Author Topic: Another Great Parks North Ques...  (Read 2474 times)

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Offline MrBent

Another Great Parks North Ques...
« on: January 28, 2012, 04:41:12 pm »
My wife and I are planning a big Rocky Mtn. tour this year, Jasper to Silver City, NM, then home to Cali.  On the northern portion of the road, we were thinking of going out of the Canadian Rockies past Canmore, getting to the east side, and heading down to Glacier Park that way.  What do you think of this in comparison to the ACA version through Fernie et al?  Oh, we'll be starting early-ish August.



Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Another Great Parks North Ques...
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2012, 10:05:57 pm »
Hey Scott!
My girlfriend April and I rode out this way last July as part of our cross-con trip. I can give you my impression of Canmore-Waterton Lakes via the east side, but don't have the experience of the west side to compare.

We used Great Parks North from Glacier NP to Waterton Lakes NP,* then north up to Pincher Creek and Alberta Route 3/Crownsnest Highway. We diverged from the Great Parks North route just west of Lundbreck and headed north on Route 22, the Cowboy Trail and took that north to Black Diamond where we headed east to Okotoks and then Calgary. You could continue north on 22 from Black Diamond and then either take 1 (Trans-Canada Hwy) or 1A west into Canmore.

22/Cowboy Trail was some nice riding. Alberta's major highways all feature nice wide and paved shoulders, yet traffic was pretty moderate here. The terrain is rolling, with a couple of climbs, nothing too bad. Scenery is a mix of grasslands and ranches with some woodland interspersed, and great views of the Rockies. And there are a couple campgrounds along 22, the bigger one being at Chain Lakes.

The one thing to note about this route is the lack of services for the most part.  There are no towns between the 22/3 junction and Longview, which is about 110 km or 65 miles. No people either but lots and lots of cattle! You would need to stock up on stuff at Lundbreck (but since it's a very small town, the best supplying up is in Pincher Creek with a supermarket and Wallyworld) including water. There are a couple campgrounds along the route, but the one furthest south has non-potable water. Chain Lakes has potable water, a soda machine, and a snack bar that is open sporadically. The Bar U Ranch, a historic ranch site, is south of Longview and has gift shop and snack bar as well.

And you would pass by a mile or so long fence with hats on the posts.

Here's basically what the Cowboy Trail looks like:

1A west of Calgary wasn't bad. There's a section of no shoulder for about 15 miles we were warned about, but barely any traffic (as most through traffic uses the Trans-Canada west of Cochrane) so not too bad. A few places to camp along the route as well.

The other route between the Crowsnest Hwy and Canmore would be 40/Kananaskis Trail, which is west of 22. It's supposed to be more rugged and hilly, with a long section of gravel and even less in the way of services. But it's supposed to be really beautiful. Next time if I go through this area I might try it.

*Even though the main part of Waterton Lakes is a bit off route, I would advise you to take the detour, it's worth it!


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Re: Another Great Parks North Ques...
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 10:36:03 am »
We did a loop from/to Whitefish in ’09 using part of the Great route and connecting the ends using Rte. 93 to Elko. I second going to Waterton Village. (Also stayed there in ’99.) The town campsite is great. Right on the lake. It can get very windy, but there are indoor camp kitchens where you can cook. We actually slept in one in ’09 as it was very cold and extremely windy.  If you can take a day off, there is a boat ride/hike combination that’s supposed to be fabulous. We had to cancel our day off for schedule reasons so didn’t get to do it. Another reason to stop there is that there is nothing except for one restaurant between Pincher Creek and the border crossing at Chief Mountain, where you may find a vending machine or two. That restaurant is in Twin Butte, which is maybe 20 miles south of Pincher Creek. You won’t find any other commercial establishments until U.S. 89. (In the vicinity of Babb, we stopped at the Fire Horse Café on the left. I believe it’s on the Blackfoot reservation.  Great burgers.) The climb that starts at the Jct. of PR 5 and PR 6 is a tough one, both physically and psychologically as much of it is laid out in front of you. There’s another climb to get to the border crossing. And you will almost certainly have a stiff headwind on U.S. 89. I think making it from somewhere like Pincher Creek all the way to St. Mary in one day would be a daunting task.

If I remember the AC route correctly, you come down from Baynes Lake to Rte. 93 to Elko. If so, 93 was a long false flat. And if you have good eyesight, you get taunted by the flashing traffic light at the Jct. with PR 3.  :(  Little traffic and a shoulder. Elko to Fernie wasn’t bad, although many have reported heavy traffic on PR 3. We had little traffic. It mostly came in spurts.  Maybe it being late June had something to do with it. There is a dirt alternative on the other side of the river which can be picked up near the store in Elko. Someone recently asked about it on this forum. Sparwood has a nice campground on the edge of town with free firewood. And you ride past the world’s largest truck. Approaching Coleman all the way to the turnoff for Rte. 507 traffic picked up. The stretch between Coleman (great café in a former church) and 507 was the worst. A good deal of traffic and noisy, and the towns along the way are drab. Rte. 507 was traffic free and pretty, albeit extremely rolling in places. If you come down 22 to 3, it might be worth backtracking a bit to take 507 into Pincher Creek, which is another sad little place. Doing that will also allow you to see the famous Burmis Tree, which is near the junction of 3 and 507.