Legacy Trail leading from Banff to Canmore is a favourite among many cyclists. It’s even more fun when you connect to a Goat Creek & Spray River Trails through the mountains and back to Banff, making a nice loop. Trail among the giant mountain peaks is truly mountain biking at its finest in the Canadian Rockies.
We rode the Legacy Trail between Banff and Canmore many times when we moved to Banff in Canada. But as we don’t really like out and back trails, we started looking for another way back to Banff.
And while Legacy Trail is mostly along the highway on a paved bike path, the Goat Creek & Spray River Trails leading back to Banff through the mountains is a nice and quiet dirt trail. It’s ideal for anyone looking for mountain views away from the noise.
That’s why I’m writing a blog post titled ‘Legacy trail, biking from Banff to Canmore with an adventurous twist’. If you’ve read any of our previous posts, you know we always look for fun alternatives to traditional and well-known ways. A great example is our trail run on Routeburn Track in New Zealand – it’s a multi-day hiking trail which we tackled trail running in one day.
In short, this post is about biking the loop Banff – Canmore – Banff on:
- Legacy Trail (from Banff to Canmore)
- Goat Creek Trail + Spray River Trail (from Canmore to Banff)
For more amazing bike trips in the Rockies, read these:
- Biking trails around Banff
- 20 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore
- Aylmer Lookout Bike & Hike Trip
- Biking the highest paved pass in Canada
- Biking to Snake Falls, off the beaten path in Jasper
If you’re looking for a fun twist to a traditional touristy trail or simply looking for a challenge then this post is the right place! Let’s break down the whole trip.
- Legacy Trail (from Banff to Canmore) is 25 km long
- Riding from Banff to Canmore is easier than the other way around as the trail goes downhill
- You can download a map for Legacy Trail here
- From Canmore to the start of Goat Creek Trail is 10 km uphill (mostly on a dirt road)
- Goat Creek & Spray River Trails is 22 km downhill with few inclines (when riding from Canmore to Banff)
- Total: 57,5 km; 670 m elevation (it took us 4,5 hours including breaks)
Start by finding a parking spot in Banff. We parked on the street near Central Park. Alternatively, you can park at the Fenland Centre or picnic area. Another option would be parking at Vermilion Lakes and start biking from there, it would add an extra few km to your bike ride.
If you’re starting in Banff, make your way through Banff on Banff Avenue (or any side street) towards the east (same direction as to Cascade Ponds or Lake Minnewanka). Once you leave all the hotel behind, you’ll see a biking path with a map on your right clearly signed ‘Banff Legacy Trail’.
Be aware of your surroundings – the first time we rode Legacy Trail, we saw a black bear walking just 100 m in front of us on the pathway. He didn’t seem to be concerned at all so we stopped and waited until he disappeared into the forest.
The last time we drove Legacy Trail we saw a deer having lunch along the pathway. This time he ran away just as quickly as we saw him.
The whole Legacy trail is easy and joyful to ride. Mountain views won’t diminish, just the opposite, you’ll get better when nearing Canmore. The pathway is straightforward as it’s following the Trans-Canada Highway.
Halfway through the bike ride on Legacy Trail (about 10 km from Banff), there is a resting area with signature red chairs overlooking Rundle Mountain and picnic tables. It’s a perfect place to have a snack, forget about the nearby highway and enjoy the views.
Now you have only 10 km of biking left on the Legacy Trail. The digital sign along the pathway across from the Visitor’s Centre marks the end of Legacy Trail. Look at the sign to find out how many cyclists biked the pathway. It’s counting all cyclists overall and also for the current season.
You can continue biking on the pathway and then make a right to cross the railway tracks. Welcome to the mountain town of Canmore!
Now you can either stay and enjoy Canmore, bike back to Banff, take a bus back to Banff if you’re exhausted or continue.
For cyclists that want to continue…
Legacy Trail to Goat Creek Trail
You will bike through Canmore towards Canmore Nordic Centre. When you crossed the bridge over Bow River, and then turn left to Three Sisters Drive and onto Spray Lakes Road, you will soon see a reservoir on the left. Continue on this road, it’s paved until the parking lot for Grassi Lakes.
It then becomes an uphill dirt road. This is the hardest section as you share the road with cars and slowly gaining elevation. We found the drivers to be more considerate towards cyclists than a few years ago. But of course, every once in a while, some douchebag and obviously not a cyclist will speed up and leave a dust cloud behind leaving you with a dusty face.
But because the road is quite narrow with turns, if you bike more towards the middle, they will have no other option than to slow down. And only then you let them pass. This tactic has been proven to work the best in our decades of biking while sharing the road with cars.
When you see another reservoir called Whitemans Pond on your left, you’re now at the highest point of your bike ride. Shortly after you will see a big parking lot on the right which is the main parking lot for hiking trails around, High Rockies biking trail and also Goat Creek Trail.
Goat Creek Trail & Spray River Trail
The sign for the Goat Creek Trail is visible right by the map kiosk. It starts with a wide downhill trail. After about 1 km, you will reach a signed crossroad – High Rockies trail on the left and Goat Creek Trail on the right.
As you bike through the trees, don’t forget to shout something every once in a while so you don’t surprise any bears. This should go without saying when in the Canadian Rockies, but don’t forget to carry a bear spray and know how & when to use it.
The trail is wide and you’ll have occasional views of the surrounding mountains – Sulphur Mountain on the left and Rundle Mountain on the right. There are two wooden bridges on Goat Creek Trail and a few uphills as well, but nothing hard.
From the shelter, you will merge onto the Spray River Trail. You can go to the left, which is a bit harder (more uphills) and ends at the Fairmont Hotel. Or you can continue on the right crossing the Spray River, which was our choice as well.
The Spray River Loop is a great all year round spot for trail runners, mountain bikers, and cross country skiers (with maintained trails in winter).
There are a few places where you emerge from the trees and have a mountain view. The end of the trail is at the golf course, right below the Fairmont Hotel.
On the way back to Banff, you can stop at Bow Falls and either take the paved road for cars or continue back to town along Bow River.
By the end of it, you should feel happy and accomplished as you just biked over 57 km.
I hope you will enjoy your bike trip, no matter what distance you choose!
Additional reading about the Canadian Rockies
Hiking in Canmore & Kananaskis
- Comparison of hiking Ha Ling Peak vs. Mount Lawrence Grassi
- Little Lougheed Hike in Kananaskis
- Galatea Lakes
Day hikes in Banff National Park:
- Mount St. Piran Hike in Lake Louise
- Johnston Canyon Hike to Ink Pots
- Rockbound Lake Hike
- Sulphur Mountain Hike
- Glacier Lake Trail
- Healy Pass with Egypt Lake
- Boom Lake
More hiking ideas:
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Plan your trip to the Rockies:
- Epic travel guide to the Canadian Rockies
- 100 things to do in Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Yoho National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park
- Comprehensive camping guide to Banff National Park
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