Goat Creek Trail- Bike Canmore to Banff

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Goat Creek Trail is a scenic route for mountain biking from Canmore to Banff. The path follows nearby Goat Creek, then later beside Spray River as it makes its way through the forest from Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis to the town of Banff in Banff National Park. 

View of the Spray River from Goat Creek Trail.
Spray River

The corridor that Goat Creek Trail passes through is framed by Mount Rundle on one side and Goat and Sulphur Mountains on the other, so along the way there are plenty of peaks to admire.

Biking on Goat Creek Trail.

Most people bike Goat Creek Trail in one direction (south to north) because of the gradual but steady elevation loss. For a fun round trip route, a ride on this Canmore to Banff mountain bike trail can be combined with a spin on the paved Legacy Trail.

Goat Creek Trail leading towards a mountain.

How to Bike Canmore to Banff and Back- Goat Creek Trail and Legacy Trail

Biking from Canmore to Banff is a popular activity with most people choosing to ride the Banff Legacy Trail that runs alongside the Trans Canada Highway to connect the two communities. However, a more peaceful, beautiful, and interesting way to bike from Canmore to Banff is along Goat Creek Trail.

Goat Creek with a mountain in the background.
Goat Creek

By combining the Goat Creek bike trail with the Legacy Trail you get to enjoy a round trip route with two different experiences- mountain biking from Canmore to Banff, then a quick, smooth cycle from Banff to Canmore.

Before setting out on this route, there are some logistics you need to be aware of. First off, the Goat Creek trailhead is about 9 km southwest of Canmore’s town centre, on the steep, bumpy, and very dusty Spray Lakes Road. This gravel road wouldn’t be easy or enjoyable to bike, especially with all the traffic. For that reason, you’ll have to figure out transportation to the trailhead. 

Goat Creek Trail framed by a mountain.

One option is to book a local shuttle to take you and your bike to the Goat Creek trailhead. A less expensive option is to do the trail with another person so you have two vehicles available- one to park in Canmore at the visitor centre, where the Legacy Trail starts/ends, and another to take the bikes up to Goat Creek Trail. After your ride you can take the vehicle at the visitor centre back to the Goat Creek trailhead to collect the second vehicle. 

If you’re not interested in arranging two vehicles or using a shuttle, you can bike Goat Creek Trail both ways, but be aware that the return trip would be very tough because it’s almost all uphill. 

Goat Creek Trail.

If you only want to bike Goat Creek Trail one way and not ride the Legacy Trail back to Canmore, you can have someone drive you to the trailhead then pick you up at the end in Banff. 

Another option for biking from Canmore to Banff on Goat Creek Trail is to ride to Banff then take the Roam public transit bus back to Canmore (the buses have bike racks). For this option you would still need to arrange a shuttle to the trailhead because the bus doesn’t go there.

Since the most common way of biking Goat Creek Trail is to do a one way trip from Canmore to Banff then return on the Legacy Trail, that is the route that will be described below.

Sign at the start/end of the Legacy Trail.

Bike Canmore to Banff- Round Trip Route Details

Start Point: Goat Creek Trailhead

Finish Point: Travel Alberta Canmore Visitor Information Centre (Legacy Trailhead)

Distance: 43.3 km

Elevation Gain and Loss: 207 m ascent, 537 m descent

Time Required: 4- 5 hours at a leisurely pace with photo stops and a break for lunch

Leg 1: Bike Goat Creek Trail from Canmore to Banff (18.7 km)

Lunch Break: Picnic at Bow Falls

Leg 2: Ride through the town of Banff from Bow Falls to the Legacy Trail

Leg 3: Bike Legacy Trail from Banff to Canmore (20.2 km)

Track log/map of the Goat Creek and Legacy Trail bike ride.
Track log/map of the Goat Creek and Legacy Trail bike ride

Biking Goat Creek Trail- Canmore to Banff 

The first leg of this route is on Goat Creek Trail, the Canmore to Banff mountain bike trail. The trailhead is at a large parking lot on the west side of Smith Dorrien Trail/Spray Lakes Road.

Goat Creek trailhead.

Before starting your Goat Creek Trail bike ride, take a look at the map posted at the trailhead to familiarize yourself with the route. The trail is well signed, but you may want to take a picture of the map to refer to during your ride.

Right from the start, Goat Creek Trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains as it begins descending towards Banff National Park. Even as the trail enters into the forest, mountains can be seen ahead in the distance.

Goat Creek trail in the forest.

A short while later the path emerges from the trees into an open area with a gorgeous panorama of rocky peaks. Even though you haven’t been riding long, it’s worth stopping here to snap a few pictures.

Mountains seen while riding the Goat Creek bike trail.

Continuing on, the trail reenters the forest and soon arrives at the border of Banff National Park. Here there’s a trail junction with a large sign and map. Bear right and follow the Goat Creek sign directing you to the Banff townsite.

Sign on Goat Creek Trail.
Goat Creek bike trail in the forest.

As the trail proceeds into Banff National Park, you’ll get to enjoy a mix of forest and mountain views. Although the trail is roughly following the path of Goat Creek, it’s too far away to see just yet.

Eventually the trail moves closer to Goat Creek and at times you’ll get glimpses of it through the trees. As you continue to ride, you’ll cross some meltwater paths from Mount Rundle, most of which have short wooden bridges over them.

Goat Creek bike trail.
Wooden bridge on Goat Creek Trail.

About 7 km into the Goat Creek bike ride you’ll go down a short but steep grade. At the bottom of the hill the trail curves to the right and crosses a bridge over Goat Creek. 

Goat Creek bike trail heading towards a mountain.
Goat Creek.

After crossing Goat Creek, the trail goes uphill then has some minor elevation changes before making a steep, winding descent towards Spray River. At the bottom of the hill there’s a bridge crossing Spray River. 

Bridge crossing Spray River on Goat Creek Trail.

The Spray River bridge is 9 km into the ride and is a scenic place to stop for a break. You’ll want to be rested because next up is the longest uphill stretch of the ride.

Spray River flowing towards a mountain.

Soon after crossing the river you’ll come to a marked trail junction. The sign will tell you to keep right to get to Banff.

Trail sign.

This next uphill section is the most challenging part of the Goat Creek Trail bike ride, but with some determination and perseverance it’s manageable. 

After conquering the hill, now comes the most fun part of the ride- a lengthy descent through the forest. You can gather some good speed here so remember to stay focused and keep your eyes on the trail because there are rocks jutting up.

Goat Creek Trail in the forest.

At the bottom of the hill you’ll come to a flat clearing next to the Spray River. Here you can look down into the impeccably clear water to see the rocky river bed.

Open area with a shelter on Goat Creek Trail.
Clear water in Spray River.

At this point there’s another trail by the river, so you’ll have two options for getting to Banff. You can turn right and cross a bridge onto the Spray River East trail to come out at the Banff Springs Golf Course, or keep left to continue riding on the west side of the river to come out at the Banff Springs Hotel. Both trails will end in the same general area, not far from Bow Falls.

Bridge crossing Spray River.
Wooden shelter and trail sign.

If you choose to keep on the west side, the forested trail follows near the Spray River for the rest of the bike ride to Banff. The trail ends at a parking lot for the Spray River West Trailhead where there’s a little bike repair station. 

Bike repair station at the Spray River West trailhead.

Biking to Bow Falls

If you want to visit Bow Falls after your ride, follow the road a short distance to the Banff Springs Hotel at the end of Spray Ave. At the parkade, turn right and follow the road as it curves downhill towards the back of the hotel. 

Banff Springs Hotel.
Road curving out of sight.

At the hotel, follow the path that turns right to go down to the Waldhaus Restaurant and Bow Falls. You can then go straight onto a dirt path where there’s a sign saying “Bow Falls”, but be aware that there’s a short staircase at the end of this direct trail. An alternative is to follow the paved path as it turns right and goes past the restaurant to River Avenue, which leads to Bow Falls.

Trail with sign to Bow Falls.
Staircase on the trail.

There are some benches near Bow Falls where you can sit and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Bow Falls in Banff.

Biking From Bow Falls to Legacy Trail

From Bow Falls you have to bike through the town of Banff to get to the Legacy Trail. Ride a short distance uphill on River Avenue until you come to a signpost at a trailhead. Turn right here and follow the signs for the Downtown District. 

Trail with signpost.

Ride the forested path alongside Bow River then turn right at the Banff Pedestrian Bridge to enjoy a great view of Cascade Mountain as you cross the river.

Banff Pedestrian Bridge and Cascade Mountain.

At the end of the bridge turn left then take the first right to ride along Banff Avenue, the main street that goes through town. If you don’t want to go down the busy main street, you can also go straight at the end of the bridge and take Muskrat Street through a residential area. At the end turn left onto Fox Street then right onto Banff Ave.

Banff Avenue looking towards Cascade Mountain.
Banff Avenue

Once you’re on Banff Avenue ride it to the end of town, following the green signs painted on the road. The Legacy Trail starts just after you pass the Inns of Banff.

Biking the Legacy Trail- Banff to Canmore

Once you’re on the Legacy bike trail it’s an easy cycle back to Canmore since the paved trail makes a gradual descent almost the entire way (apart from one small hill). It’s not a peaceful ride, since the path follows right beside Highway 1, but there are some mountains to look at as you cruise to Canmore. The Legacy Trail ends at the Travel Alberta Canmore Visitor Information Centre. 

Legacy Trail with Cascade Mountain.

Review of the Goat Creek Trail Bike Ride From Canmore to Banff

There are a few Canmore to Banff bike trails, but the best option for an easy mountain bike route is Goat Creek Trail.

This versatile trail features packed dirt, loose rock, bridges, and uphill and downhill sections to keep the ride interesting. It’s perfect for beginner mountain bikers because you get to experience a variety of terrain and some challenges, but nothing extreme.

Biking Goat Creek Trail.

The only downside of the Goat Creek bike trail is the logistics of getting to the trailhead if you only want to ride it one way. However, the small inconvenience is worth it for such an enjoyable, beautiful ride. 

Spray River.

Tips for Biking Goat Creek Trail 

Location: The Goat Creek trailhead is located in Spray Valley Provincial Park about 9 km southwest of Canmore’s town centre on Smith Dorrien Trail/Spray Lakes Road. To get there, put “Goat Creek Parking Lot” into Google Maps. 

  • The trail terminates in Banff at the Spray River West Trailhead, near the Banff Springs Hotel at the end of Spray Avenue.

Parking: There is a large parking lot at the Goat Creek trailhead on the west side of Spray Lakes Road. This is also the parking lot for the popular Ha Ling Peak hike, so it does fill up in the summer. 

  • If you’re leaving a second vehicle in Canmore, the best place to park is at the Travel Alberta Canmore Visitor Information Centre, where the Legacy Trail ends. There is a dedicated parking area for the Legacy Trail beside the main visitor centre lot (watch for signs).

Kananaskis Conservation Pass: To park at the Goat Creek trailhead, and other provincial parks and public land sites in Kananaskis and the Bow Valley, you need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. It can easily be bought online and is registered to your licence plate (there’s no physical pass to be displayed in your vehicle). 

  • If you’re parking a second vehicle in Canmore, you don’t need a pass for that one.

Facilities: There are outhouses at the trailhead.

Spray River.

Accommodations in Canmore and Banff

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Canmore and HOTELS IN BANFF. Please consider booking your Canmore and Banff accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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