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Two bike riders ride on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park.
Bow Valley Parkway
The Real Banff / Published: Wed, 08/31/2022 - 16:08

Biking the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park

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The 1A Bow Valley Parkway is the original highway in Banff National Park. It was replaced by the TransCanada Highway 1 – which is how you will likely get into Banff today. The 1A is now a beautiful scenic road that takes you into the shadows of Banff’s towering mountains and past popular viewpoints and trails.

The parkway stretches 50 km from just outside the Banff townsite at the Fireside Day-Use Area to just outside the Lake Louise Ski Resort and can be driven, cycled, hiked, or seen on Roam Transit.

A group of bike riders stop at the Pilot Mountain viewpoint on the Bow Valley Parkway during the road closure.
Pilot Mountain Viewpoint - Bow Valley Parkway

When is the 1A Bow Valley Parkway closed to vehicles?

For 2022, the Bow Valley Parkway is closed to all public motor vehicles from May 1 – 25 and September 1 – 30 between the Fireside Day-Use Area and Johnston Canyon. This means this 17km of the parkway is an open space for cyclists to ride, hikers to walk, or any other method of non-motorized transportation.

Parks Canada and emergency services will still use the parkway, so you’ll still need to be vehicle aware.

How to Bike Ride the 1A Bow Valley Parkway

Everyone can take their bicycle out on the Bow Valley Parkway! This scenic bike route is an incredible ride with plenty of scenic viewpoints and places to stop for a rest. It is also the perfect road to ride because you can turn and head back whenever necessary.

To bike this road, you’ll want to have a few things with you:

  • Helmet
  • Bear Spray
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Your Camera
  • Cellphone

Local's Tip: You can buy bear spray from a number of local stores, including Monod SportsAbominable Sports, and Atmosphere

Cyclists bike on the Bow Valley Parkway during the road closure.
Bow Valley Parkway

Where to Rent an E-bike or Bike in Banff & Lake Louise

Renting an e-bike or analogue bike in Banff and Lake Louise is easy, with plenty of options to choose from (each location rents both analogue bikes and e-bikes):

Where to Park to Bike the 1A Bow Valley Parkway

To ride your bike along the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll want to leave your car at the Banff townsite at one of two free parking spots – the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre or the Train Station Public Parking Lot. Both parking lots are easily accessible from the Mt. Norquay entrance to Banff. If you are coming from the East (Calgary side), head to the second entrance to the town and turn left off the overpass. If you are coming from the West (Lake Louise side), turn off at the first exit and head right off the overpass.

The Fenlands parking lot is across the road (to the east) from the Banff sign, and the train station parking lot can be accessed by turning left (east) just after the train tracks and heading through the third exit on the roundabout. These lots have plenty of space for vehicles and are the perfect spot to get ready for your bike ride on the 1A.

You can also leave your car in the Johnston Canyon Parking Lot 2, which is an excellent option if you come from the west. Simply head towards Johnston Canyon and turn south on the traffic circle before heading into the large parking lot to the left as you pull in. 

Two cyclists get ready for their bike ride on the Bow Valley Parkway at the Johnston Canyon 2 Parking Lot

Where to Start to Ride your Bike on the 1A Bow Valley Parkway

To take your bike out on the Bow Valley Parkway – especially the part that is closed to cars - you’ll want to start in the town of Banff. Park at either the Fenlands or Train Station parking lots and head towards Vermilion Lakes.

Your ride will take you down the incredible Vermilion Lakes Road, past iconic views of Mount Rundle and its reflection in the three lakes that make up Vermilion Lakes. Ride to the end of this road and onto the Legacy Trail connector. This will quickly take you to the Bow Valley Parkway, where you can ride as far as Johnston Canyon primarily car-free.

You can continue down the Parkway until you reach the Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Sightseeing Gondola – just don’t forget you’ll either need to ride back, or you can put your bike onto Roam Transit and take public transit back to Banff. Are you looking for a challenge? Ride from the Fenlands parking lot to the Lake Louise Ski Resort – about 58 km total – and you’re eligible for their Parkway to Pint challenge.

Local’s Tip: E-bikes are only allowed on bike racks if the battery can be removed and brought onto the bus with you.

Two bike riders look at the view of Mount Rundle on Vermilion Lakes Road.
Vermilion Lakes

How Far is it to Bike the 1A Bow Valley Parkway?

The total length of the parkway in Banff National Park is about 50 km in one direction. The eastern closure of the Bow Valley Parkway to vehicles, which occurs twice a year in May/June and September, is about 17 km in one direction.

For riders who go from the town of Banff to Johnston Canyon and back, you’ll have an incredible day on the bike – riding for over 56 km. Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time and bring water, snacks, and your camera.

Local's Note: Johnston Canyon upper falls are currently closed. The lower falls remain open.

A dad and son look at the waterfall in Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon

Where can I Eat while Biking the 1A Bow Valley Parkway?

There are limited options for food along the 1A. If you aren’t venturing past Johnston Canyon from Banff, you’ll want to grab a quick picnic in town to take with you. Try getting a sandwich from JK Bakery on Bear Street, a burger from Eddie Burger on Caribou, or pizza from UNA.

Better yet, head back to town and celebrate your ride on one of the scenic patios, where you can enjoy views of Mount Rundle, Mt. Norquay, Cascade, and Sulphur Mountain.

If you are riding past Johnston Canyon or the whole length of the parkway, you have a few other options.

Close to Castle Junction – about halfway down the road and outside the road closure area – you’ll find Castle Mountain Chalets – a rustic family-owned resort with adorable log cabins. The chalets have a gas station and convenience store where you can fuel up or spend the night in the shadow of one of Banff’s most famous mountains.

About halfway between Castle Mountain junction and the Lake Louise Ski Resort, you’ll find Baker Creek Resort. This is an incredible place for an overnight stay or to pick up a quick bite from the Creekside Café, which offers grab-and-go options.

You can find everything from grab-and-go to sit-down meal options at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, like the Lodge of Ten Peaks Café. Or head just a bit further and into the village of Lake Louise, where you can get wraps, coffee, and desserts from Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Deli or Trailhead Café.

Cyclists ride into the Lake Louise Ski Resort after completing the Parkway to Pint ride.
Lake Louise Ski Resort

What to Expect When Biking the 1A Bow Valley Parkway

The 1A is one of Banff National Park’s most incredible scenic rides. With plenty of viewpoints, picnic spots, and great views to be seen. You can expect to stop frequently for photos and just to enjoy the scenery.

The Bow Valley Parkway has a few hills, but the ones there can feel like long climbs. You’ll want to be ready to use your e-bike at full power and to drop your bike into its lowest gear to make ascending the hills easier.

This area is also a busy wildlife corridor – so be prepared for possible animal encounters, including bears, deer and bighorn sheep. It is important to make noise – such as talking – to reduce the risk of encountering an animal suddenly and to have bear spray readily accessible.

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