Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mountain Biking with Kids in Banff: The Banff-to-Canmore Legacy Trail

The start of the Legacy Trail
This year my eight-year-old Michael learned to ride his bike. After much protesting that it was too hard, that he hated it, insert complaint here, he finally figured out--and he loves it. This is something I've been waiting years for: both Mack (12) and Michael being old enough to go biking as a family.

Mack, with Cascade Mountain behind.
So, on the Labor Day weekend, we loaded up the bikes and drove to Canmore. There, we caught a shuttle to Banff, where we were dropped off downtown a block behind main street. A five minute pedal down mostly back streets brought us to the start of the Legacy Trail. I've driven past the paved pathway that runs 24-kilometers from Banff to Canmore countless times. On the way to hikes and scrambles, and then back to Calgary, I've enviously watched other families enjoying summer mornings, afternoons and evenings smiling their way along the side of the highway, safely separated from the screaming traffic beside them. Now, I would finally be cycling it with my family.

We'd decided to do the trail one-way in case the round-trip cycle was too much. And we cycled Banff-to-Canmore because, although there are a couple short uphill sections, for the most part you're gliding slightly downhill with the wind to your back.

The section between Banff and the park gates, where the trail officially ends, was fun but uneventful. We made a few stops to have a drink of water and enjoy the view, and one for Michael to rescue a caterpillar that was inching its way across the pavement. At the park gates, we road a short gravel section of trail to the first overpass, and Micheal announced: "My mountain bike was made for this." He wanted to go "real" mountain biking on a real trail.

After crossing the overpass, it took us about 10 minutes on paved roads that run parallel to the Trans-Canada to reach the next overpass that would take us back across the highway and into Canmore. Another 10 minutes--and another caterpillar rescue--and we were back at the car. Five minutes after that, we were ordering ice cream cones from the side of a converted school bus. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny long weekend afternoon in the mountains with the boys--the cycling, not the ice cream, that is.

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