Cycling the Sheep River Valley in Kananaskis Country is an easy day trip from Calgary and a great biking adventure. It’s only a 45-minute drive to the town of Turner Valley (renamed Diamond Valley on January 1, 2023) south of Calgary, the starting point for an exceptionally scenic bike ride through to Sheep River Falls.
The Sheep River Valley bike ride can be done from late April – depending on the year – until the snow flies.
In the spring the time to do it is before May 15th – when cars aren’t permitted to drive on the last 18 kilometres of the road. I was there in the fall when the valley was ablaze with colour. I think I’d put up with the cars to enjoy the drama of the fall.
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Where can you park for the Sheep River Valley bike ride?
There is free car parking at the Community Hall in Turner Valley (Diamond Valley) just one block from Main Street.
To begin the bike ride, cycle back to Main Street and turn right onto Sunset Boulevard.
Head up through a residential area. At the top of the road just as it curves, it becomes Highway 546. There’s a good shoulder on it and we found drivers to be courteous.
For the next 13 km enjoy the pastoral scenes – hay fields, horses, cows, and cowboys. We even saw a lone moose clearing a barbed wire fence.
You get into Kananaskis Country on this bike ride
You reach the Kananaskis Country border after 15.3 km of cycling. There is an immediate and noticeable deterioration in the road surface.
The road going forward is called the Sheep River Road though it’s not something you’re likely to even notice.
The country gets a touch grander too. At the 20 km mark you arrive at the winter barricade. Here you could park your car if you’re short on time and still enjoy a very pleasant Sheep River Valley bike ride.
The only nasty hill on the whole 76 km return bike ride is the one in the photo below. Fortunately it’s relatively short.
Sheep River Falls
At the 35-km mark there is a sign pointing to the Sheep River Falls. Pull in here, get off your bike and explore along the river edge. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch. (Don’t forget a bike lock.)
If you’re keen to cycle to the end of the road then continue another 3 km to the Junction Creek Picnic Area. Cycle the loop and then retrace your steps all the way back to Turner Valley.
Look for bighorn sheep in the Sheep River Valley
On the return we did one other side trip. There’s a trail across the meadows that leads to the cliffs where you can get a very good view of bighorn sheep – if you’re lucky.
None were there the day we visited but it still made an interesting side trip. You’ll find the parking lot and trail just a kilometre or two down the road from the Sheep River overlook.
We made one final stop again at the Sheep River Overlook to take in the view before continuing back to the car. All told we cycled 76 km and climbed 645 m (2,116 feet).
Want to rent a bike in Black Diamond (Diamond Valley)?
If you don’t have a bike and you’re interested in renting – or you want to try an e-bike check out Rollick Co. – a locally owned business in Black Diamond. You can rent all types of bikes and even scooters. They also carry bear spray, energy bars and a few other things you might not know you need.
Bike the road before May 15th for a car-free experience
It was a treat to do an after dinner bike ride in May before the Sheep River Road opened to cars. Even when it does open, I suspect car traffic on a weeknight in spring will still be minimal.
What I didn’t expect on the ride was to see so many animals. We saw at least 40 bighorn sheep, countless deer and fabulous bird life. Take bear spray as bears are awake.
The bike ride to Sheep River Falls from the winter gate is 36 km return.
Location map of the Sheep River Valley bike ride
A few useful items for any bike ride
Don’t forget a bike pump in case you get a flat. I’d recommend one that fits in your jersey back pocket.