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 (including progressively harder options as my son grows.)


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?
Easy flat biking along the Athabasca River

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!!

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.  (total of 7km 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 10km 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 14km 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 single track 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 single track 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.

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 stiff climb up from the lodge.
 

This was a new ride for us in the summer of 2017 with my son now age 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?"

Easy riding on the paved 4G Trail near Annette Lake

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 biking through the Whistlers Campground


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 at camp this past summer.

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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