By Afton Aikens
This winter, try out Banff’s new intermediate 5.9-km Castle Mountain Lookout to Protection Mountain Campground trail, which parallels the Bow Valley Parkway and traces part of the original auto-route through Banff National Park. This single-track trail has 15 metres of elevation gain.
Perfect for novice skiers, the 4.4-km Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court trail near the Banff townsite debuted last season and is lit dusk-to-dawn. The trail has minimal elevation.
More favourite trails:
- Baker Creek to Protection Mountain Campground (easy; 7 km/2 hr return; no elevation): single track (marked #2) parallels the Bow Valley Parkway. Start: near Baker Creek Chalets.
- Castle Junction (easy; 8.7 km; 31-m elevation gain): interconnected single tracks through the forest. Main trail runs from Castle Junction to Castle Mountain Lookout.
- Fairview Loop (easy; 7.5 km/2 hr; 50-m elevation gain): short and entertaining uphills, downhills and turns through forest and clearings with views. Park east of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
- Spray River Loop (easy; 12 km/3-4 hrs return; 65-m elevation gain): take the fire road by the river to the picnic area; return other side of valley. Enjoy Tunnel/Rundle Mountain views. Start past the Fairmont Banff Springs’ parkade.
- Boom Lake (intermediate; 10 km/3-4 hrs return; 180-m elevation gain): wide rising trail through forest takes you to a peak-ringed lake. It’s a quick run back. Start Hwy 93S, 6 km south of Hwy 1.
- Cascade Valley (intermediate; 13 km/3-4 hrs return; 70-m elevation gain): double track with skating lane to Cascade River bridge. Good views and a fun downhill return. Start at the Lake Minnewanka parking lot.
- Canmore Nordic Centre: This former Olympic and World Cup venue has 65 km (40 mi) of trails track-set for classic and skating techniques, and 6.5 km (4 mi) lit for night skiing. There is also a day lodge and café. Rentals and lessons are available at Trail Sports.
- Mount Shark (easy to advanced; 30+ km; varying elevation gains): multiple loops set for classic and skate skiing. Start: Mount Shark trailhead on the Smith-Dorrien Spray Trail.
For conditions and route details, contact the local visitors’ centres:
- Banff: Information Centre 224 Banff Ave (9 am-5 pm) 403-762-8421; and Parks Canada (facilities, trails, permits) 403-762-1550.
- Lake Louise: Visitor Centre (Thu-Sun 9 am-4:30 pm to Apr 30; after Apr 30 confirm new times) Samson Mall, 403-522-3833.
- Canmore: Tourism Canmore (8:30 am-5:30 pm), 907 7 Ave, 403-678-1295; and Travel Alberta (9 am-5 pm), Hwy 1 and Bow Valley Tr, 1-800-252-3782.
- Kananaskis: Barrier Lake (to Apr 6, Mon-Fri 9 am-12:30 pm/1:15-4:15 pm, Sun 9 am-4:45 pm; after Apr 6 confirm new times), Hwy 40, 403-673-3985; and Peter Lougheed Park (to Feb 22, Mon-Sun 9:30 am-12:30 pm/1:15-4:45 pm; Feb 23-Mar 1 Sat-Sun same hours; after confirm), Kananaskis Lakes Tr, 403-591-6322; toll-free 403-310-0000 then phone #.