This Memorable Bike Ride in the Mountains Ends Soon

Don't miss a spin on Highway 40 while it's closed to vehicles and free of snow

There’s a small window of time every spring when the closure of Highway 40 to motorized vehicles overlaps with the scenic mountain road being free of snow, making it the perfect spot for an incredible bike ride.

That window, dear reader, is now! Conditions are currently prime on the Kananaskis highway, which is closed to cars annually from December 1 to June 14. That means you have just a week left to go outside and enjoy an unforgettable ride.

This highway is often described as one of Canada’s best drives. Experiencing it at a slower pace, on a bike, makes it even better. Just be prepared to climb — this is also the highest paved road in Canada, reaching 2,206 metres at Highwood Pass.

Cailynn’s obligatory Highwood Pass sign photo from 2017.

You can access this bike ride from either the north side, where you’ll find the winter gate right near the King Creek Ridge Trailhead, or the south side, near Highwood House Junction. Both starting points are located about an hour and half from Calgary by vehicle.

The north side offers a shorter route to the pass — you’ll need to cover 17 km — but it’s steeper than the south side, which has a more gradual grade but a longer distance of 38 kilometres to the pass. Even if you don’t make it to Highwood Pass, expect a stunning and memorable ride through the Rockies.

The winter gate on the south side, near Highwood House Junction.

Riding from the north side, near Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. No matter which side you depart from, the mountain views start immediately.

Biking this road has become a favourite spring tradition in both of our households. In fact, Cailynn loves this route so much that she fit in four rides on it last year. (With a new baby this year, she doesn’t expect to make it out, but she’s already looking forward to next year’s ride with her little one in tow.)

When riding this route in previous years, we’ve loved seeing the range of people out. While keeners are known to bike from gate to gate to gate, it’s also common to see families with young children out, aiming not for the pass but simply enjoying a beautiful and challenging ride. E-bikes have also made this ride more accessible to more people in recent years. More than once, we’ve seen three generations out, with grandparents on e-bikes, parents on bikes and kids in bike trailers.

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Having this striking route completely free of cars is a real treat.

There’s also options for bike + hikes. Last year, Cailynn and her parents started at the north side and rode to a trailhead, where they left their bikes and started hiking up. While their legs were extra tired on the bike back, it was a memorable day and totally worth it.

Note that this year, you’ll need to purchase the new Kananaskis Conservation Pass (ICYMI, you can read our thoughts on that fee here). And come prepared — for wildlife sightings, for bike troubles and for changing weather. Bear spray, bike repair kits and rain gear are must-haves (snacks too, adds Annalise).

Finally, we’ll repeat what’s becoming a common refrain for us — be prepared for busyness, especially if you’re heading out on the weekend.

Happy riding!

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