Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper, Alberta

We're working our way across the Canadian Rockies on our bikes with a mission to bike every family-friendly trail in the mountain parks.

Biking along the Athabasca River in Jasper

We love camping in Jasper and spending long days on our bikes looping the best family trails the park has to offer near the town site. We've enjoyed camping at either Wapiti or Whistlers Campground, and hopping on our bikes right from our campsite on to popular trails.

Beautiful scenery along the Jasper bike trails

For an overview of where we like biking, check out our favourite trails below.

This story gets updated annually so I'll always be adding new trails each summer 

Bike Ride Number 1: The Jasper Easy Trails System Loop

 Easy biking recommended for kids ages 4+ with some experience riding on gravel and dirt.
Trails are single track with gradual hills. Any challenging sections are short and can be walked.


Biking the Wapiti and Red Squirrel Trails

We always start biking from the Wapiti or Whistlers Campground (far bottom of the map) on the easy Wapiti Trail.  It's one of the easiest green trails in Jasper and connects campers to the Jasper town site.  So in theory, you could go into town for coffee and then bike back to camp in an easy 4.7 km ride (one way from Wapiti.)

We're always heading for the Jasper Park Lodge area, so we jump off the Wapiti trail onto the Red Squirrel Trail which takes us to one of our favourite hikes in Jasper, the Old Fort Point Trail.  We lock up our bikes at the bike racks, hike up to the top of the viewpoint over the town, and then continue on our way towards the Jasper Park Lodge.

From the Wapiti or Whistlers Campgrounds, it's an easy and enjoyable ride to Old Fort Point and back for a short hike.  We've even done the ride in the evening before bed.  The only downside is that it's easy going on the way out (downhill) and then you'll be gradually climbing back up to camp at the end.  Kids without gears would struggle a bit.

Easy riding on the Wapiti Trail, age 4
As you can see from the photo above, the Wapiti Trail is hard packed dirt and gravel.  It's awesome for introducing children to mountain biking with easy single track sections that young kids should have no challenge with at all.  The hills are mostly gradual and there's very little elevation change.

Biking on the Wapiti Trail in Jasper

There are good signs everywhere to ensure you don't get lost! Always something I appreciate.

The Red Squirrel trail is a little more difficult than the Wapiti Trail but is still super easy - and fun. It is one of my favourite trails in fact because it is twisty and narrower than the Wapiti Trail.  We also ride it in the downhill direction towards the Old Fort Point Road so we are always flying!  Squirrels fly, right?

As you can see from the photo below, it's still hard packed gravel and challenge free along the Flying Squirrel Trail, a short little connector trail to get you from Wapiti over to the Athabasca River Loop.

Distance biked so far from the Wapiti Campground to Old Fort Point:  5 kilometres - mostly downhill or flat

The Red Squirrel Trail is a lot of fun!


Stopping to Hike the Old Fort Point Trail

Cross the bridge over the Athabasca River and you'll be at the Old Fort Point Trailhead.

Biking across the Athabasca River to Old Fort Point
This is our favourite hike in Jasper and we do it every year.  We hop off our bikes, lock them up at the bike racks conveniently located at the bottom of the stairs, and then climb up to the stunning viewpoint looking over the town.

A short steep climb leads you to this view above the Athabasca River
We don't stop long on top because we still have further to bike but we do have snacks or lunch, and play around a bit before running back down again.  All in all, it is a diversion of maybe an hour and provides a nice break from biking.

Views from the Old Fort Point View Point


Biking The Athabasca River Loop

Back on our bikes, we continue towards the Jasper Park Lodge on the Athabasca River Loop trail (number 7 on Trail Forks.) Families likely won't be doing the full loop but will just be biking from Old Fort Point to Beauvert Lake at Jasper Park Lodge - where you can have more snacks and stop to rest again.

Biking along the Athabasca River Trail, Trail #7

This trail is a bit bumpy because it clearly sees a lot of horse traffic!  For this reason, it isn't our favourite trail in the park.  It is flat and easy going but could be in better shape.  There is also a lot of sand on the trail at times which you'll have to be careful of with small bike tires.

Old Pump Track we found on the Athabasca River Loop

The one positive thing I do have to say about this trail though is that we found a secret bike park and pump track between the Old Fort Point parking lot and the Jasper Park Lodge!!

After reaching the little bike park area, hop on the short 7C connector Trail which will take you to the Old Lodge Road, a paved road that's not open to vehicles. It takes you around the golf course. Follow this road until you reach the JPL Service Road and the Woodpecker Trailhead below.

Playing around in the secret bike park along the Athabasca River Trail

Distance biked from Old Fort Point to the Jasper Park Lodge:  2 kilometres, give or take a bit as you ride through the resort grounds.  (total of 7 km so far from the Wapiti Campground) - mostly flat along the Athabasca River.

Beauvert Lake - and my 4 year old was definitely tired by this point

Biking the Woodpecker Trail

After a short rest, make your way over to the Woodpecker Trail by biking through the hotel grounds, and proceed down this short 1.8 km trail to Annette Lake (where a beach is waiting for you.)

Starting off on the Woodpecker Trail

We wanted to get to Annette Lake so we could go swimming and play at the beach - and the Woodpecker Trail is the easiest way to connect the Jasper Park Lodge with Annette Lake.

Biking the Woodpecker Trail

When we first biked this trail, it had just been finished, and was dreadful on a bike with loose "tire grabbing" gravel. As of 2017 though, the trail is awesome and fully packed down! It's a fun ride and it ends with a super flowy downhill section right before Annette lake.

Distance biked from the Jasper Park Lodge to Annette Lake:  Approximately 3 kilometres.  (Total of about 10 km so far from Wapiti Campground)

Arriving at Annette Lake


Beach Time at Annette Lake

For families with young children, this is an excellent place to end your ride. Send an adult back to camp for the vehicle while you play at the beach with the kids. (I recommend packing swim suits and a few sand toys in your backpack.)

Alternately, if you were able to set up a vehicle shuttle, you'll find your second car waiting for you here at the beach.

Much more fun than biking the final 6 km back to town

Biking Big Horn Alley to the Jasper Town Site

The Big Horn Alley Trail, number 13 on Trail Forks, is harder than the other ones written about in this easy loop. There is a good downhill section from Annette Lake to the highway, and a big climb back up on the other side. My recommendation is to just walk anything the kids can't handle so that you can finish your loop in town. Otherwise, end your bike ride at Annette Lake.

Big Horn Alley Trail from Lake Annette to Jasper Town Site

We finally rode this trail to complete our loop in the summer of 2016 when my son was 6 years old on a 20" bike with gears.

Biking on the Big Horn Alley Trail

We have found this trail to be a lot of fun riding along a lovely bench on the far side of the highway from Annette Lake. And if you're lucky, you'll see a train go by while on the trail.

Easy riding along the bench on Big Horn Alley, Trail number 13
Distance biked from Annette Lake to the edge of Town:  Approximately 4.3 kilometres.  (Total of about 14 km so far from Wapiti Campground)


Biking into Jasper on the Discovery Trail

The Discovery Trail,  number 11 on Trail Forks, is the final section of trail you'll bike back into town. It follows along the main street on a paved trail that is gradual uphill at this point (not something you were looking for at the end of your ride.)

Easy biking into the Jasper Town Site

This is a good spot to watch trains go by, and you can jump off anywhere to go visit a coffee shop, grab an ice-cream cone, or find a park to wait in while somebody bikes back to camp for a vehicle.

If you decide to bike back to one of the campgrounds from here, you'll hop onto the Wapiti Trail and have a gradual climb back out of town.

Total distance biked from the Wapiti Campground to Main Street Jasper: Approximately 16 km.

Biking along the Jasper Discovery Trail, number 11, into Town

To see a better copy of the map I've shown at the top of this section, go to the Parks Canada website and download a copy of the Jasper Mountain Biking Guide.  There's also information here on the Jasper Easy Trails System.

Finally, view all of the mountain bike trails in Jasper on the Trail Forks website or app. 

If you don't want to loop all of the easy trails in a day, you can certainly pick and choose sections to ride.  Top suggestions would be:

  • Wapiti or Whistlers Campground to Old Fort Point on the Wapiti and Red Squirrel Trails  - 10 km return from Wapiti.   Have an adult bike back for a vehicle for younger kids so that they can ride one way downhill.

  • Old Fort Point to the Jasper Park Lodge via the Athabasca River Trail - 4 km return.  Easy riding, flat, and you can stop to play at the unofficial bike park.

  • Jasper town site to Annette Lake and back via Bighorn Alley - By parking at parking area P3 you can take the Discovery Trail to Big horn Alley and follow this path all the way to Annette Lake for a swim.  Send an adult back for a car if the kids can't bike both ways.  It would be about 9 km return. 

Easy biking on the Jasper Easy Trails System

I think Jasper has done a fabulous job with their easy trails system and it's the best I've seen yet in a national park.  As always, Jasper never disappoints!

Bike Ride Number 2 - The Pyramid Lake Trail

Intermediate ride, 4.5 km long with 155 metres height loss from Pyramid Lake down.
Recommended for kids ages 5 to 6+ who have previous experience on easy singletrack mountain bike trails. This is a great introduction to real mountain biking.

We rode the Pyramid Lake Trail, number 15 on Trail Forks,  from Pyramid Lake down to the Jasper Town site when my son was 5 for the first time.

Biking the Pyramid Lake Trail down to the Town of Jasper from Pyramid Lake

This trail has 100+ metres of height loss and is a BLAST in the downhill direction. The key word though is DOWN. You don't want to ride this trail up from town to Pyramid Lake with young kids. We did the ride with a shuttle so that we could ride all one way down to town. (Thanks Grandma for the ride to the trailhead and for picking us up in town!)

This trail is rated "intermediate" but it isn't really all that challenging. It is singletrack for sure, twisty, flowy, cruisy, and fast - but never very technical. There are no roots or rocks and it is very smooth for an intermediate trail.

In the downhill direction it is a relaxed ride for children who have had previous mountain biking experience and can handle their brakes with ease.

We often do laps of this trail as a family, my husband and son riding down while I take the truck to the bottom, driving  back up, and then my son and I riding down while my husband drives. We adults each get one ride, our son gets two.

Smooth riding on the Pyramid Lake Trail down to Jasper

Bike Ride Number 3 - The Back of 7 from Jasper Park Lodge

Intermediate ride recommended for families who have already ridden the Pyramid Lake Trail down to Jasper, and are looking for the next progression. Expect more roots, a rougher trail, and many rocks on the trail. It's also a steep (but short) climb up from the lodge.

This was a new ride for us in the summer of 2017 when our son was 7. We parked near the horse stables at the Jasper Park Lodge (JPL) and started off on the JPL paved service road (heading for the Woodpecker Trail previously mentioned.)

We turned off at the intersection for the Woodpecker Trail onto Trail 7e (a green trail on Trail Forks that should really be blue/intermediate.) This was a nasty section of trail that climbed 11 metres (felt like more) with too many rocks and roots to count. There was some walking on this part but fortunately it was less than a kilometre long before we reached our goal, Trail 7.

A section of the "Back of 7" behind the Jasper Park Lodge

Trail 7 is a big loop that makes its way from Old Fort Point to Jasper Park Lodge and then circles around behind the lodge. I've already described part of the trail along the river (part of the easy trails system) from Old Fort Point to JPL. The part I'm describing now is the "Back of 7" behind the Jasper Park Lodge.

We rode a green section of Trail 7, from junction 7e to 7g. This was a great intro to harder mountain biking you'd expect in mountain parks. There were roots, rocks, the odd tree we had to lift our bikes over, and rough sections of trail. - All of which we expected since this is a more rugged/remote part of the Trail 7.

From the junction with 7g, we hopped on to the easier Trail 4G and received quite the surprise. Pavement!! This trail is paved! It's actually an old decommissioned road and was all downhill in our direction back towards Annette Lake. We went from "wow, it feels like we're way off in the backcountry without another soul around for miles" to "how the heck did we get on a paved trail?"

We ended up at Lake Annette and my husband biked back up the Woodpecker Trail to get the vehicle. Next time we'd probably bike down Trail 13 towards the highway and then jump back on Trail 7 beside the river to return to the Jasper Park Lodge. This section of Trail 7 has some steep hills (very rocky and loose) but we'd just walk sections if we had to.

Total distance of this loop from the Jasper Park Lodge to Lake Annette (and back to the lodge) would be approximately 10 km.

Easy riding on the paved 4G Trail near Annette Lake

Bike Ride Number 4 - The "Moberlander" (6th Bridge to Moberly Cabin)

Intermediate ride starting from the 6th bridge at Maligne Canyon where you may struggle to find parking on a busy day. An alternate start is from the 5th bridge, where there's a short connector trail between the bridges. The trail is 12 km round trip to the cabin from the 6th bridge (add on an extra 1.7 km each way if you start from the 5th bridge.) Height gain/loss is only 37 metres.

We first biked the Overlander Trail to the Moberly Cabin, locally known as the Moberlander Trail when my son was 10 years old on a 24 inch mountain bike. It's definitely more difficult than the Pyramid Trail, even though they are both intermediate trails. Make sure your children are solid riders before you attempt this one so that you can make it all the way to the cabin, the highlight of the ride.

Moberly Cabin on the Overlander Trail 

This is a true cross-country ride with a few short climbs in both directions (one that I had to walk.) My son loved it though and didn't find the roots to be a challenge at all. I myself found the trail to be pretty rough in spots. Overall though, it felt like a short ride and we pounded off the 6 kilometres in no time, reaching the cabin with plenty of energy for the ride back.

We'd definitely ride this trail again and we loved the remote feeling we got as we reached the meadow. We really felt like we'd done a backcountry ride and the scenery was spectacular in the meadow where the cabin is located. 

Riding through the meadow by the Moberly Cabin on the Overlander Trail 

We had to start at the 5th bridge when we did the ride because we found no parking at the 6th bridge. I can't really recommend this section of trail as it was quite flooded and muddy (not to mention crowded with hikers.) If you can't find parking at 6th, at least leave the kids and an adult there. One adult can bike solo from 5th. My husband biked back at the end to get the truck and saved us the return ride. 

Pretty bridge crossing on the Overlander Trail 

Bike Ride Number 5 - Pyramid Bench Truck Drops 

There are a few trails that we love riding one way off the Pyramid Bench above town and I highly recommend shuttling them with the family rather than making the kids bike up to the top. We often spend an entire afternoon doing short truck drops from Patricia and Pyramid Lake, taking turns with an adult driving down to the bottom.

Fortunately my husband and I each have our favourite trails, and my son is happy to join one of us every time.

Starter Trail: Pyramid Trail, #15 - Mentioned above in this guide, this trail is rated as intermediate, but would be considered a beginner trail anywhere else. It is a wide smooth trail with no roots, rocks, or technical features. It is a lovely flowy, cruisy downhill ride from Pyramid Lake all the way back down to town. The trail loses 155 metres of height over 4.5 km. 

Note that the trail ends before you reach the bottom of the Pyramid Lake Road so just hop on the sidewalk and continue to bike down to the church at the bottom of the road. Meet your shuttle driver at the church. 

Easy riding on the Pyramid Trail in Jasper 

Optional ending to the Pyramid Trail: Church Trail, #2 - If you don't want to ride the sidewalk back into town, you can finish on the Church Trail, usually used as a climbing trail. It's fun on the way down too though and you'll lose another 78 metres of height. You'll also gain 21 metres at the beginning where you have to do some steep climbing before the drop down to the church parking lot.

This trail is much more difficult than the Pyramid Trail, partially because of the climbing at the beginning, but also because of some rough rooty terrain on the descent. As always, just walk anything that doesn't feel right. 

Descending the Church Trail in Jasper

Second optional ending to the Pyramid Trail: Sawridge Switchbacks, #2A - If you mastered the Church Trail, you can move on to this optional descent next. It shows up as a black trail on the town map, and that would be accurate in my opinion. It is not quite the intermediate trail that Trail Forks rates it as.

This trail has some climbing at the beginning and then some very steep switchbacks at the end. In the middle is a beautiful bench where I love riding. The trail gains 28 metres of height and then loses 90 metres.

Know going in that your shuttle driver is going to have to drive through town and meet you on the Yellowhead Highway outside town, on the way to the Maligne Lake turnoff. 

Gorgeous riding on the Sawridge Switchbacks Trail in Jasper 

Intermediate/Advanced Trail: The Water Tower Trail from Patricia Lake, #6D - Trail Forks has this rated as a blue trail, but Parks Canada rates it as black. PC is correct and it is not an intermediate ride. My son has been riding this trail since he was 10 years old, but we might not have known what we were getting into the first time.

Expect some steep sections riding down rock slabs with optional jumps. The trail loses 74 metres of height and you'll be able to finish your ride on any of the descents mentioned above, including the Sawridge Switchbacks.

Note, to start this ride, I recommend driving through the Patricia Lake Resort from the Patricia Lake Bungalows Road. There is no public parking inside the resort but you can easily pull the vehicle over to let your riders out if you're driving back down to the bottom. 

Rock slabs on the Water Tower Trail in  Jasper 

Camping and Biking in Jasper

I've mentioned the Wapiti and Whistlers Campgrounds many times through this story. I highly recommend staying at either campground so that you can hop on to the Wapiti Trail from either.

Large playground in the Whistlers Campground

One advantage to staying in the Whistlers Campground is that you can also bike the Whistler Campground Trail, Number 19 on Trail Forks. This trail is 2 km long and it connects several small play areas with one big playground. We enjoyed biking this trail every morning and evening while camping here.


Trail 19, the Playground Path in the Whistlers Campground

And if you want to bike to another big playground, there is a new one that's been built in the overflow loop of the Wapiti Campground. The Wapiti Bike Trail will take you there from either campground.

Wapiti Campground Playground in the Overflow Loop


More Recommended Stories on Jasper National Park

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to do in Jasper

Summer Planning - Where to Camp in the National Parks of Alberta 

Family Friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

Experiencing Awesome in Jasper   

Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard

Spring Adventures in Jasper

Autumn Adventure Weekend in Jasper 

Winter Escape to Jasper National Park  

Winter Road Trip to Jasper National Park 

The Wildest Winter Canyon Hike in the Canadian Rockies

Parting shot of Old Fort Point, Jasper

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