We arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, eager to pick up some supplies before heading up North towards the Alaska Highway. However during the day before, our newly fixed air conditioner failed and since we were planning to eventually head into the very warm South West USA, we decided to take Vanny into a local garage for a second round of repairs. This left us with a few days free and so we decided to explore the Canadian Rockies around the Banff and Jasper National Parks. We couldn’t use our Vanny, but luckily I just happened to have a 2010 BMW R1200RT parked nearby and we quickly got things together for an unexpected motorcycle tour. When I tour on a bike I embrace the idea that safety is a priority. Yeah I get it that riding is a dangerous sport and that motorcycle accidents lead to more injuries compared to passenger vehicles. However I want to reduce the risk of serious injury as much as possible and so I stick to wearing all the gear all the time (ATGATT). Luckily, the spare helmet, motorcycle pants and jacket I had fit Alyssa perfectly. We headed south along the provincial highway 2 that connects Edmonton to Calgary. Even though it was mid week the highway was very busy as usual. This was Alyssa’s first motorcycle tour and at our first stop, a check-in stop at the Red Deer Gasoline Alley to make adjustments to any of the gear we were wearing, Alyssa reported that riding was fun, and a cool experience. “I’m really liking this” she reported as we ordered some caffeinated drinks. After a quick coffee we left Red Deer and headed towards Banff National Park. We rode along Highway 1 westward as the setting sun played upon the mountain. This magical light, uncapturable with a camera, was like a scene from one of those epic movies where John Williams has his orchestra at 11. The view of the mountains turning red and pink in the light of the setting sun was spectacular. The feeling of seeing this scenery from the seat of a motorcycle is unexplainable. I have caught similar views from the confines of a car, but it’s not even a fair comparison. From a motorcycle where you sit exposed to the entirety of the environment, you feel like you are part of the scene as opposed to just a viewer. I think this is one of the primary reasons that I ride! We got to Canmore just outside of Banff and met up with friends who had booked a room for all of us. This was fortunate as all of the accommodations in town were fully booked. In the following days we did some really amazing hikes with great views. The first of these hikes is posted here. More hiking posts to follow soon!
Tips about riding in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
- Always take the less traveled roads if they are available. For example, in Calgary from Highway 201 (the city ring road) take Highway 1A towards Banff. The 1A ends just east of Canmore but starts again west of Banff to Lake Louise. 1A is a paved, winding, forest covered road with many twists and turns for the motorcycle rider. Other than getting stuck behind a slow moving RV for a few minutes there are no downsides to riding the 1A.
- Alpine roads are subject to swift changes in weather. Be prepared and bring clothing that is a bit warmer than you think you need. Even though it was mid July it was a mere seven degrees Celsius on the Icefield Parkway near the Columbia ice fields.
- Watch out for Wildlife on Road signs and pay attention to the speed limits. Areas along the highway where large mammals frequent have signage indicating their danger.
- The Icefield Parkway is not a twisty turny knee dragging kind of road; however it is a route that has some of the most stunning mountain scenery you will ever see and why not view this from the seat of a motorcycle?
- Highway 40 from the TransCanada Highway (Hwy 1) is a great in and out. Alternatively you can do a loop if you continue along Hwy 40 to the junction of Hwy 22, continue north on Hwy 22 back to Hwy 1. I sometimes turn back where Highway 40 turns east to head north back to Hwy 1. Either way the ride is great!
- Highway 11 at Saskatchewan River Crossing (along Hwy 93, Icefield Parkway) is another great ride. If you are heading back to either Edmonton or Calgary this is a great alternative route back. Hwy 11 will take you east to Hwy 2 and from there you can either go north to Edmonton or south to Calgary. Don’t watch this video I found. It’s more fun if you go and discover this great ride for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAlvJBIP2-o
Pin it if you found these tips helpful!