Four Alberta bike trails for vivid fall views
As summer turns to fall, many of us start thinking about winter adventures, and rightly so. But just because the days are shorter and the temps have dipped doesn’t mean you have to put that mountain bike into hibernation just yet.
I absolutely love summer but autumn might be my favourite time to ride. The summer crowds have typically thinned out, the cooler temperature is more conducive to climbing, the insects have disappeared and the fall colours are spectacular.
So let's jump in the saddle with some fall biking tips and trail recommendations for central Alberta and the Rockies.
Bring layers for cool weather
Mountain weather can change rapidly, so that coupled with already chillier temperatures means you’ll want to bring additional layers. Personally, I like to add a wind/waterproof shell to my pack, as well as a thin toque that fits under my helmet and a Buff.
Pack a handlebar light or headlamp
After the summer solstice the days begin to get shorter. For those after-work or evening rides, you’ll now have less available daylight so bringing a light for your handlebars and maybe even one that attaches to your helmet is a great idea. You’ll be very thankful you have them if you’re delayed on the trail for any reason and you lose that daylight.
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Wear bright clothes
Autumn is also the kickoff to hunting season. Many trail networks share access points for multiple user groups including hunters. Obviously, hunters have a responsibility to operate firearms in a safe manner, but we can help prevent incidents by wearing bright colours and making noise (works great to reduce bear encounters too).
If you regularly ride with your four-legged friend, consider putting a bandana around their neck so they look less like a wild dog.
Four great fall biking trails in Alberta
Now that your mindset has shifted to autumn riding, where are the best places to go? In all honesty, your favourite summer trails are just as amazing in the fall, but if you’re looking for that vivid pop of colour you’ll want to check out the following trails in the Calgary area or a short drive away.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
Located in south Calgary, Fish Creek features over 100-kilometres of trails of varying difficulty.
The east side of Macleod Trail has more of a cross-country feel to it, while the west side of the park features steeper hills and is more mountain-like. The park features mixed forest where the poplar and aspen trees turn a bright golden colour which provide a sharp contrast to the always-green conifers.
West Bragg Creek
One of the most popular trail networks in the province, and for good reason. It boasts more than 160-kilometres of trails that range from beginner to expert.
Try the hugely popular Merlin View or opt for a quieter loop, that also features vibrant fall colours, by riding the Long Distance and Telephone loop.
High Rockies Trail
Traversing the entire length of the Spray Valley, the High Rockies Trail currently ends at Elk Pass on the Alberta/BC border. It is machine built and is part of the Trans Canada Trail network.
Although much of this trail is under a dense conifer forest, it does provide some spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and the Spray Lakes.
This trail has multiple access points, crosses the popular Blackshale Suspension Bridge, and passes known Larch hot-spots such as Chester Lake and Buller Pass, however those trails are closed to cyclists.
Minnewanka Shoreline Trail
Only open seasonally after Sept 15, the Minnewanka Shoreline Trail in Banff National Park is another stunning autumn ride.
This trail is under seasonal restrictions from Parks Canada, meaning it’s closed to cyclists from July 10 to September 15 annually.
It's almost 30-kilometres one way, but the most popular turnaround spot is at the Warden Cabin at about the 15-kilometre mark. It climbs steeply after the Stewart Canyon bridge before becoming rolling singletrack.
This is also prime Grizzly habitat, so like all rides in bear country be sure to carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Unfortunately, the autumn season is much too fleeting in this part of the country as winter’s icy grip begins to take hold earlier than I’d prefer. All the more reason to get out there and make the most of this glorious riding season. See you on the trails!
More great rides
Check out these tips for fall biking across Alberta and BC, and keep riding into winter. Be first to get the latest trail tips, adventure inspo and more, sign up for ZenSeekers newsletter.
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