Get ready to have some fun as you explore mountain biking and fat biking in Canmore and Kananaskis Country.
Mountain biking is one of my and Michal’s favourite sports. We love it so much that we brought our bikes with us when we moved from Slovakia to Canada.
Rolling hills full of greenery and through the forest banking at least 30 km on each trip used to be the norm. Little did we know that mountain biking in Canmore and the Canadian Rockies, in general, is a lot different.
Even though Western Canada is often mentioned as a prime spot for mountain biking, they often mean British Columbia.
The Canadian Rockies in Alberta are, well, very rocky. Not ideal for cross-country mountain biking. It would help if you had a full suspension bike; otherwise, you’re in for a very bumpy ride.
But because we lived in Banff and then in Calgary, Canmore was the closest place for our mountain biking trips. And after years of trying several trails, we’ve found a few that are great for cross country mountain biking.
Here’s our list of the best mountain biking spots in Canmore and Kananaskis Country, and a new winter activity we’ve tried – fat biking.
Mountain biking in Canmore
1. Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
Mountain biking trails for all levels.
- Distance: over 100 km
- Elevation gain: different options for all levels
- Difficulty: easy to expert
- Trail type: dirt trail, mostly single tracks
- Where to start: Day lodge of Canmore Nordic Centre
Canmore Nordic Centre is the sports hub year-round.
It offers more than 60 km of track set cross country ski trails and fat biking trails in winter. It’s great for mountain biking, trail running, hiking, roller skiing, and orienteering in summer.
The trails vary in distance and level of difficulty. I highly recommend downloading a trail map that shows you different loop options. Each crossroad is marked and easy to follow your chosen loop.
You can start on easy on a green single track for a leisure ride and slowly increase the difficulty to the more advanced blue trail. If you’re a confident rider, there’s also an option for black technical singletrack.
I love the most about Canmore Nordic Centre are the fluid trails with a nice flow and varied elevation. And of course the Day lodge, a resting place with a big eating area, an information desk with maps and current trail conditions, showers, washrooms, café, rentals and guiding services.
Read next: 20 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore
2. Goat Creek Trail
A quiet trail through the valley of mountain peaks.
- Distance: 18 km one way
- Elevation gain: 150 m
- Difficulty: intermediate
- Trail type: dirt wide trail
- Where to start: Parking lot for Ha Ling Peak/Goat Creek above Canmore Nordic Centre
Goat Creek Trail in Kananaskis Country can be ridden as an out and back or continue to Banff on a Spray River Trail. It’s a wide dirt trail with a few slightly rocky sections through the forest. What’s best about it is that you hardly meet anyone on the trail.
If you’re interested in an even longer ride, you can bike a loop starting in Banff – Legacy Trail to Canmore (and up the dusty Three Sisters Parkway) – Goat Creek Trail – Spray River Trail back to Banff (57.5 km and 670 m elevation gain).
You can make the loop in either direction, but if you start in Banff, you’ll go a little bit downhill on Legacy Trail, and then the Goat Creek is mostly downhill as well.
Goat Creek alone isn’t a scenic trail, but Spray River Trail gives you views of Rundle and Sulphur Mountain, while Legacy Trail is scenic the whole way.
Read the full blog post: Legacy trail, biking from Banff to Canmore with an adventurous twist
3. Rundle Riverside Trail
A technical trail from Canmore to Banff.
- Distance: 20 km
- Elevation gain: 230 m
- Difficulty: expert
- Trail type: dirt & lots of roots
- Where to start: Canmore Nordic Centre
Rundle Riverside Trail is the most technical ride on this list. If you get easily annoyed riding on the roots, don’t even try this one.
If you’d like to challenge yourself and have the skills, the trail will reward you with a nice flow, beautiful moss parts and a partial scenic ride along Bow River.
We’ve biked Rundle Riverside Trail to Banff and back to Canmore on Legacy Trail, from a challenging trail to an easy one.
The last time we’ve gone trail running the Rundle Riverside Trail (which I enjoyed more than biking) and then took the bus from Banff back to Canmore.
4. High Rockies Trail
The most scenic ride in the Canadian Rockies.
- Distance: 80 km
- Elevation gain: depends on the section
- Difficulty: easy to intermediate sections
- Trail type: dirt trail
- Where to start: Parking lot for Ha Ling Peak/Goat Creek above Canmore Nordic Centre
High Rockies Trail is a part of The Great Trail, a trail across Canada. It’s an unbelievably scenic ride from Goat Creek in Canmore to Elk Pass on Alberta/British Columbia border.
You can access it in five different day-use areas (Goat Creek Day Use, Driftwood Day Use, Buller Mountain Day Use, Sawmill Day Use, Peninsula Day Use) and bike in sections throughout a longer period of time.
What’s more, trail runners and hikers will find beautiful sections as well with wildflowers, a boardwalk, and a suspension bridge.
Fat biking in Canmore
We’re always for new fun ways to enjoy the outdoors. Our most recent find is fat biking.
If you’re not familiar – it’s mountain biking in winter. A human-powered off-road winter biking.
A fat bike is a mountain bike with fat/wide tires and traction suitable for snow. The trick is to have the tires deflated a bit more than on a regular mountain bike. It’s making the pedalling through snow much more effortless and without sinking, no matter the snow’s depth or consistency.
You need to use more power than on a mountain bike to reach some speed through the snow. Therefore the fat bike is best to use on a flat trail or downhill.
We had the pleasure to try fat biking in Canmore Nordic Centre. With a rental shop on-site and plenty of trails we already knew, we thought it would be easy.
For one, you ride the fat bike through deep snow, which is fine until you have to get on the bike and your feet sink into the deep snow.
Going downhill was a bit scary cause the bike is constantly drifting on turns; it has very soft traction on snow. Oh, and the uphills. It takes so much effort to ride that bike up the hill; I had to take a break once we reached the top.
The most fun part? Falling off. Something I would be terrified on the dirt trail riding a mountain bike; in winter, you fall right into the fluffy cold stuff that gets everywhere, haha!
We’ll be trying fat biking again.
Tip for Canmore Nordic Centre – fat bike rental Trail Sports didn’t adjust our tires properly. We’ve met an experienced fat biker on the trail working as a volunteer for Alberta Parks. He told us our tires are too hard and should have been deflated so the riding would be easier. The rental shop’s stuff didn’t even know that it’s important (as they told us).
Know before you go
What to pack
Some essentials that usually come in handy are a repair kit, windproof jacket, snacks, bear spray, water (you can fill up your water bottle along the way if you have a filter, we love using LifeStraw water filter bottle)
While Canmore doesn’t belong to a national park, if you decide to drive to Banff and bike from there, you need to purchase a park pass.
Before you go biking (or running the above trails), check current trail conditions for:
- Canmore Nordic Centre
- Goat Creek Trail
- Rundle Riverside Trail – the trail is not maintained, but the Information desk at Day lodge of Canmore Nordic Centre might have info
- High Rockies Trail
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in a bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while biking (so you don’t surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra
Other great biking trails in the Rockies
- 14 Awesome bike trails around Banff (for all levels)
- Snake Indian Falls, off the beaten path in Jasper National Park
- Aylmer Lookout hike & bike trip, Banff National Park
- Highwood Pass, biking the highest paved pass in Canada
Exciting biking trips from around the world
- Biking down the famous Death Road in Bolivia
- Summiting the Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier national park, Montana, from both ends
- Attempting to bike up the Haleakala volcano on Maui
- Canon del Pato in Peru, biking one of the world’s most dangerous roads
- Mountain biking in Chiapas mountains and visiting caves in Mexico