Photo by Erik McRitchie @erikmcr
Fall is upon us. Summer activities are closing down and winter activities will be ready to begin once the snow flies. We have reached the time of year known as the fall shoulder season. The mountains tend to be quieter and the locals return to town after spending their summers guiding wild adventures in the backcountry. The fall shoulder season brings a different dynamic to the Canadian Rockies. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief that another summer has successfully passed and that another winter is soon to begin.
Just because it’s the shoulder season doesn’t mean the mountains are closed. There is still time to visit and there are still great times to be had before winter settles in! Just the other day, I took my bike on the Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff, and back again. This ride is a great way to connect the two townsites and it’s an activity the whole family can enjoy.
The Legacy Trail begins at the Travel Alberta Visitor Information Centre in Canmore. From here, it's a paved trail that travels through trees and along the Trans-Canada Highway all the way to the town of Banff. During the peak season, this trail is a popular way to commute between the two towns. In the spring and fall, it's a lot quieter. It's the ideal time to travel between the two towns with your bike and a sense of adventure!
The route isn’t as difficult as I expected, and it was great to see several families making the trek together. There are two decent hills that caused my muscles to work hard, but otherwise the rolling terrain isn’t overly taxing. Most of the trail lies within Banff National Park, and you’re surrounded by mountain and woodland scenery for the length of the journey. There is also a beautiful rest stop and picnic area about halfway between the towns. This stop is complete with outhouses, picnic tables and great views of the river valley and Tunnel Mountain.
I wasn’t the fastest person on the trail. There was a strong headwind that day. In addition, the sections I mistook for flat were actually a gradual uphill coming into town. But my old bike did the trick and got me to Banff in about an hour and a half.
I stopped at Cascade Ponds for lunch. This place is always a great picnic spot to eat lunch while appreciating the beautiful scenery. The pond was filled with pristine, turquoise glacier water. Take a short walk over the bridges for great views! It’s also a good chance to stretch your legs after the ride.
After lunch and a decent break, it was time for the return journey. I was pleasantly surprised that the return trip was just under an hour. The tailwind and general downhill grade really worked to my advantage! Overall it was a pleasant afternoon that could have easily been turned into a full day. To complete your adventure, I recommend continuing on the Legacy Trail and spending time in Banff’s historic downtown. There are lots of unique shops and excellent places to eat.
The mountains aren’t on vacation just because the leaves have turned and the snow hasn’t arrived yet. It’s nice to make time to enjoy the outdoors after the summer crowds have gone and before the cold settles in for another winter. No matter the season, there are all kinds of ways to experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.