Riding the Rocky Mountains; Calgary (Alberta) to Nelson (British Columbia)

Leg; 455 miles / 732 km
Total; 2,736 miles / 4,403 km

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Calgary is an awesome city. We’re very pleased we spent a few days there. We went on a Full Moon evening ride with a local cycling crew, visited a local brewery and recharged our batteries. We also got to fix our broken tent poles, changed Ties’ chain and do our city pilgrimage to MEC for camping supplies.

We left Calgary on Trans Canada Highway 1, cycling past the incredible COP where Eddie the Eagle did his infamous Olympic ski jump in the 1980s. About 20 miles outside Calgary we got our first sight of the Rocky Mountains. As soon as we could we switched to Highway 1A and were immediately in awe of the dramatic scenery and quiet roads.

The next day we followed the amazing Legacy Trail cycle path from Canmore to Banff, thankfully avoiding all the grizzly bears that the many signs warned us about! Then we took the breathtaking Bow Valley Highway to Lake Louise. We waited till early the next morning to climb the steep hill up to Lake Louise and were rewarded with the incredible view and very little tourists competing for the golden photo opportunity. The lake really does live up to its reputation, but get there very early (before 8am) to avoid hordes of tourists and a backlog of buses up the steep climb.

It took us ages to decide which route to take next but we’re so grateful we took the Visitor Centre’s advice to go back down the Bow Valley Highway to Castle Mountain, and then take Highway 93 to Radium Hot Springs. The moment we turned the corner from Marble Canyon to see Wolverine Pass is one of the standout highlights of the trip so far. It’s a magical view and the whole day we got to admire the turquoise, crystal clear waters of Kootenay River, and mountain vistas that line the road. The day ended with a killer climb over Sinclair Pass, but we were rewarded with an 11km descent into Radium Hot Springs.

We ignored everyone’s advice and cycled up the hill to Redstreak campground. It wasn’t as steep as everyone said and the campground is excellent. We also got to walk from our tent to the hot springs pool. Reinvigorated we carried on to Moyie Lake, where we met a Mennonite family who invited us to stay. We cycled down to their amazing house in Canyon and they plied us with meatballs and generous hospitality. That night they invited us to a special monthly church service and let us camp in their garden. We are both atheists, but the church service was a unique experience and it was wonderful to see how Mennonites integrate with society, while remaining faithful to their scriptures.

The next day we followed the stunning 3A to Crawford Bay. The road runs parallel to Kootenay Lake a large part of it the view is unobscured. There are dramatic mountains all day and lots of opportunities to swim. We took a dip off the beach at Sanca Strip; what an experience that was! The next day we took the worlds longest free ferry from Crawford Bay to Balfour. The backdrop is amazing and we met loads of interesting people – mostly locals – who were so content with their locale it made us question our own city life reality.

We cycled from the ferry to Nelson and got a tiny (even by European standards) pitch for two nights. We were told lots of good things about Nelson and it definitely lived up to its hippy reputation. The City Campground was unique to with a hostel style communal kitchen area and a massive screen on top of an old hippy bus that played the Goonies movie one night. Awesome!