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!
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:
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.