Hinton: Hit the trails in this Central Alberta Mountain Biking Mecca
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As someone who lives in an area known for mountain biking, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Hinton to ride the local trails. As a passionate rider, I love exploring new trails and seeing how communities have been embracing the sport. Well, after my visit, I can tell you that this town on the edge of the Northern Rockies has the mountain bike scene dialed and then some.
Hinton is located just east of Jasper National Park along the foothills of the Alberta Rockies. The region consists of rolling foothills, river valleys and rich forested terrain making it the perfect setting for mountain biking.
Besides repairs and sales, Wild provides bike rentals at Vicious Cycle (with limited bike inventory worldwide in 2021 affecting bike retailers everywhere, it's best to call ahead to confirm availability). So, if you don’t have a bike yet or forgot yours at home, don’t worry she’ll set you up. As we chatted my riding partners arrived. Mike Langford and Kevin Miles swung by with their Vicious Cycle bikes to give me the inside scoop on Hinton’s mountain biking. Not only are they avid riders, but both are also involved in the Hinton Mountain Bike Association.
As any good mountain biker knows, the best way to start a ride is with coffee so we conveniently crossed the parking lot to The Old Grind to get our caffeine jump-start. Coffee in hand and bikes loaded on the truck we made the short drive in town to the Hinton Bike Park. What !? Yes, you heard me right a bike park.
I was eager to visit the bike park because my home community doesn’t have one yet. I was blown away with the infrastructure and amenities. Langford says the park was the first of its kind in Alberta and one of the largest in Canada. The park was started in 2008, just one year after the Hinton Bike Association was formed. I was floored not realizing that Hinton had been so far ahead of the curve in developing mountain biking in the region.
The bike park now covers 37 acres of riding trails with four key fun riding skill development zones. They are the Skills Park, Dirt Jumps, Drop Zone and Pump Track, all of which then connect into the Happy Creek Trail System.
The Bike Hinton website sums up the park perfectly: “To build an outstanding mountain bike skills park that is fun, safe, free of charge, and accessible for all abilities and ages, thereby facilitating the promotion of skills development, active lifestyles and mountain culture.” Riding with Langford and Miles here I had so much fun that I almost forgot that the trails extend with endless riding opportunities beyond the park.
What stood out to me the most were the families and little kids riding in the skills park. Everywhere I looked were big happy smiles and the sounds of laughter and excitement. As experienced riders, we hit the dirt jump section with gusto, but the real beauty of the park is it works for all skill levels.
As we took a break, a young girl with her dinosaur strapped to her handlebars and unicorn horn on her helmet zoomed up and down the smaller jumps. “Did you see how fast I went and high I got?” she shouted to her grandpa. As she rode by me she told me that she spent the entire day prior in the park and couldn't wait to get back.
After a couple of hours of riding, we made our way back to the Bike Park kiosk where Miles showed me the trails we rode on the big map. My favourite was “Slope Wars,” just above the pump track. “The bike park has been such a success that all the towns in the district are building small bike parks of their own now,” Miles says.
After a day on the biking trails, there's nothing better than a refreshing dip in Kelley's Bathtub. This warm water lagoon with mountain is the perfect place for a dip.
With the bikes loaded back up, it was time for post-ride apres. In Hinton, the must-visit destination is Folding Mountain Brewing Company. We made our way towards the towering peaks of Jasper to the stunning brewery. The outdoor patio was the perfect setting with vast forests and endless mountain landscape as our backdrop. The drinks were great but Folding Mountain Brewery has an amazing menu selection, too. Our food was as good as the riding earlier, a solid 12 out of 10, and a fine way to end our fun-filled day on two wheels.
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