If you’re looking for fun and scenic bike rides in Banff and nearby, you’ll find lots of choice. There is excellent mountain and road biking in and around the town of Banff. In just a few hours you can get a good taste of the Banff area and hit some of the iconic spots like Mount Rundle and Lake Minnewanka without getting caught up in traffic.
Mountain biking is growing in popularity – partially as there has been some trail building in the last few years in the Tunnel Mountain area. But if you’re not into mountain biking, there are plenty of opportunities to explore on both road and e-bikes.
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Bike rides in Banff area summary
- Banff is a fantastic place for road, mountain and e-biking. However, everyone, save for youth 17 and under, require a national parks pass to bike in Banff. It can be purchased online.
- The Banff Legacy Trail is a multi-use trail that runs between Canmore and Banff that is fantastic for bikers. The Cascade Ponds picnic area is the best place to park if you’re going to bike from Banff to Canmore. It’s easier biking from Banff to Canmore than from Canmore to Banff. You can also bike to the Cascade Ponds from Banff and enjoy a picnic.
- You can take your bike on any of the Roam Transit bus routes at no extra cost. There is a maximum of three bikes outside on the racks and sometimes a couple of bikes are allowed inside too. Spaces are available on a first come, first served basis.
- You will have to bike on Highway 1 or Highway 1A to reach Lake Louise. At certain times of the year (parts of May, June, and September), Highway 1A accessed from Banff via a bike trail is car-free until the turn off to Johnston Canyon. The section from Castle Junction to Lake Louise is on highway only.
- You cannot cycle around Lake Louise but you can bike from Lake Louise Village up to Lake Louise.
- You can also bike up Moraine Lake Road on a 26 km round trip outing with 370 metres of elevation gain. As of 2023 you can’t drive the road (there are still shuttle buses, taxis…that are permitted) so there’s a longer period when you can enjoy it.
- Watch for wildlife if you’re biking in the Banff area. Big horned sheep may look innocuous but they are still wild animals. It’s a good idea to carry bear spray.
What is the best time to bike in Banff?
Unfortunately Banff does not enjoy a long biking season, because the snow is usually late to go and early to arrive, especially on shaded mountain bike trails.
I have been biking in Banff on the Legacy Trail and on the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive in April – in a dry, sunnier than normal spring. Usually you can bike from the May long weekend until late September, and in some years early October, but it varies greatly from year to year.
If you like fat biking on snow you’re in luck as there are many trails that are perfect for that. Try the Spray River Loop, and the trails to Sundance Canyon and even Sundance Lodge.
Enjoy a selection of these scenic bike rides in the Banff area.
Tunnel Mountain for mountain bikers
There are two ways to explore the Tunnel Mountain area – via the road and via the mountain bike trails.
For some fun and excitement I recommend mountain biking. There’s a bonus – stellar views of the Banff Springs Hotel, the Bow River and the hoodoos. There are several trails in the Tunnel Mountain area catering to different abilities.
The 5.7 km Tunnel Bench Loop starting at the Hoodoos Lookout parking lot is perfect for beginner mountain bikers.
Experienced riders can add The Toe – a 7.9 km technical loop with winding, narrow singletrack. I did it (lost my phone with the pictures to prove it) but had to hop on and off my bike on a few of the really steep sections.
Tunnel Mountain bike ride – on the road
Tunnel Mountain Road is the first exit if you take the easternmost exit into Banff. Follow this road as it gently climbs to a high point overlooking the hoodoos. Continue on Tunnel Mountain Scenic Drive and descend into the town of Banff on Buffalo Street.
This is about an 11 km loop but with the climb it’s rated as intermediate. It can easily be combined with a loop ride up to Lake Minnewanka – and the two together are sometimes called the Figure Eight. It’s also fun to ride some of the back streets of Banff on the way back to your starting point.
Bike the Lake Minnewanka Loop in Banff
The 15.5 km paved loop from the Cascade Pond picnic area up to Lake Minnewanka and back is suitable for road or hybrid bikes. You can do it in either direction but I prefer counterclockwise so I can have Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka on the same side of the road as my bike. Before April 15th the west side of Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive is off limits to cars, so it’s especially lovely to cycle.
You can bike the Lake Minnewanka Loop in about 90 minutes, but there are distractions that might make it longer.
Chances are you’ll see bighorn sheep and recently I was treated to my first sight of a grizzly bear in Banff National Park in the meadows close to where we’d parked the car.
Mountain bike to the Aylmer Lookout Junction
From the Lake Minnewanka parking lot, hard-core, experienced mountain bikers can follow the single-track trails alongside Lake Minnewanka to the junction for Aylmer Lookout and Aylmer Pass. If your legs still have juice, continue all the way down the lake to the Warden’s Cabin for a total of 32 tough kilometres.
Because of bears, the area is closed every year from July 10th to September 15th unless you’re hiking as a tight group of four. I’ll happily hike this trail but I won’t bike it.
Goat Creek Trail – Spray River Combo by bike
The Goat Creek – Spray River Trail combination is one of the most popular mountain bike rides in Banff. It follows a fire road from the Goat Creek trailhead to the start of the Spray River Trail near the Banff Springs Hotel. You can do and out an back ride along the Spray River starting at the trailhead by the hotel or alternatively start above Canmore at the Goat Creek Trailhead and do a one way 19 km bike ride into Banff (much easier as there is less climbing) and organize a shuttle back.
Be warned. You’ll be eating dust on the road from the Canmore Nordic Centre to the Goat Greek parking lot on the climb up the hill. And the road is narrow and not a great one for cyclists.
You could also do a full out and back ride starting either at the Banff Springs Hotel or at Goat Creek. Don’t miss the side trip to see Bow Falls.
Read: Biking Alberta’s Goat Creek Trail from Canmore to Banff
Bike rides in Banff – Bow Valley Parkway
Since COVID hit, a long section of the Bow Valley Parkway has been closed to cars – save for the odd shuttle bus or Parks Canada vehicle. There is NO PARKING at the east end of the 1A going forward though you can drop off someone. Free parking options in Banff include the train station and Fenlands Recreation Centre. In 2023 you can enjoy a car-free experience from May 1 – June 25th and again from September 1 – September 30th.
The Bow Valley Parkway is a quieter alternative to the main Trans-Canada Highway with the added benefit of being a wildlife corridor. This is one of the top bike rides in Banff for animal sightings, especially bears. Take a can of bear spray, particularly if its early or late in the day when there aren’t many cyclists around.
To get to the Bow Valley Parkway (also called Highway 1A) from Banff, cycle the Mount Norquay Road to Vermilion Lakes Road. Turn left and follow it to reach the bike path at its end. Be sure to stop for the classic shot of Mount Rundle. The bike path is signed and easy to follow but you will have to go through two large gates to reach the Bow Valley Parkway.
Once on the parkway, enjoy the scenic car-free ride as far as the Johnston Canyon trailhead, about 25 km one way from Banff. There’s a café beside the Johnston Canyon trailhead and a place to put your bikes. If you’ve got energy to burn, don’t miss the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind hike up Johnston Canyon.
Alternatively you can keep cycling. It’s 30 km one way to Castle Junction from Banff where there washrooms and places to buy cold drinks. Still have some juice? Bike another 15 km to reach Baker Creek – where you can pick up snack items at the Baker Creek by Basecamp. (In 2024 their restaurant is scheduled to reopen.)
Wherever you stop, simply retrace your steps to return to Banff.
More options for bike rides in Banff
There are many more mountain bike rides in Banff – most of them short and within spitting distance of the town of Banff, including a ride along the Bow Valley River to Sundance Canyon, accessed from the Cave and Basin area. Alternatively, pop into one of the Banff bike stores and pick the brains of a local cyclist. Most will be happy to offer suggestions.
For people looking for a fabulous multi-day bike ride you can’t beat the Banff to Jasper trip. Also popular is the Banff Legacy Trail that runs from Canmore to the junction of the Bow Valley Parkway, almost all of it which is on dedicated bike trail.
Bike rentals in Banff and Canmore
You can rent bikes in both Banff and Canmore. If you’re thinking of doing the Legacy Trail first, rent in Canmore at Rebound Cycle. They have an awesome selection of both road and mountain bikes and loads of local advice. If you’re starting in Banff you can check out Soul Ski and Bike. In prime season – eg. summer weekends – reserve bikes ahead of time.
Another great option, particularly for e-bike rentals is Banff Cycle. Park your car for free at the Banff train station and then walk the path to their kiosk. Pick up your bike and enjoy a car-free experience on Highway 1A (the Bow Valley Parkway) for several hours. I’d also recommend that you take a bike lock with you. That way you’ll have peace of mind if you stop for a snack at the Johnston Canyon Market Café.
Where to stay in Banff
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a beautiful place to stay and a real treat. I got lost trying to find my room though.
The Juniper Hotel & Bistro located on the road up to Mount Norquay gets you out of town and away from the craziness of Banff – at least in summer. Great views and an excellent casual restaurant.
I have enjoyed several stays in Buffalo Mountain Lodge. They have an awesome outdoor hot tub and the dining room serves up delicious meals. Plus free bikes are available in summer.
On the hotel strip on Banff Avenue look for the large moose outside of the Moose Hotel. I’ve stayed here a few times and like the clean aesthetic of the rooms.
If you’re traveling in a group or as a family and you’re cool with bunkbeds (not all rooms) then the cheerful Canalta Hotel is a great choice.
For a hostel check out Samesun Banff.
A few items for any of the bike rides in Banff
- Don’t forget a bike pump in case you get a flat.
- A bike lock could come in handy if you decide you want to go for a short hike or get a bite to eat.
- I like to carry a rack-mounted bag with my raincoat and bike tools rather than having something on my back.
- You’ll need a patch kit including tire levers if you get a flat.
- Padded bike gloves are a necessity in my books.
Looking for more ideas on where to bike in Canada?
- Biking Le Petit Train du Nord through the Laurentians
- Cycling the Blueberry Route in Quebec Over 3 Days
- 11 of the Best Places to Cycle Within 75 Minutes of Calgary
- Best Bike Rides in Canada You Can do in a Day
- Victoria to the Cowichan Valley: A 6-Day Biking Itinerary
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