Friday, July 26, 2013

Bike Pirate Book Review - A Guide to Mountain Bike Trails in Kananaskis Country

Our family has been trying to get more active with mountain biking this summer and if you're going to get into a new sport, you've gotta start with a good guide book!  I chose to get a copy of the new Bike Pirate book on Mountain Bike Trails in Kananaskis Country.  I figured with Kananaskis being closest to us in the mountains, we'd do most of our riding here.  Little did I know that a huge flood would come along and take out most of the park before we could really get our bikes out onto the trails!

Fortunately, May was especially good to us and we got to do lots of biking in Kananaskis before the flooding started in late June.   We did some easy trails in the Elbow Valley, spent a day in Bow Valley Provincial Park, biked to Troll Falls at Kananaskis Village, and explored the trails at Mt. Shark.  We even spent a day at the Canmore Nordic Centre which was a summer first for us.  Overall, we got a good taste of what's out there for families and became familiar with some of the easier trails around Kananaskis.  I know that the Bike Pirate guide book will continue to inspire us for years to come as we become more confident on the trails.   Also, trails are starting to open up again post-flood so there's hope that we will do more riding this summer and fall when we're not off travelling and camping. 

While the guide book is definitely aimed at the more experienced mountain biker, I've still been able to pull family-friendly suggestions from the book.  Some trails would be great if you only did a short section, rode out and back on an easier stretch, or if you did them as hike/bike combos with preschoolers on balance bikes.  One example is the Riverview Trail in the Elbow Valley.  It is rated as intermediate in the book but I know my child could do it on his run bike with few problems.  Noah already did the first section along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail and it was a lot of fun!

Biking on the first section of the Riverview Trail, Elbow Valley

The best family-friendly idea I've taken from the book so far was the Watridge Lake trail at Mt. Shark.  While the book doesn't rank the Mt. Shark trails well (1 out of 5),  It had never occurred to me that we could go mountain biking as a family at Mt. Shark until I read this guide book for Kananaskis.  I understand that there would be little at Mt. Shark for the experienced rider looking for more exciting action, but for our family, the wide logging roads were perfect!!

Family Biking at Mt. Shark, Kananaskis

We also biked the Troll Falls trail mentioned in the book with our son on his balance bike and us running alongside.  Next year we'll ALL do it on pedal bikes!  No running or hiking.  It was a great family ride that combined wide ski trails, grassy roads, and a short narrow hiking trail to some beautiful falls. 

Biking and Hiking on the Ribbon Creek Trails to Troll Falls, Kananaskis

Thanks to the inspiration I've found through this new book, I've now started forming my ride wish list for next year and am excited to think of all the trails we will be able to do with Noah's new pedal bike that he got this summer. He was already tackling intermediate mountain biking trails in Jasper last week so I know he will rock many of the trails below next year!

So far, on next year's list:
  • The Bill Milne Bike Path at Kananaskis Village (paved)
  • Kananskis Village Mountain Bike Trails
  • Ribbon Creek (if the trail is restored after the flood)
  • Troll Falls ( with the pedal bike instead of the balance bike)
  • The Riverview Trail (rated as intermediate but I remember it as an easy trail last time I hiked it)
  • The Sulphur Springs loop (rated as advanced but, I'm determined to try it, even if I have to push my bike 70% of the time because it's one of my favourite hiking trails in the Elbow Valley)
  • The Ole Buck Loop
  • Powderface Creek and Prairie Creek (probably as out and back trips to make the trip shorter)

If you aren't familiar with these trails, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of the Kananaskis Bike Pirate book - and add them to your family riding list too!

Biking in Bow Valley Provincial Park this past April

More information about Bike Pirate

Peter Oprsal created the Bike Pirate website as a resource tool for people passionate about the sport of mountain biking while he was living in Canmore, Alberta.  He has since moved to Whistler, BC and is working at expanding the website's directory of trails.  Currently, one can find up to date information for trails across Alberta and British Columbia, as well as for popular trails south of the border in the United States. The website was a great find when I first discovered it because I didn't really know where to begin when I started taking Noah out to the mountains to go riding.  All I knew was that because of his balance bike, he was able to tackle trails that would be far more advanced than anything I could do.  The Bike Pirate website helped give me ideas to launch our adventures.

My Bike Pirate (our motto:  Yes, I can!  Cause I'm a Pirate!  A Mighty Strong Pirate!)


Final Thoughts on the Guide Book

While I think the guide book is perhaps a tad over my head in terms of the kinds of trails I aspire to ride, I still place great value in the inspiration that it offers.  My son is absolutely over the moon for biking and I suspect my husband will be tackling many of the trails in the book with Noah within the next few years. 

I would have loved to see a few more family-friendly trails in the book and was surprised to see both the Canmore Nordic Centre as well as Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (PLPP) missing from the book.  If I have one piece of constructive criticism, that would be it.  PLPP has many fabulous bike trails and I was looking forward to checking them off in the book after we had started some of them this year while camping out that way.  Also, as I discovered in June this year, the Canmore Nordic Centre is an amazing place for  biking and we plan to make annual visits to the park as a family.

Biking at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Overall, I admire Peter's vision with Bike Pirate and I'm grateful for having discovered both his website and guide books.  The website is especially useful right now as we search for accurate trail reports in Kananaskis since the June flooding.  Trail conditions are changing by the week and it's hard to keep up without a reliable source such as the Bike Pirate site. 

Biking in the Elbow Valley, Kananaskis

Disclaimer:  This book was given to me for review.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


  1. Thank you for the great review. Just a quick note that the Nordic Centre Trails are in my Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide book and also available in an iPhone app from the iTunes Store. You can find it under the search Bow Valley. Hope this helps. :)


    1. Thanks Pete. Good to know. The Nordic Centre wasn't a big deal since you can get great maps and trail advice at the Centre too.

  2. That's a lot of biking for one season. You're gonna have to call yourself intermediate fairly soon :)

    Good idea on using the balance bike on some of the trails that he might have trouble pedaling on.

    1. Thanks. Not that much biking this season though. Most of it was my son. I still have to get out on my bike more! Big goal for next year. Get a mountain bike for myself and hit the trails so I can join my family. My child has definitely chosen biking has his fav. sport.