Discover Jasper National Park Mountainbiking
Explore Jasper National Park on a mountain bike. Fat tires, full of fun – here’s a freewheeling opportunity to ride with experienced guides who disclose the secrets of the park’s trails. Learn how to discover Canada’s largest Rocky Mountains national park from the lofty vantage of single-track heaven.
Grab a Giant and go – mountain biking, that is! The sweet single-track cycling trails in Jasper National Park have been hoarded by locals and those in the know for far too long.
Jasper National Park’s scenery is rugged and mountainous. The authentic mountain town of Jasper is a hub for adventures in the park and there is lodging and dining to suit all tastes.
Experience Adventure on Wheels
Trevor Lescard, partner and general manager of Overlander Trekking & Tours (OT&T) is pumped and ready for pedalling. The company (established in 1999 and currently operating with six year-round guides) already offers a full-time slate of guided backcountry tours, from summer heli-hiking to winter ice walks, but they wanted to include mountain biking in Jasper – the largest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain national parks.
“Mountain biking itself was already an approved activity in the park,” says Lescard, “and we felt that guided trips could help reduce the pressure on busier trails and educate visitors on cycling safety and forest ecology.”
No Experience Necessary
Each of OT&T’s three trail biking guides (Trevor Lescard, OT&T partner Craig McCarthy and guide Christian Roy) are certified Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Hiking Guides and hold Mountain Park Heritage Interpretation certification and have Advanced Wilderness First Aid. Lescard has been hiking, biking, climbing and skiing Jasper for the past 12 years (10 of those as a guide).
“This tour is essentially an introduction to mountain biking,” says Lescard, “no experience necessary.”
In small groups (two to eight riders per guide), clients learn the skills and gain the confidence they need to eventually go out and do this on their own. That being said, OT&T is more than willing to offer other options for more hard-core bikers looking for an introduction to area trails.
OT&T will operate the tours on a select number of trails, ranging from an easy ride along the Trail #7 system to the more difficult trails of “The Bench” (as locals refer to the Pyramid Bench trails leading up to Mina and Riley Lakes, among others).
“Trail Seven offers a beautiful, moderate terrain, double-track in places,” says Lescard of one of his favourite places to share with visitors. “It’s relatively flat and we stop at Lake Annette with views of the Athabasca Valley.”
For visitors to the park, having a guide “adds to overall experience.” And there is the benefit of a safety factor – all of the guides are trained in first aid, as well as what to do in wildlife encounters, be it bears or female elk with calves or a male elk in rut.
“Guides have the local knowledge,” adds Lescard, “and know where to go, when to go – whether to avoid crowds or find the best trail conditions.”
As well biking basics and safety, guides offer the opportunity to experience and appreciate the area on a deeper level. Rather than blasting by the fairy’s slipper orchid in bloom, OT&T guides take the time to point out hidden highlights on the forest floor and provide historical nuggets about the Athabasca Valley.
Try an Historic Ride
Trail Seven includes a connection segment of the Overland Trail. The Overlanders (namesakes of OT&T) were a group of people travelling west from Ontario, chasing dream of the Cariboo Gold Rush. By rail, by cart and by foot on trail, they crossed the country and are remembered as a hardy, adventurous people.
Other gems include mention of North West Company fur trader and mapmaker David Thompson’s area travels in the 1800’s and a glimpse of the old Fort Point area, once used as a stable for outfitting travellers with fresh horses before crossing the mountains. Vistas at old Fort Point include the renowned Athabasca Pass, the main trade route through the Rockies for almost half a century after Thompson crossed it in 1811.
The guided mountain bike ride itself is making its own inroads into history. Parks Canada is allowing a two-year guided biking trial in Jasper and the issuance of further licences will be evaluated (with public input) for the 2008 management plan