Spoiled and Loving it!‘ This story by Bruce Thomas was the feature article in the Official Show Guide for the Motorcycle Shows in Calgary and Edmonton in January 2018.
Helpful documents for single and group riding
- ‘The Pace’ and ‘Pace Yourself‘ by Nick Ienatsch are both good reads on riding techniques for single and group riding.
- QUICK TIPS: MSF’s Guide to Group Riding
- 8 Rules for Group Motorcycle Riding by esurance
- CRASH How to Prepare Yourself for the Worst
- Motorcyclist ‘Just go Ride!‘
1. Icefields Parkway – https://goo.gl/maps/PwrX9NgXF3M2
Here it is – the World Famous Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Parks! This road is rightfully described as one of the most scenic routes in the world and National Geographic called it “one of the crown jewels of western Canada” and a “Drive of a Lifetime.” This route is on many bucket lists and is best experienced from the seat of a motorcycle with no roof obstructing the many breathtaking views. There are reportedly more than 100 glaciers along this route and the lakes they spawn are magnificent. Bow Lake (right beside Hwy 93) and Peyto Lake (a short hike from the parking lot) are both fed from glaciers and sparkle with the distinctive aquamarine color of suspended glacial silt. Saskatchewan River Crossing is a great spot to stop for mountain scenery and a bathroom break but try to avoid the gas pumps as the price is usually as elevated as the mountains. North of the Crossing there is a large loop and cliffside climb with a spectacular lookout at the top of the hill. The Columbia Icefields are a great place to marvel at more scenery and take a ride on a glacier or enjoy the views from the Glacier Skywalk. Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls are two other highlights of the Parkway.
Jasper is your turn-around point and is a great place to fill both yourself and your bike with fuel. If you are feeling adventurous take the optional side routes to Maligne Lake (a 90-minute boat cruise gets you to Spirit Island) and/or Miette Hot Springs. Both of these sidetrips feature awesome motorcycle roads. The Jasper Skytram takes you to the top of Whistlers Mountain for terrific views of Jasper and area.
A favorite location for lunch in Jasper is the L&W Restaurant.
This is a long route and there is a lot to see and do but, with nearly 17 hours between sunrise and sunset you have plenty of time for as much as you want to include. You can also break it up into two days by doing the far-away portions one day and then doing our shorter Glacier Lakes Run another day.
2. Glacier Lakes Run – https://goo.gl/maps/PZ7tnsKuyV52
The Glacier Lakes Run is a fantastic route that includes four easily accessible yet spectacularly beautiful glacier-fed lakes in the Canadian Rockies. This route also gets you off the Trans Canada Hwy onto two amazing sections of Hwy 1A.
3. Drumheller – https://goo.gl/maps/oGZzrx2DA3L2
An excellent day trip that showcases more than just the mountains of Alberta. This route takes in some central Alberta prairies on the way to/from Drumheller and the World Famous Royal Tyrrell Museum with its collection of over 130,000 fossils. The Badlands of Alberta in the Red Deer River Valley are very scenic with Hoodoos and layers of rock. The Rosebud River Valley features Hwy 10X and 11 one-lane wooden-deck bridges that criss-cross the Rosebud on the way to the historic town of Wayne where the Rosedeer Hotel serves up good grub in the Last Chance Saloon. Ride the Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River on Hwy 838 and, if you’re so inclined, head back towards Drumheller on Hwy 837 – another valley route. Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum (seriously!) are highlights of your trip towards Water Valley, AB and its eponymous Saloon where the food will give you a lift for the final push back to WeSTOC Central via the excellent Grand Valley Road.
4. Vulcan STarTrek Run – https://goo.gl/maps/3NgDWkwuDfK2
The town of Vulcan, AB has embraced space tourism and its connection with the Star Trek TV and movie franchise even hosting Spock Days in early June. But, this route contains a lot more than just a replica of the USS Enterprise. The town of Bragg Creek is close to the start of Hwy 762 which is popular with motorcyclists and high-end sports cars. The Okotoks Erratic is a giant boulder that was transported via glacial ice thousands of years ago from its starting location near Jasper. Hwy 552 dips ino a valley and crosses the Sheep River on a neat little one-lane bridge. After crossing through prarie farmland you can explore the Vulcan Trek Centre and take pictures of the famed starship. The Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton features one of only 17 remaining Avro Lancaster Bombers from WWII. Hwy 533 is a joyous romp through the foothills before Hwy 22 takes you north to Longview where the Longview Jerky Shop offers plenty of great road food. Turning west onto Hwy 541 will lead you to Hwy 40 and across Highwood Pass – Canada’s highest paved road peaking at 2,206 m (7,239 ft) elevation. The road opens on June 15 so be prepared for snow beside the road and cool temps as you crest the pass. Finally, Hwy 1A is an enjoyable curvy alternative to the four-lane Trans Canada to return you to the hotel on the western edge of Calgary.
5. Highwood Water Valley – https://goo.gl/maps/rvMSg7LFUP72
Heading west on Hwy 1 and then south on Hwy 22 gets you to Bragg Creek which has some decent food opportunities if you decide to skip the hotel breakfast. Riding west from Bragg Creek takes you to the scenic Elbow Falls and a little further the popular (?) Forgetmenot pond. Once you return to Hwy 22 there is a quick turn onto Hwy 762 which is popular with riders and sports cars. Don’t have too much fun as the police liek the road too. At Millarville trun south onto Hwy 22 again and follow it through Turner Valley and Black Diamond to Longview. Check out the Longview Beef Jerky Shop if you need some road food and then head west on Hwy 541. After 44 km the road becomes Hwy 40 which takes you over Highwood Pass – Canada’s highest paved road peaking at 2,206 m (7,239 ft) elevation. The mountain scenery along Hwy 40 is very different from other parts of the Rocky Mountains. Continue across Hwy 1 and take the curvier Hwy 1A east to Grand Valley Road which winds northward to begin the trip to Water Valley where the saloon offers up decent food. From Water Valley it is a short ride back to the WeSTOC Hotel.
Another option is to drop the Water Valley portion and do a shorter loop – Highwood Pass and 762 – https://goo.gl/maps/g9EKh2VsBc32
6. Nordegg And Lakes – https://goo.gl/maps/A7y5ehkS6Vx
This route takes you north on Hwy 22 through rolling farmland and small communities to Rocky Mountain House. From Rocky the route heads west through mostly forest until Nordegg and then it becomes hilly and more scenic as you approach the Rocky Mountains. Filling with gas in Nordegg saves you from the high prices at Saskatchewan River Crossing. Lake Abraham, the reservois behind the Bighorn Dam, is Alberta’s largest man-made lake and is reminiscent of riding on the Cabot Trail. Turn south when you reach Hwy 93, the Icefields Parkway, and visit Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (for some reason Google Maps doesn’t like routing to/from Moraine). Take scenic Hwy 1A back to Calgary starting with the Lake Louise to Banff (The Bow Valley Parkway) section and then the Canmore to Calgary section.
7. Kootenay Yoho – https://goo.gl/maps/p8kPFhTNBgx
This route contains good options for your trip to/from WeSTOC 24 but if you came a different way this route can be quite entertaining. Hwy 93 from Castle Junction to Radium Hot Springs goes through Kootenay National Park and is an enjoyable road with some good twisty sections plus The Hill into Radium. The ride up to Panorama Ski Resort can be fun as well before heading north alongside the Columbia River to Golden. The Columbia is quite a lot smaller here than it is at Portland, OR. Heading east on the Trans-Canada from Golden will take you into Yoho National Park and the highest point on the Trans-Canada Highway – Kicking Horse Pass at 1,627 m (5,338 ft) elevation. To get the trains over the dangerous pass a pair of spiral tunnels were opened in 1909 reducing the grade and making it possible to watch trains cross over themselves. Take scenic Hwy 1A back to Calgary starting with the Lake Louise to Banff (The Bow Valley Parkway) section and then the Canmore to Calgary section.
8. Radium Hwy 93 – https://goo.gl/maps/9VKxSXYXGQA2
Hwy 93 from Castle Junction to Radium Hot Springs goes through Kootenay National Park and is an enjoyable road with some good twisty sections plus The Hill into Radium. The ride up to Panorama Ski Resort can be fun as well. Since I love The Hill into Radium on this ride just retrace your route back to Calgary and see if you prefer going up or down The Hill. The Kootenay Valley Viewpoint on the east side of the hilltop is quite spectacular. Take scenic Hwy 1A back to Calgary starting with the Castle Junction to Banff (The Bow Valley Parkway) section and then the Canmore to Calgary section.
9. Water Valley Lunch Run – https://goo.gl/maps/SEJMeg6EMjC2
The Water Valley Lunch Run would be a good option for a shorter ride on Thursday. This could be tied together with a trip to Banff or another run through Bragg Creek and down Hwy 762 if you fancy. Either way, some decent pavement on quieter roads make for an enjoyable ride with the worst part being getting through Cochrane.
The Gravel Rides
This route could be an addendum to the preceding Watervalley route. It continues on northwest of there and then returns back near there. Great saloon in Watervalley for lunch. This route is about 75% good gravel/dirt roads.
This is a long day but well worth it. 70% gravel and spectacular scenery.
This route takes about 5-6 hrs if you don’t stop but there are a couple of good places to stop:
– Bragg Creek for morning coffee and Danish
– Canmore for lunch
Another. This one goes down the Forestry Trunk Road for a bit and then comes back over the first range. Spectacular views from the top. Only about 35% gravel but good roads. The paved parts are pretty interesting scenery wise as well. Again, coffee in Bragg Creek and then lunch in Longview at the old hotel. It is about 45% good gravel roads. All are big bike friendly. The rest is 2 lane pavement with some nice curves and scenery.
Loops past Bragg Creek, Elbow Falls, Millarville and 762 back to Bragg Creek. Some gravel between Elbow Falls and Millarville.
Shorter version of Route 12 above.