Lake Moraine

Paved warmup: Calgary to Lake Luise

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Without any good way of transporting our bikes to Banff, we decide to do a pre-GDMBR warmup by riding there from Calgary. And because Lake Louise isn't that far from Banff, I quickly decide on a two-day-ride detour to probably the Canada's most iconic lake - Moraine Lake.

June 28

Getting out of Calgary isn't as easy as it would seem. We start about 9 am and ride a mix of streets and cycling paths. But there seems to be no end to the civilization. In fact, we even stop by for an early lunch in McDonald's just next to a big Wallmart store. From there the suburbs slowly give away to dispersed houses by which the countryland is riddled.

Ready to go
While not many, Calgary suburbs have some biking paths that can take you through big highways over a bridge
Land around is flat-ish and with plenty of surface water

In the city of Cochrane (which is, interestingly, a namesake of a Chilean Patagionia's capital) the pavement finally gives away as we ride farmland roads. We pass around beautiful big dam and get to the pavement while watching as the mountains are growing bigger and bigger.

US and Canada roads are amazingly straight
Fast descent to Cochrane
Finally getting a taste of gravel
We pass around beautiful lake/dam

When you are in Calgary, you can see mountains in the distance. Therefore one could think that the peaks are relatively close. Well, don't be fooled. By the late afternoon the mountains are still eluding us. On the other hand, clouds seem to be following as well. The morning overcast changes into storm-heavy clouds behind us and there doesn't seem to be a good camping spot around. So we find ourselves racing towards Bow Valley Campground about 10 km further down the road. We arrive there in a rush, figure out the self-registration procedure and setup the tent. Just when are are mostly settled in and the dinner is cooking the rain starts. Matej figures out that maybe he can stay out the rain around the restrooms. To his misfortune, he does not take a proper raincoat on his way there and ends up being stuck there for the next hour while I listen to the rain inside the tent.

Mountains are finally getting nearer. Nasty-looking coulds as well.
Last 5km of riding were fast dash against the time.

June 29

Chilly morning reveals nice surroundings. Not yet trained on route it takes us too much time to pack the campsite which doesn't play good with my plan of getting into Lake Louise today. Back on the road we finally get into Banff National Park, which is nice except for the camping restrictions. This actually becomes a problem -- as we learn in Banff the campsites are totaly booked. Fortunately, at visitor center they manage to call a camping on our way to Lake Louise and reserve something for us.

Morning reveals nice surroundings
Looking the other side is nice as well
Leaving the campground
By the time we leave the clouds are already gathering
With mountains around I am getting quite happy
Near Banff the peaks are getting more peaky and snowy
A small break on the way
Scenery gets a Swiss taste

Banff is a nice little town which is totally overrun by tourists. So after getting all the required info and consuming the lunch we set further to some less crowded places. Just a short ride from the town there is a beautiful lake with a view over perfect ridgeline. But you shouldn't look only at mountains. Watching carefully over the road and you can see marmots and other small animals running before you.

Just outside of Banff you can see a nice ridge
The weather clears a bit as we start from Banff
As we ride we frequently disrupt marmots sunning next to the road
Seeing it from a different angle the ridge is even more impressive

After the lake the road gets more hilly with some small climbs. The views get a bit more shaded with trees though and so every clearing brings in a surge of excitement. This lasts us until Johnston campground where we check in for the night. I would like to ride more as there is still some riding time left today but our options doesn't look really good. There are two more campsites on first-come-first-serve basis but it is quite late.

A photo break before a short climb

June 30

There are some tough plans ahead of us today. First we need to ride remaining about 30 kilometers to Lake Louise. Unfortunately, most of it is on a motorway as the (only alternative) road we wanted to take is closed due to some road works. So we end up with cars flying around us but it isn't that bad as we have a huge shoulder just for us.

Just a bit outside of the campground there is a huge mountain
Sometimes the best views are looking back though
The views are ever changing
With a road closure we are forced to ride the motorway
Fortunately the motorway has also good views
Martin looks like a real (motor)biker

In Lake Louse we converge to a grocery store with WiFi around and the lunch can start. I buy potato salad and to my delight it tastes almost like a Slovakian one so my inner gourmet is satisfied.

Small stream on the road to Moraine Lake
We first need to climb about 200 meters

With our bellies (kind of) full we now face 15 km uphill to Moraine Lake. The road ins't very steep though as the whole gain is only about 200 meters. Reaching the highpoint we get a nice views and then quickly zoom down remaining mile or two.

Last part of the climb

Finally Lake Moraine -- the one thing I did not want to miss in Canada. It is as picturesque as a 1500-piece puzzle set back home suggests. But first we need to climb over some logs on the outflow and then scramble a bit to the viewpoint. At least that was the (unofficial) way we took.

Lake Moraine has an interesting unofficial access to the viewpoint
Finding a way is a bit tricky
Lake Moraine. The reason behind our 2-day detour.

Satisfied with the batch of picutres I took my plan is to hike/scramble up to Tower of Babel -- a huge rock overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, the weather seems to be disagreeing and it starts to lightly drizzle as we start up. Weighting the disadvantages of not enough views and going down steeply on potentially wet rocks, we decide to abandon my plan and instead go on a ligher hike to a nearby smaller lake. The road goes through the woods until the end when it suddenly opens into what would be quite good views if it wasn't that overcast. The weather doesn't even permit us a long stay around as it starts to drizzle and then rain again and we return back to our bikes.

We go for a short hike
At the end of the hike there is another lake. And clouds ready to give us some shower.

Returning to Lake Louise in rain isn't much fun but fortunately the rain quickly stops and by the time we ride down to Lake Louise we even see some dry ground and sun. Our attention now focuses on getting a place to sleep. Fortunately when we arrive to the campground we are in luck. Basically, we manage to get the "emergency campsite" for situations like ours (i.e., passing cyclists who did not manage to reserve a spot). We settle in an just as we head our we are told we would be sharing the site with another gentleman -- a german cyclists who was totally unlucky as somebody stole his bike at the beginning of his journey and so now he bikes on a replacement one. Unfortunately, his replacement isn't well suited to the gravel riding as he originally wanted.

Standing on the watch

In the world of travel there always seem to be magical coincidences. As it goes, it was destined that I meet my three good Slovak friends working for Google just as we are shopping for some food. Just imagine it -- looking for some rice or pasta and you suddenly hear Slovak voices and when you start listening more ... the voice seems to be familiar. Sure enough, it was even more fun that Fero and company were actually wondering about my past travel in South America just recently. They also got a quite good idea -- bying "Canada Dry" soda and drinking it must surely help with the wet weather forecast ...


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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 247 2.1 43
hike 7 0.2 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
June 28, 2018 103.9 1.00 17.0
June 29, 2018 78.0 0.47 16.0
June 30, 2018 71.7 0.80 13.1

Elevation data

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(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 146.3
< 4 24.9 15.2
< 6 8.7 6.8
< 8 2.3 3.9
< 10 1.1 0.9
≥ 10 0.9 1.8

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