Exploring Banff's Mountains by Bike
Explore the great outdoors of Banff National Park on two wheels, and experience the natural beauty on offer from a new perspective. Banff offers a variety of mountain biking trails for all level of riders – including trails that are family-friendly! Here are the top trails to ride.
Fun terrain and sweeping views await riders who want to tackle mountain biking in Banff. Although just 200 kilometres of biking trails are open in Banff National Park, the areas that do allow bike access are a blast to ride! Fortunately, if you aren’t into hauling your bike with you on vacation, there are plenty of bike rental shops in Banff.
Great family-friendly mountain biking trails
Although you’ll certainly find some tough single-track in Banff, such as the narrow Stoney Squaw Trail, many routes in the park are perfect for family rides without being too mellow. For example, the new Tunnel Mountain Bench Trail features a stacked loop system that allows riders to select the type of terrain they’re most comfortable with.
If you want crazy downhill and super-tough terrain, you might want to venture out towards Canmore. But those looking for a simpler, easier ride everyone can enjoy have come to the right place.
Banff cycling culture
Biking is incredibly popular in Banff. In fact, many locals own three bikes – one for the road, one for the mountain and a third cruiser for errands in town!
The Town of Banff even added shared-lane markings on its roads in 2010 to help make it easier for cyclists and drivers to co-exist. There are also ample bike tracks and paved pathways that are perfect for two wheels.
If you’re looking for a great spot to go mountain biking in Banff, take a look at our top picks below:
1. Sundance Trail
This is an easy and kid-friendly mountain biking trail that winds along the Bow River, offering a gentle climb that ends at the Sundance Canyon picnic area.
You ride through a narrow scenic canyon, gaining 150 metres of elevation on a steep and fun trail. This double-track, mostly paved trail is very popular in the summertime. It is not too technically challenging and there is a relatively small amount of elevation gain, making it a great choice for beginner mountain bikers or children.
Take a day trip with the whole family and pack a lunch in your backpack. That way you can have a picnic at Sundance Canyon while enjoying the sunshine and the gorgeous views.
The trailhead for the Sundance Trail is located at the Cave and Basin Historic Site in Banff. However, this was recently closed for renovations, so the second entrance is on the horse track along Bow River.
- Level: Beginner
- Distance: 4.7km
- Length: 45 minutes – 1.5 hours
- If you have time, explore the beautiful Creekside hiking trail that starts at the Sundance Canyon picnic area
2. Tunnel Mountain Bench Trail
Opened in July of 2014, this is one of the newest mountain biking trails in Banff.
Locals have been riding around the area for decades, but now the trails are officially maintained by the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance. Plus, a new MTB specific technical XC trail has been developed.
The exciting and challenging Tunnel Mountain Bench Trail has a stacked loop system, so that bikers of different skill levels can choose to gradually work their way up to more difficult terrain. There is a simple campground loop at the top that is beginner friendly, then a green-rated single track with amazing views in the open forest. Also, there are more remote trails with advanced options for experienced riders.
Tunnel Mountain is almost completely encircled by the town of Banff. The upper trailhead can be reached via Tunnel Mountain Drive.
- Level: Various levels
- Distance: The recent renovations added 20km of new trail, which means that there are now 40km of mountain biking opportunities in the area
- Length: Depends on which section of the trail you choose
3. Bow Falls – Hoodoos Trail
This is an exhilarating single-track trail that can be ridden in both directions, either down to the falls or up to the second parking lot at Tunnel Mountain.
It’s also a family-friendly route that riders of all ages can enjoy. Take in incredible views of the surrounding mountains and the river below as you race along the varied terrain.
The trail has an elevation gain of 90 metres and the best season for riding is between June and October. Make sure that you stop at “Surprise Corner,” where you will be able to catch a glimpse of a picture-perfect view of the Fairmont Banff Springs.
The trailhead for this trail can be found at the Hoodoos Parking Lot or the Surprise Corner Parking Lot. Drive south on Banff Avenue and turn east on Buffalo Street, following the road along to the Surprise Point parking area. The trail is very easy to follow, just look for the orange arrows.
- Level: Beginner/intermediate
- Distance: 4.3km one way
- Length: 30 minutes – 1 hour
- There is a risk of bear encounters in Banff National Park, make sure that you consult with the park wardens about bear sightings before you set out
4. The Star Wars Trail
This fun, flowy freeride trail in Banff is ideal for introducing young people to the sport of mountain bike freeriding.
Star Wars trail was constructed in 2010 by the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance and it has rapidly become one of the most visited trails in the park. There is only around 120 metres of total drop in the trail, but it’s so well designed that you will feel like there’s much more than that.
The route features an exciting series of jumps and a well-designed curved wall, offering an exhilarating downhill ride that will excite you more than an intergalactic battle. May the force (of gravity) be with you.
The trailhead for the Star Wars Trail is located on Tunnel Mountain Drive, which is approximately 50 metres away from the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. There is also a connector from the Hoodoos trail and the Surprise Corner Parking lot.
- Level: Beginner to intermediate
- Distance: 2.5km in length when combined with Return of the Jedi, the up track at the start of the trail
- Length: 1 hour
- Do the trail counterclockwise so that you can get the most out of the technical features
5. Stoney Squaw Trail
Looking for a more challenging mountain biking trail?
Stoney Squaw Trail is a technically difficult and narrow route with steep climbs through thick forest, taking you up to the top of Mount Stoney Squaw. Climbing up the rooty and rugged hiking trail can be difficult, but it is worth it for the ride back down.
Once you reach the top you can descend along the twisting rocky trail and end up at the old ski-runs above the day lodge at Mount Norquay. You can ride either the Upper Stoney or Lower Stoney sections of the trail, or connect them both together. The Upper Stoney Trail is very technical and has plenty of rocky outcrops, while the Lower Stoney trail has more flow but still has fun challenges.
Follow the road up Mount Norquay until you reach the big gravel parking lot at the base of the ski resort. The trailhead for the Lower Stoney section is past the chalet and the first chair lift and for the Upper Stoney section it is at the entrance to the parking lot from Norquay Road.
- Level: Difficult
- Distance: 15km for the whole loop
- Length: 1 hour
PLANNING A TRIP TO BANFF?
We have a variety of Banff vacation rentals located anywhere from downtown Banff, to a peaceful backcountry setting. Call our highly knowledgeable Destination Experts who can answer any questions you may have about mountain biking in Banff, or our accommodations. They’re available 7 days a week!