Time  2 hours 21 minutes

Coordinates 1059

Uploaded September 15, 2017

Recorded August 2017

  • Rating

  • Information

  • Easy to follow

  • Scenery

4,988 ft
4,523 ft
11.72 mi

Viewed 5384 times, downloaded 40 times

near Banff, Alberta (Canada)

Show original
After having done many MTB exits, one concludes that almost all always have some detail that makes them special. Made under such diverse circumstances that, as I remind you again, there is a miracle of refreshing each experience in my memory and making me realize how lucky I am and the good times I have spent.

But there are some that stand out even more and this route, for example, will always be special among the special ones. It will appear in the TOP of my outputs made without being the longest, nor the hardest, but of the most desired. It's amazing, fun, risky, explosive, improvised on the fly and performed alone in one of the most beautiful corners of the planet. And it would have been unforgivable to visit the impressive Rockies of Canada and leave "empty" without having made an escape in MTB.

Although, eye, go to the mountain here is not as simple as it seems. There are real possibilities of having encounters with wild animals and the most exposed to the attacks of the bears are precisely the mountain bikers. Therefore, in my opinion, the most advisable thing is to try to find and join a group of bikers who make an exit in the area or that some countryman there guides you.

There are several options in Banff and Canmore to find double suspension bikes + helmet at reasonable prices (between 10-20 CAD / hour). Even in some more specialized store will leave you up to slippers with creeps for automatic pedals. They are the best places to ask about these organized outings.

In my case, the days I was in Banff did not coincide with any organized departure so I got in touch with someone who could accompany me and design a custom route. I was all praised but there was a change of plans at the last minute and the guide failed me so finally I decided to go out alone, but provided with a good anti-bear spray, consulting the rangers with the latest sighting updates and taking all the precautions of the world.

This route runs around Banff through the Tunnel Mountain area. Select a combination of trails 11 and 13 (Hoodoos Trail and Tunnel Bench Loop Trail, both of moderate difficulty), adding 2 more technical but incredibly spectacular sections: an initial loop with trails 14a -14b - 14a and an extension of 13, the 18 called "The Toe". More than enough to finish "warm and with a smile from ear to ear". We start!

NOTE: When making this MTB exit, you must:

  • Take into account the time of the year in which we find ourselves (eye Julio, algid period of the "berries"), what the bears are doing and where.

  • Take the anti-bear spray loaded and with you all the time, know how to use it and in a place at hand to be able to activate it quickly.

  • Go slowly and make noise. Speed ​​and silence put you at risk as they encourage surprise encounters with bears. We must reduce speed when we approach curves without visibility or areas of bushes and berries. Be always alert and looking forward.

Point of Departure : Banff Tunnel Mountain - Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets

Estimated duration : 2h 30 min + stops.
Physical / Technical Level (1-5) : 3/4. I qualify it technically difficult just in case, but it would be rather moderate.
Sources : There are no water points on the route. The temperatures do not tend to squeeze in the Rockies and there are many shady areas but still there is a vending machine for drinks next to the Chalet Grocery and the Tunnel Mountain Beer & Wine Shop as a minor evil.

Time of year : Months from June to October.

PHOTOS OF THE ROUTE : Click here ...

The route begins at the junction of Tunnel Mountain Rd with Tunnel Mountain Dr. From downtown Banff you arrive by taking Wolf St from Banff Ave and turning left onto Otter St until you reach Tunnel Mountain Rd. Then it is all straight on this road until reaching the junction where we will see on the left the Tunnel Mountain Resort and on the right the Douglas Fir (see waypoint). They are 2 km from the center of Banff and we can do them either by bike or by car and park on the highway after the crossing.

First we will go up the Tunnel Mountain Dr to the starting point of the 3 trails cataloged as technicians (14 a, b and c). Leaving the Buffalo Mountain Lodge on the right and 200 meters further up we will see a path a broken bit that leaves to the left of the road ascending through the pine forest. It is easily identifiable since there is a signpost.

We take it and we save some first steps of stones with some root. 150 meters further up we have a Crossing again with another signpost (see waypoint). Here we have two possibilities: Or on the left we would begin the descent by the Star Wars Trail (14a - blue). At the end of this descent, the Return of Jedi Trail (14b - blue) starts uphill until this point. In total it is a loop of just over 2.5 km with 100 meters of difference to save. Or if we continued straight we would go up to make the Topp Notch Trail (14c - black) much more difficult and technical with 3.8 km and 160 meters of difference.

The Star Wars Trail is a fun, fast descent, with closed banked curves, some slide and sections with the typical wedges of wooden boards or narrowing to jump or try balance (see waypoint). However you can dodge by passing by. It's short of how much fun it is.

The plan was to continue towards the river and connect with Trail 11 but when I got down I pulled to the left and ascended the Return of Jedi Trail (see waypoint) to the initial crossing again. It is a climb with some explosive point but in general it is left to do and again all along narrow and clean path, with curvitas and very driving. Fun assured without having too much paint of Bike Park. Already in the initial crossing, again to pull down by Star Wars but this time with more confidence and speed.

Below I say goodbye this time and I always turn right on a single track until I reach a very nice stretch of narrow path half open slope that allows me to see the Bow River on the bottom left and the Rundle Mountain. The llaneo will end with a spectacular narrow descent in the middle of a forest super leafy and fresh. Overwhelming silence that makes me alert because here I am starting to be far away and I can not see a soul.

We literally arrived at the edge of the river . The trail is cut and has no apparent exit or climbing by a stone wall so I decide to turn around and accompany the Bow River (see waypoint) by a charming path, no more than a meter wide, which is flattened by from the shore, very comfortable, and in which we find poles again.

Link with the Trail 11 or Hoodoos Trail (see waypoint) and eye to the damn rampón and sustained of earth and loose stones in which it will be more likely to end up throwing the foot to earth than to overcome it. It is not very long and is the only way to continue, by a higher level, cycling through the following paths.

We arrived at the junction with Trail 13, the Tunnel Bench Loop Trail (see waypoint), marked with a pole and two blue arrows, and we pulled to the right always by easy, easy and fun paths to reach a kind of lookout to the mountains Rundle, Tunnel and the river Bow.

In this viewpoint (see waypoint) there is an explanatory panel of the origin of the name of Tunnel Mountain and 2 typical red chairs of the many that have been installed in strategic and scenic spots of national parks throughout Canada. The Bow River runs down and down a little down an embankment to see if we can see better the meanders and beautiful figures that has traced its course.

Then, minutes later, we return to the viewpoint and continue to the right for a kind of cordal, very panoramic, in which the road runs to the left of us and finally merges into the Hoodoos Viewpoint (see waypoint).

The Hoodoos (or cheminées de fée) are large natural columns made of sedimentary rocks, whose upper part is a rock much more resistant to erosion. Their curious forms, often phallic, carry a multitude of associated beliefs or legends. We will see them along the cliffs along which the track runs. At this point you can see below to the left and the meanders of the river that almost describe a perfect circle grant a spectacular photo.

We continue along a short asphalted stretch that acts as a walkway for hikers until we return to the narrow dirt roads. Immediately we find a signpost indicating the crossing of Trail 13 with the 18 (see waypoint). If we go to the left we follow the first one (Bench Loop), easier, and if we want to complicate we will continue straight by the black arrow and we will do 18: The Toe.

The Toe Trail (see waypoint) is really an extension loop of the Tunnel Bench Loop. It is almost 8 km long, it ends up splicing again with Trail 13 and is cataloged with greater difficulty for mainly 2 reasons. Some winding sections, technical or exposed with danger of falls at high altitude, but avoidable by going carefully or passing on foot, and also by the possibility of coinciding with wildlife because it transits areas and further away from civilization. In exchange, it offers spectacular views, a small stretch of portage and, above all, it extends the kilometers and fun at the exit.

Important: within the same Trail, there will be some detour signaled to shorten or make the complete loop. Always to the left we shorten and straight or to the right, we lengthen as we see.

At the beginning "The Toe" will continue running along the same open hillside that we came. Then the trail begins to descend in a spectacular way ending in an embankment that leads to a lone forest, leafy, with dim light, all very green, fallen trees, etc. Of the typical that gives the sensation that something is watching you or has moved. Here it is convenient to give voices and be noticed. We are really far away and it gives me the feeling that it is the perfect place to meet animals.

We continue pedaling and passing some junction, all with their small map reflecting where we are and corresponding signpost. The black arrows point to one or the other path and we deduce that this trail can be done in both directions although the opposite seems much harder than ours.

We will reach a point where a post with a warning sign appears. It is just after the junction where the short and long variant ends. It will be the warning that we begin to cross an exposed area. I did not think so much but if it is true that if you have an oversight and you fall, between how remote and isolated you are and the fall that there is, imagine ...

After more solitary forest and totally wild, finally the trail shows us in the distance a pole with two blue arrows. A few seconds later we see the intersection. We are at the end of the Toe Trail (see waypoint) and therefore we know that on the right we will continue along the Bench Loop.

After a simple climb that we take it easy, we will again reach other more technical areas with some exposed passage and even propped up with wooden planks. The TransCanada Highway (1) runs down to the right and the cut-outs let you see the Cascade River (see waypoint) down to the right as well and other mountain formations always spectacular here on the rocky ones.

In this sector we will also have to go through an area of ​​slides, explosive, technical. Some are tremendous and the stomach reacts. Here I meet a biker in the opposite direction, the only one in the whole route, who happens so normal and this makes me relax during the following km. There will only be another winding section later stuck also to the cut but much less exposed and chopping up. I can not imagine how spectacular it must be to lower it in the opposite direction by driving the bike between the trunks of the trees. Well, yes ... Youtube gives us the answer if you are interested.

The last part of the route begins after crossing the Tunnel Mountain Rd and goes along the Tunnel Mountain Campground (see waypoint). Always always a narrow singletrack path through trees under a beautiful forest and curving, here with more favorable sections. We will pass by 5 cervids that eat freely without flinching. We stand and watch the young male with his incipient horns, beautiful!

After the time of self-absorption, we continue giving the last throes to the trails of another spectacular forest. In the end the percentage of trails is almost 95% when we reach the back of the Hidden Ridge Resort. What was given is over. We cross the streets of the campsite and we go down to other paths parallel to the road until we end up in it very close to the starting point.

It makes you want to repeat the Star Wars or even dare with the Topp Notch, but the sun is already starting to go and as they say that the good, if brief, twice good, we are satisfied.

In the end, despite not traveling too far, the route is intense and spectacular. Without getting to fear or have incidents, some areas have given us some respect for that of not being used to a possible encounter with the most dangerous bugs. But it is still another rush of adrenaline and added tension that has its point. For the rest, the route is technically a luxury, hyper fun and the environment is spectacular! I do not know if I'll ever go back to the Rockies but ... take it off I dance it!

I hope you like it!

Cascade River




Cruce del Trail 13 con el 18


Douglas Fir


Final del Toe Trail


Hoodoos Trail


Hoodoos Viewpoint




Return of Jedi Trail


Rio Bow


Star Wars Trail


The Toe Trail


Tunnel Bench Loop Trail


Tunnel Mountain Campground


  • Photo of yorye_esp

    yorye_esp Sep 21, 2017

    Brutal documento David3c, la verdad que la cosa esta para contarla... Envidiaca de la buena haber podido disfrutar las montañas rocosas y lo de tener que llevar un spray para los osos... tope de gama...jajaja.
    Gracias por compartir tu experiencia.

  • Photo of David3C

    David3C Sep 22, 2017

    Gracias a ti por tu interés y por comentar. Casi me vuelvo de vacío pero finalmente me desquité, jajaja. Luego realmente lo de los osos no es para tanto pero es verdad que cuando has visto videos de youtube, la peli famosa esa de "El Renacido", etc... y te ves ahí solo y en un bosque totalmente intransitado y oscuro, a veces te acojonas un poco por si pudieras encontrarte con algún bicho. Imagino que los oriundos de ahí saldrán tan normal pero yo no me fiaba. Un saludete y a seguir disfrutando de la MTB donde se pueda!

  • Photo of aidinmehrabani

    aidinmehrabani Feb 11, 2018

    Very nice trip

  • Photo of David3C

    David3C Feb 11, 2018

    Thanks a lot! A high recommended quick route and lots of funny trails

  • Photo of Omar Muñoz Ledo Ochoa

    Omar Muñoz Ledo Ochoa Mar 18, 2019

    Muchas gracias por la redacción esto realmente se ve increible voy preparando mis maletas para ir este año¡¡¡ es realmente un sueño. Muchas gracias por tomarte el tiempo de compartirnos todo esto¡¡ Un abrazo

  • Photo of David3C

    David3C Mar 18, 2019

    Gracias por tu valoración! Ojo a la época con el tema osos. En Julio estan mas activos y como nieva tanto allá, solamente se puede hacer en verano yo creo. Llévate spray y si puedes ve acompañado. Es una ruta muy corta pero exigente si no la haces con tu bici. Las bicis de alquiler siempre son peores y yo iba cansado. Un saludo!!

You can or this trail