Bikepacking in Banff

The main attraction for this part of the trip was a 3-day bikepacking trip from Banff, south into British Colombia, and back again. This was my first time bikepacking so I had a lot to learn, even before starting the trip. That learning began with planning a route — Nowhere in Banff National Park can you park your car at a trailhead and head out into the wilderness. You need a permit (for everything in Canada, it seemed) and a prescribed route to avoid coming back to a towed car. Very different than the East Coast where I grew up hiking and backpacking. I ended up starting the trip from Canmore, South of Banff and out of the national park for this reason.

The second learning experience came with packing up my gear. I knew size more than anything was going to be a priority on this trip, so I had optimized my packing to take that into account. I had two¬†Ortlieb bikepacking bags on the handlebars and saddle, a small tool bag on the frame, and a backpack for water, extra layers, and accessible snacks. Here’s a shot of everything I brought on the trip for 3 days. I was expecting rain and highly variable temps so lots of layers were key!

Organizing supplies for a 3-day trip. This all had to fit in the two bike bags or on my back, so weight and size was a priority.

Packed up and ready to hit the trail.

In the end I wore every layer I brought at some point, used most of the tools in my kit and ate every last bit of food, so my packing might have been a bit on the light side. Fitting all this into bags was also a challenge, and I had to pull over to adjust the load many times in the first day of the trip.

My planned route was the High Rockies Trail, a singletrack trail that runs south from Canmore. I originally wanted to bike the Great Divide trail, which is famous for spanning the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. However the Great Divide runs on gravel roads for much of Canada. The High Rockies parallels the Great Divide and gives you a much more exciting ride. I had a simple map of the trail from Banff, but I ended up doing most of the navigation on my phone with the Trailforks app (indispensable on this road trip).

Here are some highlights from the three days out in the wilderness:

Sunrise looking out over the mountains.

Flowers start to grow back after a wildfire.

Setting up a kitchen on a bridge. Oats and coffee for breakfast.

This bridge was under construction. It would have saved me a few miles and a thousand feet of elevation, so I thought about trying my balance…

Panoramic views everywhere you pulled over.

At the end of three days I was exhausted, hungry and thrilled to make it back to my car. I made a few mistakes on this first bikepacking trip and learned many lessons. I still had a great time in the wilderness, but next time would pack better shoes, more food, set less optimistic distance goals when riding singletrack and pack my load better from the get-go.

Posted in Road Trip 2017, Summer Travels 2017.

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