Missoula, MT to Jasper, AB - Four National Parks in 4 weeks
I've wanted to visit Glacier National Park since I was a boy when a friend of mine told me about a trip he took there with his family. In addition, biking the length of Alberta, Canada's Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper had been a long time bike touring goal. Since these two places are a few hundred miles apart, it is natural to pair them as destination for a single bike tour.
Due to snow and weather, the best months for such a trip is in July and August. Every year, I would try to find a way to do this trip, but something always came up. Finally, in 2013, the opening arrived and I began planning my trip.
Since I have an S&S coupled bike that can be disassembled, packed in a box and flown as luggage, it is easiest if I start and end my tours at the same place. Thus, my first idea was to do a loop ride from Missoula, which has good airline connections with San Francisco, where I live. I asked about this on the touring forum at bikeforums.net. The advice I got there, convinced me to do a one-way ride from Missoula, MT up to Jasper, Alberta, which was an even better idea than doing a loop, though it did complicate the arrangements.
The time frame that I had started on July 4th, a Thursday in 2013. I had to be home in SF by August 4. That gave me 31 days maximum. I thought that flying on July 4th would be cheap, but July 5th had the lowest fares. I figured a day to fly and a day to get my bike together and accumulate supplies. This meant I would be ready to ride out of Missoula on July 7.
Getting home from Jasper is not so easy. There is an airport but for private planes, only. There is a train to Jasper but the luggage requirements rule out my bike box. There are buses to both Calgary and Edmonton. After checking flight schedules and fares, I decided to get the bus from Jasper to Edmonton and fly home from there; another 2 days.
This means that I could be on the road for 28 days, July 7 to August 3. Since I'd heard Jasper is a nice little town, I decided to spend an extra day there and the bus on August 3 leaves at 7am. So, that meant my riding time would be from July 7 to August 1, a total of 26 days.
The next issue was routing. I contacted John Egan (Jamawani at bikeforums.net), who always has great bike tour routing ideas, for suggestions on where to ride. He suggested riding east from Missoula to Browning, MT for the Blackfoot Indian Days celebration, up to Many Glacier, over Going to the Sun road, back east and up to Canada and Waterton NP, and to continue north on the east side of the continental divide to Lake Louise. This looked like a good route to me and I did my planning accordingly. I entered my planning details into a tour plan on this site called Missoula to Jasper,which lists my intended itinerary and lots of links to services and other information about this route.
Shortly before I was to leave, a flood devastated some of the areas I was planning on riding through. Several roads I was hoping to ride on were closed. It was unclear when I left if these roads would be open by the time I got there. To cover myself, I brought along the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) maps for their Great Parks North route, which runs between Missoula and Jasper but along the western side of the continental divide.
In the end, the planned route was not available and I ended up riding the ACA route west through Glacier NP, north to British Columbia, then through Kootenay, Banff and Jasper National Parks. I don't know what my planned route would have been like but the one I ended up riding was glorious. To see the actual route I rode, check out this map at TrackMyTour.com.
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