On this early August day, another cycling touring trip into the Canmore and Banff areas is now complete as we return to Calgary. As a cyclotourist, I find the 22 km Banff Legacy Trail as one of the finest cycling trails that I have been on. I would place it as number one ahead of the 110 kilometres Cour d’Alene Trail in Idaho, USA and the 200 kilometres Le P’tite Train du Nord Trail in the Province of Quebec. This later trail is part of the excellent 4.300 kilometer long La Route Verté cycling touring network, of which I have had the pleasure of cycling 3,000 kilometres.
The Cour d’Alene Trail was a subject of a previous post. It is expected that an update post will result from cycling this trail again in September. The Le P’tite Train du Nord Trail was also the subject of a previous post.
The later two trails are on abandoned railway lines remote from civilization and roads. The Banff Legacy Trail is adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway from the Banff Park East Gate into the Town of Banff.
Why do I think that the shortest of these three trails takes the number one spot for me? Simply, cycling in a narrow valley where only the Bow River and a transportation corridor runs amid and overshadowed by two, continuous Rocky Mountain ranges with peaks extending 2,500 meter and higher makes this trail special. There in this valley, the highway, the trail, and a trans-continental rail track share the narrow space with the Bow River and then the Cascadia River. The continuous peaks of the Rocky Mountains always just beside you and almost within arms reach so it feels, the forests, and the electrified animal gates remind you that you are in the wilderness.
Accessing the Legacy Trail
In the east, a paved bike path in the Town of Canmore that parallels the Trans-Canada Highway and the Harvey Heights Road leads to the Legacy Trail. The east off-ramp from the controlled-access Highway #1 to Harvey Heights Road is the connection to the Trail. Cyclists are allowed to cycle contra-flow on this eastbound ramp. A white line on one side and a yellow line on the other provide cyclists space on this lightly used ramp by cars. Instructions for cyclists and for motorists on the use of the ramp are lacking. So, northbound cyclists tend to use both sides of the ramp or go right down the middle, as oncoming car traffic visibility is very good.
From the ramp, contra-flow cycling for about a 100 metres on the eastbound shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway connects one to the Trail. For some reason, a two-metre connection from the highway shoulder to the Trail remains unpaved.
The Town of Canmore recognizes that a more direct connection from the downtown rail-trails path is needed to this Legacy Trail. The town already has built a number of bike paths on road right of ways and bike trails along railway lines and rivers to provide more convenient use of cycling for transportation. Bike path paralleling Harvey Heights Road.
Who uses the Legacy Trail?
This trail in the wilderness, connecting two towns far from any cities, still has drawing power for people from far away. Daily cycling traffic on weekends compares well with any bike path in any city. For this trail, traffic counts reaching 900 cyclists on a day. This trail draws the racing and randonneuring crowd that used to use the excellent, wide shoulders on the highway, the touring cyclists, the weekend and day trippers, as well as the commuter cyclists that live in one of the towns and work in the other. The trail draws families with children in tow in a trailer or with 10 year olds pedalling their own bicycles.
The trail satisfies the need of the serious cyclists and those out for a simple cycle to enjoy the wilderness scene, the birds singing, birds souring above, with a hope that a wild animal may be spotted.
For those driving up from Calgary or other towns for the day to use the trail, some park their vehicles on parking lots along the Harvey Heights Road bike path, while others park in front of the Banff Park East Gate.
Canmore is a mountain bike and Nordic skiing town nestled between two Rocky Mountain ranges with a network of hiking trail. Banff, as we know, is a jewel in this national park with multiple of trails for all users and a skiing centre. There is another trail connecting the two towns for mountain bikers and hiker along the Spray River.
Needless to say, bicycle rental stores in each town are busy supplying bicycles to tourists.
This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09.
Links – Banff Legacy Trail
http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 ) (parallels the Trans Canada Highway (Why #1) through the Banff National Park (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx)