JASPER NATIONAL PARK
I’ve lived in Alberta for more than 20 years and discovered some pretty cool rides, yet being in the mountains and cycling in the Rockies around Jasper never gets old. Approximately a three-hour drive from my home in Edmonton, this journey always imparts a sense of anticipation as the peaks come into view when driving over Obed Summit through Hinton and into Jasper National Park.
Jasper itself is perfectly situated at the confluence of six paved roads with many options, including Banff to the south, Miette Hot Springs to the east or Pyramid Lake to the north. Depending on how you feel and the conditions, the various routes can be combined to make an interesting mix of terrain and challenges.
I like to climb difficult mountain roads, but not because I love climbing, as I’m a lousy climber and uphills have never treated me well. I simply love descending fast, and Mount Edith Cavell, southwest of Jasper, features a fabulous twisty route that requires technical descending skills – so I’m all in.
I start with a meeting point at Café Mondo in Jasper for an espresso shot and the usual pre-ride chicanery. Then it’s a short 13-kilometre ride south on Hwy. 93, turning onto Hwy. 93A. Go past the turn for Marmot Basin and reach the base of the Edith Cavell turnoff. The Marmot climb is also a good one, and the descent is a challenge to complete without touching your brakes.
The 15-kilometre Edith Cavell Road is narrow and as such does not have a painted center line, hence you won’t see full-sized tour buses or motorhomes because both are not allowed. Take care, as tourists in rentals may use more road than needed.
A couple of years ago, Parks Canada re-paved the entire road, making a playground for go-fast descenders such as myself. The first few kilometres are switchbacks in heavily treed woods, carved into the mountain. The silence can feel eerie, as I can only hear my laboured breathing while I keep an eye out for signs of bear. It’s a good idea to carry a can of bear spray, especially if you’re riding on your own.
After approximately five kilometres, the road turns to false flat and the trees start to thin out as mountain peaks begin to appear. I truly feel one with the land, sensing the road roll under my tires, breathing air scented by pines. A couple more switchbacks, some more false flat and I arrive at the trailhead parking lot. A glacier is perched right above me as I pause to pull on my wind vest, gloves and take a well-deserved drink before the descent brings an even bigger smile to my face.
I’m back in Jasper after 60 kilometres, and head straight to the Jasper Brewing Company for a refreshing “Jasper the Bear Ale.”
Cycling in the Rockies around Jasper never gets old.