I’ll admit it. I’m a Canmore weekender. Living up to that reputation, I spend those weekends predominantly on our patio. To break that trend, I finally ticked a crucial item off my summer bucket list: cruising down the Legacy Trail. Opened in July 2010, to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park, this paved walking and biking route runs along the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway from the Canmore Visitor’s Centre along the Bow Valley Parkway and into the town of Banff.
Cycling Canmore to Banff
This is a ride that’s more about the journey than the destination (though where you end up is pretty rad). It’s a way to get out and experience the the beauty of the Bow Valley with your feet. And when you’ve got one of the most picturesque places on earth laid out right in front of you, might as well tell advantage of it. If you don’t, why not move back to Saskatchewan?
The trail is used by all ages, and let me tell you it is certainly a humbling experience being overtaken by grannies on their $4000 road bikes. I love a challenge, so I dragged my children (the huz included) along the Legacy Trail last weekend. Here’s a few tips to make your ride as pleasant as possible.
Legacy Trail Tip 1: Start early
Hundreds of people cycle the Legacy Trail on good weather weekends. If you can’t manage it on a weekday, try to start out as early as possible. Prime biking hours appear to be late morning to mid-afternoon.
Legacy Trail Tip 2: Take your time
Despite riding parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway, for much of the journey, you’ve got several magnificent mountain views to focus on. Take the time to stop and smell the flowers – wild roses to indian paint brushes to be exact. Not only will your trip be made more pleasant by inhaling their heady scent, but kids need lots of little breaks if they’re to power through the whole way. Even after you turn off the TransCanada Highway, there’s still a ways to go before getting directly into the townsite – either one. (For us it took a little over an hour and a half to ride from Canmore to Banff including our breaks.)
Legacy Trail Tip 3: Plan rest stops
The Valleyview Picnic Area is located about half way along the trail. It’s a sweet little rest stop with outhouses and tables to soak up sweeping views of the valley. (Pack your hand sanitizer as there’s no sink.) We found the need to stop several times before making it to Valleyview. While there isn’t a ton of space on the shoulder of the trail, there is enough to pull over, grab water and rest your legs.
Legacy Trail Tip 4: Bring lots of water
Any outdoor activity with kids can be unpredictable. There’s no water stations along the trail, so you’ll want to ensure you have enough. Eve loved the novelty of wearing her Dad’s camelback and slurping without stopping. Refill your water bottles at the fountain along Bear Avenue in Banff, on the sidewalk by the parking lot.
Legacy Trail Tip 5: Stop for a patio lunch
We rode from Canmore, so lunch in Banff was our reward for pushing pedals. Some good family spots include: Saltlik for burgers and fish tacos, The Keg has a children’s menu with affordable steak and Wild Flour is a fantastic bakery with healthy salads, gluten-free and vegan options.
If you’re cycling the other direction, Canmore also has several lovely, family-friendly restaurants to sample. My favourites include Crazyweed (yes, for families!), Chef’s Studio Japan for sushi and Communitea for noodle bowls, soups, muffins.
Legacy Trail Tip 6: Take the bus back
There’s no shame if some members of your family are too pooped to cycle back. Hey, what do expect from a mother whose arms are shaking after blow dying her hair? You can have one person (let’s call them “Dan”) do the return ride, pick up the car and come to get you. Another option is taking the Roam transit bus. It’s a few dollars to get between towns and they load your bike onto the front of the bus.
Parking for the Legacy Trail
If starting the trail from Canmore, you can park at the Canmore Visitor’s Centre just off the highway. Note: the parking lot is often full by noon, so try to get here early if cycling on a weekend. In Banff, you can park pretty much anywhere as the trail begins at Banff Community High School along Banff Avenue.
Where to Rent Bikes in Banff and Canmore
In Banff you can rent bikes from Soul Ski and Bike. They have both road, mountain and town bikes for hourly and daily rentals. Backtrax also rents similar bikes, plus offers children’s bikes, Trail-a-Bikes and Chariots to tow the kids.
In Canmore head to either Rebound Cycle or Gear Up for rentals.
Have you ever taken your family on a major bike ride? I’m curious to know where you went and how you found the experience.