I first cycled the Icefield Parkway three years ago with a great group of friends. It was a really fun and memorable trip. We stayed together in hostels and shared delicious meals every night. There were lots of stories and laughter. That trip was at the end of summer and I’ve been thinking about returning to see this famous scenic road in spring ever since. I finally had the chance this year.
I started in Banff and had a wonderful time cycling along the Bow Valley Parkway on a warm, sunny spring day. The birds were out and the flowers were blooming. Everything was perfect. The next day I cycled from Lake Louise to Rampart Creek. The air quickly got colder and before long it was raining. It never came down very hard but it was that kind of cold half rain / half snow that almost sticks to you as you cycle into it. As I descended from Bow Pass down to Saskatchewan Crossing, the pavement turned from nice and smooth to heavily cracked. Going downhill felt like a jackhammer on my thin-tired road bike. Parks Canada is slowly repaving the road, working their way north. I’d wait until they’re finished to do this trip again.
The next day’s weather forecast was for much worse: 6 inches of fresh snow over night. I decided to sleep in to let the worst of the storm pass by. I needn’t have worried. There was lots of fresh snow everywhere but the road was dry and the cold weather seemed to keep the traffic rather quiet. I stopped at Athabasca Falls for the night, 110 km from Rampart Creek. I’d thought of making it a shorter day by spending the night at Beauty Creek but it doesn’t open until late May. This ended up being my biggest cycling day yet!
I cycled through Jasper the following day and all the way up to Maligne Lake. Last fall I canoed the length of the lake, one of my favourite trips of the year. It was nice to experience the scenery approaching the lake at cycling speed, but it sure is a long and unrelenting uphill. I knew I was going slowly when a black bear walked right past me!
I still had time and energy after finishing the Icefield Parkway (which, officially, ends in Jasper). Over the next few days I did side trips to Miette Hotsprings (and enjoyed a very relaxing afternoon soaking up the heat), Edith Cavell Road (that has fantastically smooth pavement and long, sweeping turns on the downhill), and historic mining town Nordegg. All in, I cycled 500 km over a week and enjoyed some spectacular spring scenery. Having now cycled the Icefield Parkway in both spring and at the end of summer, I’d have to say they’re both great!