Biking the Icefields Parkway near Sunwapta falls

Cycle Jasper to Banff

By Zac HeiligerTrip Reports

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We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!

Find out more about Jasper to Banff Road Biking Tour.

Riding a bike from Jasper to Banff is on a lot of people’s bucket list, including mine. This incredible route takes a rider through some incredible mountains, overlooking stunning blue lakes and over some challenging passes. It’s also a really hard trip to do on your own. The road goes through almost untouched wilderness. There’s not even cell phone service for most of the trip, and there are stretches of over 100.0 km without even a gas station to help you out if you need a snack or you have a mechanical. This is truly a route you need to do with a support vehicle, and Mountain Madness Tours are the leaders in taking guests on this stunning road.

Getting to jasper

With my bags packed and my bike loaded up in the back of the truck, I drove out of the Colorado Rockies making my way towards the Canadian Rockies. I live just outside of Boulder Colorado, not far from Rocky Mountain National Park. My friends joke “are you ever going to come down out of the mountains?” This time, I have a really good reason for leaving my little mountain paradise. As a writer and contributor for 10Adventures and I was given the assignment to team up with Mountain Madness Tours to experience a 4-day bike tour from Jasper to Banff along the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies!

I was excited to spend 4-days biking along the Icefields Parkway, enjoying and experiencing the mountains from morning to night at a pace that allows the spectacular views time to sink in. There is something about the Canadian Rockies that is hard to describe in words, the sheer size of the mountains, massive glaciers, jaw-dropping lakes and powerful waterfalls are in a league of their own. I knew this would be a different experience all together and an opportunity I could not pass up!

Mountain Madness Road bike tours on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

Mountain Madness Road bike tours on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

About mountain madness tour

Mountain Madness Tours is the only tour company dedicated to the route between Jasper and Banff. It’s run by a friendly Aussie called Ben, who runs road bike tours along this road all summer long, year after year. I think it’s fair to say Ben probably knows this route better than anybody else on earth.

Even more important for us guests, he is also an amazing guy! Ben is knowledgeable and extremely friendly, managing the 4-day tour flawlessly. Every detail of the tour was well-planned and it sure makes this trip a lot easier when everything you could imagine needing is already done for you. Every time you stop your bike everything is ready for you: accommodations, rest stops, meals. It’s a pretty great way to travel.

Could you do this trip solo or self-supported? Sure, it can be done, but there are lots of downsides to doing it yourself. First of all, this is a popular destination, with limited places to stay along the way, and with rooms and/or campsites booking up early and fast. Just to put a little perspective on this, Ben pre-books each room 1-to-2 years out for each tour!

Another benefit of a supported tour is that you have somebody there ready to help if something goes wrong. And being so remote, having something go wrong can really ruin a trip. If your bike is not riding like it should or you suffer a mechanical, get on the walkie-talkie and Ben will come and meet you and get your bike running again with his mobile tuning station.

A supported tour also means you don’t have to carry all the gear you’d need if you do it yourself. There is cold-weather and wet-weather gear in the van for when the weather goes bad. There is also sunscreen for the bluebird days that are more common in summer. You can ride with a nice light bike, and all the gear you might need in the van.

Finally, there are regular breaks where the van is waiting at a scenic overlook, so you can enjoy a break with a view. There are snacks and drinks waiting, and we also used the breaks to add/shed a layer, tinker with our bike or just enjoy some downtime and reflect on the stunning views we just had.

Mountain Madness even has a brand-new fleet of FELT VR30 Disc Road Bikes if you don’t want to bring your own.

Can I do this?

I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect on Day 1. On a personal level, I had my doubts about my physical ability to ride the whole way. I’m not an expert or seasoned road biker, I occasionally ride, but up to this point, my biggest ride ever in a single day was 49.9 km, on a mountain bike! If I ride my road bike, I think getting 32.2 km in on the saddle is a big day! Also, what if I am the slowest person in the group? What if I hold everyone back?

When Ben arrived to pick me up and load my bags into the van, I noticed that everyone had the same look on their face. An eager look of fear and excitement. As each person joins the group, the same questions are asked, “you bike a lot?”, “did you train for this?”

Eventually, the group dynamics helps smooth over the worries. Conversations transition from the task ahead, to more personal storytelling of each person’s life story bringing them to this adventure. In the van ride from Edmonton to Jasper, you discover the common thread that brought everyone together on this tour and just how small the world is at times.

Ben reassured the group that anyone that is somewhat active and has a good mindset about the ride will be able to complete this ride with no issues. And if for whatever reason, you don’t think you can do a section, there is always the option of loading up your bike in the trailer and hopping into the support van. But he was confident we wouldn’t need it!

Find out more about Jasper to Banff Road Biking Tour.

Cycle Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!

DAY 1 - Jasper to Sunwapta Falls 56.0 km

Arriving into Jasper, we pull onto the Icefields Parkway to our starting point at Becker’s Chalet along the Athabasca River. Ben unloads the bikes and helps everyone prepare for the first day of riding. He distributes helmets, radios, and anything else riders might need.

After a quick review of the map, the route description and where we will be meeting up along the way, the bike tour begins!

Guided biking tours in Canadian Rocky Mountains

The incredible views start immediately. Even before you leave the parking lot, Mount Hardisty is dominating the background!

Along the first day we come to appreciate the quality of the road we are on. The Icefields Parkway is a well maintained, 2-lane highway, with a generous shoulder and fresh pavement for most of the ride! Rest stops and check points are scattered along the route at all the key scenic overlooks and attractions. The rest stop on Day 1 was at the beautiful and powerful Athabasca Falls. The drinks and snacks provided were spot on! Fresh fruit, KIND bars, chocolate covered pretzels, Gatorade, trail mix, juice boxes, dried fruit, and banana bread from the local bakery; everything you could want or need, perfectly prepared and waiting for your arrival!

Athabasca Falls on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

Athabasca Falls on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

Day 1 ends at Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge. By the time we arrived at the lodge, our bags were in our rooms waiting for us and all we had to do was go in and take showers, to get ready for dinner. I can get used to this type of riding!

Dinner was an incredible 3 course meal. Options included the Roasted Chicken Dinner, accompanied by buttery mashed potatoes and vegetables, or Wild Sockeye Salmon with homemade Mole sauce, black beans and rice, or Bison Bolognese. Dinner was served with an apple crumble a la mode for desert! After dinner, Ben took the group on a quick ‘best kept secret’ hike to a rocky overlook of the Sunwapta Valley! Afterwards, Sunwapta Falls was literally walking distance from our rooms.

Best Kept Secret Overlook on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

Best Kept Secret Overlook on a cycling tour from Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

Cycle Sunwapta Falls to Saskatchewan River Crossing

We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!

DAY 2 - Sunwapta Falls to Saskatchewan River Crossing 98.0 km

This is the ‘BIG’ day with what Ben calls ‘bumps’! These ‘bumps’ are two distinct hill climbs, one with a steep grade of 8% over Sunwapta Pass.

Everyone in the group was a bit nervous to face these two ‘bumps’. During breakfast, a granola and yogurt bar followed by a hot plate of eggs, bacon and toast, the conversation kept returning to the ‘bumps’! Ben reassured the group that everyone would be fine making the climb and broke each hill down to its elements. The larger 8% climb can be done in 3 sections, with rest stops available along the way starting at Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint, then Tangle Creek Falls half way up and then Glacier Skywalk at the top.

Reassured, the group departed from the lodge and we made our way up the first ‘bump’ with no issues! The second ‘bump’ was longer and steeper, but before we all knew it, we were at the top of Sunwapta Pass and riding downhill towards lunch at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center.

Lunch was a gourmet sandwich from the local deli served with a front row view of the Athabasca Glacier! After lunch, the ride was generally downhill, with a fun and fast section that curved around to the base of Weeping Wall!

After another rendezvous point, the last challenge of the day was to make it to our accommodations for the night at the Saskatchewan River Crossing. Dinner that night was buffet style, all you could eat, salad bar, roasted chicken, veggies, pasta, maple glazed ham and a desert bar! This was exactly what was needed after the ‘BIG’ day of riding!

Snowbird Glacier on a cycling tour from Sunwapta Falls to Saskatchewan River crossingAccommodation on a cycling tour from Sunwapta Falls to Saskatchewan River crossing

Cycle Bow Pass to Lake Louise

We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!

DAY 3 – Bow Pass to Lake Louise 85.0 km

If there was a highlight of the trip, it would have been on day 3, one of the most memorable rides of my life. Day 3 is a combination of perfect weather and the glacier fed lakes right off the road, it is truly spectacular. The excitement level starts to increase as you ride alongside the beautiful Waterfowl Lake.

Biker on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake LouiseFruits on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake LouiseWaterfowl Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake LouiseBiking along the Waterfowl Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

There was one notable ‘bump’ that snuck in at the beginning of the day over Bow Pass. With a combination of conquering the steep 8% climb of Sunwapta Pass the day before and having legs that had been put to the test beyond what they are normally asked to perform, made this ‘bump’ an unexpected test of physical ability.

But while the climb was hard at 4-6% grade, it wasn’t unclimbable; the views, were spectacular enough to distract you away from the climb. At the top of the Bow Summit, relieved that the climbing was over, we took a quick ‘leg stretcher’ hike to Peyto Lake!

Peyto Lake views from a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

Peyto Lake views from a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

After taking a million pictures each, we were back on our bikes for a quick downhill section to our lunch stop at Bow Lake. We grabbed sandwiches from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and enjoyed them at a picnic table overlooking the jaw-dropping blue waters of Bow Lake.

Bow Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

Bow Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

After lunch, the ride gradually descends to the town of Lake Louise. Dinner that night was at the Lake Louise Railway Station & Restaurant which was an old railway station that was converted to a restaurant that served Canadian meals. The menu was impressive, including everything from bison ribs, stuffed chicken to pulled pork mac-n-cheese! After dinner, Ben took the group on a scenic tour of the area with the van up to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, truly incredible places to see. The best part of seeing them later in the day is that the crowds are much lower, and it felt like we had these beautiful places to ourselves!

Moraine Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

Moraine Lake on a cycling tour from Bow Pass to Lake Louise

Cycle Lake Louise to Banff Canmore

We brought one of our contributors, Zac Heiliger (@zac_heiliger), up to Canada to cycle one of the most beautiful mountain roads on earth: from Jasper to Banff via Lake Louise. We teamed up with a friend of 10Adventures, Mountain Madness Tours in Edmonton, to make this bucket-list bike trip a breeze!

DAY 4 – Lake Louise to Banff / Canmore via Bow Valley Parkway 60.0 km to 85.0 km

The final day started with a big buffet breakfast at the Lake Louise Inn; pancakes, omelets, coffee, etc. The itinerary for the day was originally to ride all the way through Banff to Canmore. But with everyone in the group staying in Banff for a few days after the tour, we decided to alter the plans a bit and instead, ride to Lake Minnewanka as a bonus to finish off the tour!

To get there from Lake Louise, we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. We stopped at Castle Junction for a rest stop with the iconic Castle Mountain, towering behind us.

At the end of Bow Valley Parkway, we connected with the Banff Legacy Trail. At one point, we had to stop at along the shore of Vermillion Lake, to take pictures of Mount Rundle and its perfect reflection in the water. Eventually we made it into the town of Banff and continued our way towards Lake Minnewanka.

You pass Castle Mountain on a biking tour from Lake Louise to BanffBiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Jasper to Banff

The Banff Legacy Trail connected directly into Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, which was a beautiful loop that rode past Two Jack Lake and across the dam of Lake Minnewanka. There were a few bumps heading up to Minnewanka, and our legs let us know they had just biked a few hundred km’s. Along the way we saw lots of wildlife.

The tour ended with a fun rollercoaster-like downhill ride to Cascade Ponds and a much-deserved pizza lunch waiting for us! Ben loaded up the bikes for us, as we talked about the day, the tour and the things we saw along the way! Not wanting it to be over but knowing our legs would appreciate this being the end, we gathered enough energy to take one last group photo of us all jumping as high as our tired legs would allow!

Happy bikers on a biking tour from Lake Louise to Banff

The group had an incredible time, and everyone contributed the success of the trip to Ben and Mountain Madness Tours. Ben single handedly showed us a great time and gave us an experience of a lifetime, one that we will never forget!

This article was written by Zac Heiliger, a Senior R&D engineer by day and mountain man on evenings and weekends. Zac is the lead contributor in Colorado for 10Adventures. You can follow Zac on Instagram at @zac_heiliger

If you want to know more about Mountain Madness, you can check out these links for more information on their Jasper to Banff Cycling tours and the Itinerary. You can also call them at 1 (780).885.9813 or email them at info@mountainmadnesstours.com 

Thanks to Mountain Madness Tours for hosting us on this tour. The opinions and words are entirely our own

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