In May 2021, an Enhanced Cycling Experience will be offered in Banff National Park. Over 30 km of paved roads will be restricted to public vehicles to provide a cycling experience with limited vehicle traffic. This reduced-vehicle cycling experience is available on two main roadways in the park: the Bow Valley Parkway's eastern section and the Minnewanka Loop Road.

Frequently asked questions

Last updated April 2021


Overview

What sections of road are restricted to public vehicles?

Bow Valley Parkway

The eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway (from Banff to Castle Junction) is currently restricted to public vehicles, and will continue to be restricted to public vehicles throughout the summer.

  • From the Fireside day-use area to Johnston Canyon: This vehicle restriction is part of a pilot project to enhance the cycling opportunities in Banff National Park.
  • From Johnston Canyon to Highway 93 South: This vehicle restriction is a key interim COVID-19 mitigation to ensure public safety and facilitate physical distancing at the popular Johnston Canyon Trail where narrow and winding trails make it extremely difficult to maintain appropriate physical distance. This additional section of the Bow Valley Parkway is closed to public vehicles and goes from the junction of the Bow Valley Parkway and Highway 93 South (Castle Junction) to Johnston Canyon.

Map of Bow Valley Parkway Closure 2021 (PDF, 5.05 Mb)

Minnewanka Loop Road

The Minnewanka Loop Road will be closed to public vehicles on weekdays, Monday to Thursday, from May 1-20, 2021. During this closure, the road will be available to cyclists for the entirety of the Minnewanka Loop beginning at the first T-junction.

Map of the Lake Minnewanka Closure 2021 (PDF, 1.08 Mb)

When does the Enhanced Cycling Experience begin? When does it end?

Bow Valley Parkway:

May 1, 2021 through to the end of summer

The cycling experience on the Bow Valley Parkway will run from May 1, 2021 through the end of summer. While the Bow Valley Parkway is currently restricted to public vehicles, and a reduced-vehicle cycling experience is currently possible, the roads have not yet been swept. Prior to May 1, 2021, cyclists should be prepared for additional gravel and debris on the road.

Also in effect for the Bow Valley Parkway is the annual seasonal travel restriction. This restriction is in effect starting March 1 to June 25. Any travel (vehicles, cyclists and walkers) is not permitted from 8 pm to 8 am in order to give wildlife the space they need to thrive in spring at crucial times of day and year.

Minnewanka Loop Road:

From May 1-20, 2021 (weekdays only: Monday to Thursday)

The Minnewanka Loop Road will be closed to public vehicles on weekdays, Monday to Thursday, from May 1-20, 2021. During this closure, the road will be available to cyclists for the entirety of the Minnewanka Loop beginning at the first T-junction.

The Minnewanka Loop Road and day-use areas will be fully open to vehicles on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the 21-day seasonal cycling offer.

General Information

Why is Parks Canada implementing this Enhanced Cycling Experience and will it continue in future years?

This enhanced cycling experience is part of a well-used network of cycling opportunities in Banff National Park and aligns with a long-term strategy for moving people sustainably throughout the park. Parks Canada has implemented interim measures in the park this summer to increase public safety as a result of Covid 19. These measures have allowed for a pilot cycling project that builds on an already robust cycling offer, including the Banff Legacy Trail and many mountain bike trails. In addition, this cycling experience helps reduce disturbance to wildlife during sensitive times.

Learnings and feedback from the 2021 pilot will inform planning for cycling experiences in future years. Banff National Park received a great deal of positive feedback from Canadians who enjoyed the limited-vehicle experience on the eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway in 2020, which was implemented as a COVID-19 safety measure for Johnston Canyon*. Many found it to be a safe and enjoyable ride and expressed an interest in seeing the experience maintained on a regular basis, post-pandemic.

*Johnston Canyon: Limiting vehicle access to Johnston Canyon is in place to mitigate safety concerns related to COVID-19 and is not part of the pilot project. For more information, see below.
How can visitors give feedback about the Enhanced Cycling Experience?

The 2021 Enhanced Cycling Experience in Banff National Park is a pilot project. Parks Canada welcomes feedback about cycling in the park and will consider suggestions to inform planning for cycling experiences in future years.

Please send your feedback to:  pc.banff-vrc.pc@canada.ca

Parking

Where is the best place to park when planning to cycle?

Bow Valley Parkway

Cyclists planning to use the Bow Valley Parkway should park at the Town of Banff Fenlands Recreation Centre or Train Station parking lots. Both are accessible via the Norquay Road entrance to the townsite.

Map of Bow Valley Parkway Closure 2021

Minnewanka Loop Road

Vehicle parking for cyclists planning to use the Minnewanka Loop Road is available at Cascade Ponds day-use area.

Map of the Lake Minnewanka Closure 2021

Information for cyclists and other users

What facilities exist along the roadways (toilets, garbage etc.)?

There are limited services along the roads associated with the cycling offer.

Visitors must be prepared for their experience. Bringing sufficient food and water, appropriate clothing, gear for variable weather and bike repair tools.

  • Garbage facilities may not be available: leave no trace and pack out everything you bring in, including organic waste.
  • Toilets and day-use areas: please view maps for the location of public toilets and day-use (picnic) areas along the cycling routes.
  • Cell phone coverage: Cell coverage is generally available along the cycling routes, but there are areas of low or no coverage. Be prepared to be self-sufficient in case of injury or equipment failure.
  • Where to lock your bike: Bike racks are available at the Johnston Canyon day-use area and Minnewanka day-use area. Make sure to bring your own lock.
During the Enhanced Cycling Experience, can the roads be used for other travel types, like walking or rollerblading?

Other non-vehicular use of the roads is permitted. However, pedestrian use of the Bow Valley Parkway is strongly discouraged. The road is narrow and some vehicles (e.g. vehicles used by utility operators or for Parks Canada operations) will continue to be active on the road. For those non-cyclists seeking to access Johnston Canyon, transit is the best option. Accessible transit along the Bow Valley Parkway is planned to commence the Friday of the May long weekend (May 21, 2021). For more information on transit, see below.

Are e-bikes allowed on the Bow Valley Parkway and Minnewanka Loop Road during the closure?

E-bikes are permitted on both roads that make up the cycling offer, as well as the Banff Legacy Trail, which can be used to access the Bow Valley Parkway from the Town of Banff.

E-bikes are prohibited on most trails in Banff National Park, with some exceptions.
Where can I rent a bike in Banff National Park?

Parks Canada does not offer bike rentals, but many local businesses do. A list of rental providers can be found on the Banff and Lake Louise Tourism cycling webpage.

Safety

How can visitors stay safe when cycling and using the restricted roads?

Visitors are responsible for their own safety. Visitors should be prepared for their trip, be familiar with all road safety guidelines, and be ready for a breakdown or accident and know how to repair their bike and carry the necessary tools and parts.

Some vehicle traffic (e.g. vehicles used by utility operators or for Parks Canada operations) will occur on both roads where enhanced cycling will take place. To ensure safety, visitors should be aware of their surroundings and share the road while recreating in Banff National Park.

More information about how to prepare to cycle safely in Banff National Park and what rules of the road to follow.

Wildlife

How can visitors respect wildlife while enjoying the Enhanced Cycling Experience?

The Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks are home to wildlife, including elk, wolves, cougars, and the remaining grizzly and black bear populations in North America. To successfully raise their young and sustain a healthy population, wildlife need access to as much quality habitat with as few human surprises as possible.

 For more information about how to stay safe and protect wildlife.

What should a visitor do if they encounter wildlife while cycling?

Visitor should always be aware of possible encounters with wildlife, even on roads and paved trails.

Cyclists are particularly susceptible to sudden, dangerous bear encounters because of the speed and silence of their travel. Visitors must stay alert, travel in groups when possible, make noise, slow down, look ahead and always carry bear spray and know how to use it. Additionally, the use of ear buds/ear phones while cycling or hiking is not recommended.

Visitors are responsible for their own safety. Learn how to stay safe when you encounter wildlife. 

If you see a large carnivore, such as a bear, cougar, wolf or coyote, please report the sighting (when it is safe to do so) by calling Banff Emergency Dispatch at 1-403-762-1470.

How will the Enhanced Cycling Experience impact wildlife?

This cycling experience and the reduction of vehicle traffic on these main roads at specific times of year considers disturbance to wildlife during sensitive times.

The eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway travels through the montane, a small but important area of the park for wildlife. This is the first area in the park to be snow-free and to ‘green up’, so it is especially important in the spring as it provides animals like grizzly bears and wolves with much needed food and a place to raise their young when the rest of park is still snowbound. These same animals are also sensitive to the presence of people, particularly between dusk and dawn when their natural activity is highest. Vehicle restrictions support reduced disturbance to wildlife.

In order to align with the annual seasonal travel restriction on the Bow Valley Parkway (March 1 – June 25, 8 pm to 8 am) temporal restrictions will also apply to cyclists and other road users in order to give wildlife the space they need to thrive in spring at crucial times of day and year.

Accessibility and access to popular locations

Are there options for visitors with mobility challenges to access attractions impacted by road closures?

Bow Valley Parkway

Accessible transit along the Bow Valley Parkway will begin the Friday of the May long weekend (May 21, 2021).

Minnewanka Loop Road

The Minnewanka Loop Road and day-use areas will be fully open to vehicles on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 1 to May 20, 2021 with the enhanced cycling experience available Monday through Thursday.


There are many other beautiful lakes, trails and day-use areas that will remain accessible by public vehicles in Banff National Park. Reach out to our Visitor Information Center staff to learn about accessible locations and experiences that match your interests and abilities.

In Banff:

403-762-1550
pc.banff-vrc.pc@canada.ca

In Lake Louise:

403-522-3833
pc.lakelouiseinfo-infolakelouise.pc@canada.ca

Where can I find more information about transit?

Visitors are encouraged to take transit to key attractions. For more information on transit, visit:

What COVID-19 public health procedures and guidelines are visitors expected to follow when using transit?

In an effort to provide the safest and best transit experience possible, the following measures are in place for all transit and shuttle offers:

  • Mask are mandatory for all passengers and drivers while using any public transit or shuttle service in Banff National Park, as well as at all loading and unloading areas.
  • Practice physical distancing at all loading and unloading areas.
  • All vehicles have increased cleaning frequency throughout each day in accordance with guidance from Provincial Health authorities.

More information on COVID-19 protocols on Roam Transit.

What popular day-use areas will not be accessible by public motor vehicle during the Enhanced Cycling Experience?

During the Enhanced Cycling Experience, the following areas cannot be accessed using public motor vehicles:

Bow Valley Parkway

Restrictions currently in effect due to COVID-19, throughout summer 2021
  • Johnston Canyon day-use area and trailhead (Roam Route 9 transit is available)
  • Fireside, Muleshoe and Sawback day-use areas
  • Rockbound Lake Trailhead

Minnewanka Loop Road

Monday – Thursday, May 1 – 20, 2021
  • Minnewanka Lake
  • Two-Jack Lake
  • Johnson Lake
  • Bankheads (Upper, Lower)
For a visual reference, please see the detailed maps.
What are some alternate destinations that I can access by public vehicle during the Enhanced Cycling Experience period?

For a list of beautiful places and short hikes that are accessible by vehicle, go here.

Camping

During the Enhanced Cycling Experience, how do I access campgrounds?

There are no open frontcountry campgrounds along the public vehicle restricted roads over the period of the Enhanced Cycling Experience. Campground and reservation information can be found here.

Johnston Canyon Trail

Is Johnston Canyon Trail closed?

No. The Johnston Canyon Trail is open for visitors to experience, but the trailhead cannot be accessed by public motor vehicle due to the restriction on the Bow Valley Parkway. The Johnston Canyon trailhead is only accessible by transit or bike.

When visiting Johnston Canyon, stay on the trail at all times to protect black swifts, an endangered species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In order to survive in this area, black swifts need protection from human disturbances. Off-trail access is prohibited from May 1 – November 15, and a Restricted Activity Order (area closure) is in place. Violators will be charged, be required to appear in court, and could pay fines up to $25 000. Find out more about black swifts here. Information about the Restricted Activity Order can be found here.

How do I access Johnston Canyon?

Cycling: Johnston Canyon can be accessed by bike from the Town of Banff. The distance, is 24 km one-way. Before planning to cycle to Johnston Canyon, ensure the trip is within your abilities and the abilities of your group. Make sure you are prepared for the journey.

Transit: Accessible transit to Johnston Canyon along the Bow Valley Parkway is planned to commence the Friday of the May long weekend (May 21, 2021). For more information on transit.

What COVID-19 safety guidelines are being followed at Johnston Canyon?

It is strongly recommended that visitors wear a mask while hiking along the Johnston Canyon trail, as it may be difficult to maintain 2 metres physical distance from others. Physical distancing must be practiced whenever possible. We need to continue to work together, to keep our families, friends, neighbours and communities safe and healthy.

For more information about COVID-19 and your visit to Banff National Park 

Why is Parks Canada closing public vehicle access to Johnston Canyon, and offering transit instead? Isn’t transit higher risk for COVID-19?

Typical summer visitation volumes to Johnston Canyon make it impossible to maintain the required distance on the narrow catwalks found on the trail, especially at peak times. Transit allows limited access to the trail, at intervals that are spaced out over the course of the day. The road restriction and transit offer allow a manageable number of people to continue to enjoy this iconic attraction, while respecting current public health guidelines.

Ongoing monitoring of visitor use on the Johnston Canyon trail will continue and Parks Canada will adapt its management as necessary.

For more information about COVID-19 mitigations on transit, check here.

Lake Minnewanka Loop Road

Why close the Lake Minnewanka Loop completely for a limited number of days? Why not close only one lane of the Minnewanka Loop on a longer-term basis?

Cycling on the Lake Minnewanka Loop continues to be available during the summer months when public vehicle access is no longer restricted.

The 2021 Enhanced Cycling Experience in Banff National Park is a pilot project. Parks Canada welcomes feedback about cycling in the park and will consider suggestions to inform planning for cycling experiences in future years. Please send your feedback to:  pc.banff-vrc.pc@canada.ca


Parks Canada's goal is to provide accessible, enjoyable opportunities for a wide-range of visitors while ensuring public safety. Parks Canada will continue to follow the advice and recommendations of health authorities with respect to its response to the global pandemic. This is an ongoing situation. For the most current information, please visit Banff National Park's COVID-19 webpage.