Mountain Biking, Banff + Jasper
Concierge.com's insider take:
Unlike most American national parks, where trail riding is rarely allowed, Banff offers more than 140 miles of designated biking trail. Trails are carved out of the kind of tacky, grippy soil that knobby wheels work especially well on, not unlike the terrain in Sun Valley, Idaho, and Bozeman, Montana. Not that the trails are necessarily easy: The altitude makes the Canadian Rockies a wheeze-inducing experience for lowland riders. But mostly, visitors ride through subalpine meadows, over pine-studded ridges, past steaming hot springs, and beneath rocky tusks, such as the dramatic Mount Assiniboine. The Lake Minnewanka ride remains the best way to experience Banff's postcard terrain; located just outside of Banff town (go north on Banff Avenue till you reach the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road), the shoreline trail links forests of spruce via 20 miles of roller-coaster single-track. At the same trail head, there's the more intermediate Cascade Fire Road—a leisurely nine-mile gravel trail through the Cascade Valley. Park regulations prevent outfitters from leading mass off-road tours, so if you're looking for help, check out the Mountain Bike and Cycling Guide found at the Banff Information Centre (224 Banff Ave., Banff; 403-762-1550). Another, slightly shorter, classic just outside the park is Jumping Pound/Cox Hill: 12 miles of single-track through wildflower-rich meadows, rocky staircases, big mountain views, and winding, technical descents. In all cases, be aware of bears, especially in late summer, when they are gorging themselves with berries, trailside.