The Icefield Parkway, running from Lake Louise to Jasper, is one of the most spectacular cycle tours in the world. This road passes through a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, and broad sweeping valleys. What better way to see all this than by bike! Our group of eight from the Hostel Outdoors Group enjoy the ride.
Day 1 – Castle Mountain to Lake Louise – about 31 km
We start out on the Bow Valley Parkway at Castle Mountain. The cycling is easy with nice rolling hills and long flat stretches. Much of the road is enclosed in a green tunnel of tall trees but you get great views when you least expect them. The great thing about cycling is that the pace is just right. We stop to discover the rich history under the shadow of Castle Mountain. In 1915 nearly 9000 Ukrainian immigrants were imprisoned here in an internment camp.
Arriving at Lake Louise some of our group are still full of energy and tackle the steep hill up to the lake. We’re rewarded with brilliant views and we feel like they’re so much more vibrant having peddled hard to get here. The hill isn’t all that bad, really. Coming down, though, is fast. I have to ride my brakes to avoid crashing into cars slowly making their way down.
Day 2 – Lake Louise to Mosquito Creek – about 26 km
It’s a short day but our legs feel the hills as we climb up-up-up. We leave Lake Louise Village over the pedestrian bridge and manage to avoid spending much time on the TransCanada highway. Then it’s instantly quiet as we turn up onto the Icefield Parkway. No truck traffic is allowed and the roads are empty first thing in the morning. A low cloud hangs over the peaks leaving us to imagine how high they soar. Even though we’ve all driven this road before, everything looks bigger from the seat of a bike.
After arriving at Mosquito Creek hostel, some of us go for a walk up Noseeum Creek. There is no official trail but a rough track exists. We’re struck by the beauty of this wild valley, visited by few people. (If you’re looking for the creek, it runs under the bridge a few hundred meters south of the hostel.)
Each night we enjoy great dinners, cooked up by a different member of our group. Staying in hostels is an ideal way to do this cycle tour. We carried only what we needed during the day and had food already waiting for us at the hostels that we’d dropped off before beginning the cycle tour.
Day 3 – Mosquito Creek to Rampart Creek – about 65 km
We start the day by conquering the mighty Bow Pass. It’s a tough start to the day but after a big climb yesterday, we’re already most of the way there. In fact, the road grades are pretty moderate throughout the trip. We manage to climb every hill without getting off our bikes and pushing. Quite an accomplishment for a bunch of hikers!
From Bow Pass we sail down to Saskatchewan River Crossing. It’s such a pleasure to fly down the road effortlessly after so much climbing.
Day 4 – Rampart Creek to Beauty Creek – about 57 km
Epic day today! We climb more than 500 meters up Sunwapta Pass in not much more than 10 km. That’s hard work! The road makes a huge hair-pin turn then starts climbing very steeply. Looking up from below it looks almost impossible. The road is practically carved into the side of a cliff. The scenery changes too. There’s more snow and ice and everything seems colder. Streams coming down from the glaciers quickly turn into raging torrents. They burst through canyons and over waterfalls.
Near the top of the pass we stop for lunch at Parker Ridge. It’s a nice change of pace for all of us. Getting off the bike and stretching our legs on a short hike is refreshing. The views down to the Saskatchewan Glacier are stellar. Here, even though you’re just seeing a tiny piece of this ancient ice, you get a sense of how massive the icefield is.
We pass by a construction site where Brewster is building a glass-floored observation deck. In it’s current state, it looks like a bridge to nowhere.
Finally, we’re over the pass and we officially cross into Jasper National Park. It feels like a big accomplishment!
Day 5 – Beauty Creek to Maligne Canyon – about 100 km
We’re rewarded for all our hard work over the last few days with a mostly downhill ride all the way into Jasper. It’s sprinkling rain much of the day but the road is fast and it feels great to zoom effortlessly along.
As we’re almost at the finish line Mark’s derailleur explodes! We search for the pieces but we just can’t seem to find one of them amongst the grass and bushes at the side of the road. Then Fred collides with a road sign! Connie, Jim, Susan, and Marti reach him quickly and keep him safe and warm while help arrives – thanks guys. And thanks to Mark for driving. Fred is back up on his feet now but what a scare!
As we get closer to Jasper we pass by thundering Athabasca Falls. It’s been amazing to watch over the last few days as glaciers melt into streams and streams join together to form rivers and now that river crashes over a huge waterfall.
As we arrive in Jasper the sprinkle of rain we’ve had throughout the day turns into a real shower. Yet it’s exciting to see civilization again. Jasper is a cute town with a relaxed atmosphere. I drop off my rental bike in town and head up to the hostel with Mark after saying goodbye to Marti. Congrats to Michael, Susan, and Jim for cycling all the way up the big hill to Maligne Canyon!