at the time.
    I haven't read the whole thread, so maybe someone's already commented. But this point is incorrect. There is a tourist train that carries passengers from Calgary to Vancouver via Banff. The Rocky Mountaineer. For prices and schedules, try poking around their site, but I expect the answer is somewhere in the "expensive" range, and probably runs once or twice per week. For the 100km or so, you really should just ride. That said, adding some distance and taking 1A seems more appealing to me than doing the whole distance on 1. 1A loses its shoulder a little bit past Cochrane, but the traffic is slower and the scenery is fantastic. Far better than the TCH.

    If you want low mileage and don't want to camp, you'll have to do hostels. To the best of my knowledge, the only hotel between Lake Louise and Jasper is at Saskatchewan Crossing, which is about halfway - certainly it's doable to only stop there, but if you want a slow and relaxing ride, stopping more frequently is better. The hostels along the route do not all have credit card facilities though, so plan on bringing some cash.
    Last edited by neil; 08-06-09 at 03:45 PM.

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