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Don't Ride Into A Cow

Sheep River Valley Biking in Kananaskis

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 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 14th – when cars aren’t permitted to drive on the last 18 km 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.

A section of Highway 546 near Turner Valley
A section of Highway 546 near Turner Valley

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Where can you park to do the Sheep River Valley bike ride?

There is free car parking at the Community Hall in Turner 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.

A moose we saw clearing a barbed wire fence
A moose we saw clearing a barbed wire fence
Cowboys off in the distance
Cowboys off in the distance

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 bike ride.

Gorgeous bike riding near the Sheep River Overlook
Gorgeous bike riding near the Sheep River Overlook
Don't ride into a cow on the Sheep River Valley bike ride
Don’t ride into a cow
The cliffs above the river where raptors nest seen on the Sheep river Valley bike ride
The cliffs above the river where raptors nest
No shortage of cows along the Sheep River Valley road
No shortage of cows along the road

The only nasty hill on the whole 76 km return bike ride is the one in the photo below. Fortunately it’s relatively short.

The only big hill on the bike ride
The only big hill on the bike ride

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.)

Sheep River Falls
Sheep River Falls
A view of Sheep River Falls
A view of Sheep River Falls

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

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.

A beautiful day for some plein air painting
A beautiful day for some plein air painting
Bighorn sheep like this area
Bighorn sheep love this area

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).

Fall is a glorious time to cycle the Sheep River Valley
Fall is a glorious time to cycle the Sheep River Valley

Want to rent a bike in Black Diamond?

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.

What it looks like on a spring evening along the road

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 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 around.

Beautiful biking on empty roads in the Sheep River Valley in May
Beautiful biking on empty roads in the Sheep River Valley in May
In mid-May there was still lots of snow near Sheep River Falls
In mid-May there was still lots of snow near Sheep River Falls and it was chilly at night
Fully bundled up on a May evening
Fully bundled up on a May evening

Further reading on bike rides in Alberta

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.
  • A bike lock could come in handy if you decide you want to go for a short hike to the waterfall.
  • I like to carry a rack-mounted bag with my raincoat and bike tools rather than having something on my back. 
The Sheep River Valley in fall is gorgeous
The Sheep River Valley in fall is gorgeous

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards. 

Biking the fabulous Sheep River Valley in Alberta's Kananaskis Country

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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