Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Mountain Biking the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff - WITH KIDS

If you would have told me a few years ago that I'd be mountain biking on the Tunnel Mountain Bench in Banff, I would have said you were crazy. Add WITH a 5 year old child, and I'd have laughed at you.

You see, the Tunnel Mountain area of Banff has some pretty challenging mountain biking trails that I will probably never be able to ride.  I had no idea that there was a lovely little green loop on the bench or that the blue loop was actually pretty good for novice bikers.

Riding the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff

Earlier this summer, we picked up the "Biking Trails in the Banff Area" brochure from the Banff Info. Centre and I quickly decided that I wanted to bike all of the easy green trails in the little pamphlet this summer, as a family.  And we've done pretty good!  Check out the story I wrote earlier this summer on the Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park

Biking on the Tunnel Mountain Bench in Banff

We'd biked most of the green trails this summer but had failed to complete the one I most wanted to do - The Tunnel Bench Loop.  Mostly because it wasn't actually a green trail.  It's rated as a solid blue (intermediate) and is really not something you do on a tiny bike with 16" wheels.  Regardless, I wanted to at least give it a shot this summer.

See the full Tunnel Bench Loop on Trail Forks. It includes the following trails:
- Coastline
- Teddy Bear's Picnic
- The Spine 

It also includes a section of the Bow Falls-Hoodoo Trail

Easy section of the Tunnel Bench Loop

It took two attempts before we finally finished our junior version of the Tunnel Bench Loop, described below.

Biking the Tunnel Bench Loop - The Family Version

First, Start at the Hoodoos Lookout on Tunnel Mountain Drive.  It is marked with a letter E on the biking map.  (downloadable here)

Biking along Tunnel Mountain Drive

Second, Start biking the Tunnel Bench Loop in a clockwise direction heading Towards Surprise Corner.  It will be marked as #13.  This is a fairly easy section of the trail and doable by novice bikers.  There is only one mildly scary hill that could be walked.  (I walked it earlier this summer when we tried the trail.)

The hardest hill on the Tunnel Bench Loop along Tunnel Mountain Drive

Next, Bike parallel Tunnel Mountain Drive until you reach the Banff Hostel and cross the road at this point to get on the green Tunnel Campground Loop trail.  You'll be crossing at the far end of the Tunnel Mountain Campground. 

Easy section of the Tunnel Bench Loop near the Banff Hostel

Tunnel Bench Loop behind the campground
Bike through the far end of the Tunnel Campground on the easy Tunnel Campground Loop and here you can make a choice. 

Continue the loop on the green trail, or try sections of the blue trail (The Spine) that you'll find paralleling you through the trees. 

This is a great opportunity to actually try an intermediate trail because you can hop back and forth between the two whenever you want.  We even found one section that resembled a pump track.  Our son was in Heaven!!

And if you complete the Tunnel Campground Loop you can easily get back to where you started from by crossing the main road in front of the campground.
Easy hills and riding on the Tunnel Campground Loop

Why We LOVE this Bike Loop so much:

We loved biking the Tunnel Bench Loop and the Tunnel Campground Loop because we could do sections of each and mix and match our ride.  When Noah got tired it was super easy to switch over to an easier bit of the trail for a rest. 

And if one of us adults wanted more of a challenge, it was easy to add on an extension loop and meet up later on down the trail.

There are so many trails on the bench, I know we'll be exploring them for the next several years and we'll just keep adding on more and more blue sections each time we visit Banff.

Tunnel Bench Loop with Mt. Rundle in the background

Next year we plan to finish the full loop, including the narrow section above the Cascade River that Noah is definitely not ready for yet. I also hope we get to try out trail #11 to Surprise Corner, The Bow Falls - Hoodoos Trail. However, we start small and bit by bit we're finishing this loop.  We've biked about 50% of it now and thanks to the green campground loop, we can just keep working our way around the circle and adding to the blue part each time.

For more on Biking in Banff, visit my previous story on the Best Family Bike Trails in Banff.

For more on the Complete Tunnel Bench Loop together with the Bow Falls - Hoodoo Trail, read Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Tour. - written for 2016

Mountain Biking in Banff
See you on the trails

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