Great Divide Canada I

Trip Dates:
Jul 12, 2014 -- Jul 21, 2014
Whitefish, MT
Booking Status:
Additional Departures:
Jul 19, 2014 - Jul 28, 2014

Outside magazine included the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route on its list of “The Best Backcountry Adventure Trips in America.” Since the Canadian extension to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was added in late 2003, the reviews from riders have been absolute raves.

The Canadian portion of the Great Divide features some of the most magnificent and forbidding mountain country you’ll ever see. We’ll ride 343 miles along on the Great Divide, which will take us through the deep woods of northern Montana. Here we’ll skirt the western boundary of spectacular Glacier National Park, alongside the North Fork of the Flathead River, before dropping into our finish in Whitefish.

Start Date: Jul 12, 2014 End Date: Jul 21, 2014
Start Location: Whitefish, MT End Location: Whitefish, MT
Total Days: 10 Riding Days: 8
Rest Days: 2 Miles: 343
Average Daily Mileage: 42.9 Surface: Paved/Dirt
Riders: 12 Airport: Glacier Park International Airport Kalispell, MT
Tour Leader: Tim SanJule , Helen Pilling Meals: Shared cooking
Accommodations: Camping/Indoor Type: Self Contained
Technical Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult Physical Difficulty: Advanced
Level of Support: Self Contained Cost: $1,419.00

Day 1

Whitefish. After meeting in the morning in Whitefish, Montana, we’ll be shuttled northward to the bustling national-park community of Banff, Alberta, the northern terminus of the Canadian section of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the starting point of our ride. Here we’ll have dinner and explore the town. Perhaps you’ll take a gondola ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, or enjoy a pre-adventure soak in the Upper Banff Hot Springs.

Day 2

Banff to Spray Lakes, 18 miles. Our morning ride begins behind the magnificent Banff Springs Hotel, headquarters for the national park of the same name. Considering the hotel’s massive size and its teeming crowds, you may be surprised by how quickly the Spray River Trail leads us into wild and remote country. Soon we’ll intersect with the rough-and-tumble Goat Creek Trail, which will deliver us to our campsite on the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Day 3

Spray Lakes to Boulton Creek, 42 miles. Entering the vast expanse of terrain known as Kananaskis Country, we’ll skirt the northern flank of Mount Shark. This wild inland region is home to plenty of grizzly bears, and other wildlife. We’ll set up camp on Upper Kananaskis Lake.

Day 4

Boulton Creek to Elkford, 58 miles. From spectacular Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, we’ll make the steep climb over Elk Pass and the Continental Divide. Here we’ll also leave Alberta and enter British Columbia. To give you an idea of the ruggedness of this largely road-less region, it’s a six-mile mountain-bike ride from trailhead to trailhead, but to drive from one to the other in a car you’d have to travel almost 200 miles! From Elk Lakes Provincial Park we’ll follow the Elk River downstream on a hard-packed dirt road through 40 miles of wilderness to Elkford. You’ll want to keep a sharp eye out for moose.

Day 5

Elkford to Fernie, 54 miles. From Elkford it’s 54 miles to the resort village of Fernie, following the Elk River, with spectacular sights along the route. Although we’ll be riding on pavement for part of the day, we’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Fernie and the Three Sisters, the center of which is the highest peak in the area.

Day 6

Layover day in Fernie. After several days of off-pavement travel, we’ll take a well-deserved day of rest amid the civilized niceties of Fernie. Once a rough and tumble mining town, Fernie is now known for its skiing and other outdoor pursuits. Take the day to explore the village, tackle some of the area’s singletrack trails, or enjoy a hike in Mount Fernie Provincial Park.

Day 7

Fernie to Baynes Lake, 31 miles. Today we’ll continue through the Elk River Valley on a series of scenic, rural gravel roads to Elko. Here we’ll say goodbye to the river we’ve snaked alongside for several days and head southwest towards Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, where we’ll spend our last night in Canada.

Day 8

Baynes Lake to Grave Creek, 46 miles. Today’s ride will take us through less mountainous countryside, via a series of low-traffic gravel and paved roads winding through the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa, or Kootenay, First Nations People. We’ll earn a startling view of Lake Koocanusa, an immense body of water shared by Canada and the United States. After crossing the international border at Roosville, we’ll continue on through the town of Eureka, where we’ll briefly share a paved section with the Northern Tier route before making the short ascent on gravel to our campsite for the night on Grave Creek.

Day 9

Grave Creek to Polebridge, 47 miles. We’ll start the morning with a gradual climb up and over the Whitefish Divide, after which we’ll be rewarded with stunning views of nearby Glacier National Park and a beautiful descent into the valley of the North Fork of the Flathead River. We’ll overnight in the eclectic town of Polebridge, located just outside the western border of Glacier National Park.

Day 10

Polebridge to Whitefish, 47 miles. If timing permits, perhaps you’ll want to grab a huckleberry bear claw at the historic Polebridge Mercantile before hitting the trail. We’ll start our last day’s ride with a climb back into the Whitefish Range and over Red Meadow pass, zipping past a series of scenic backcountry lakes. Then comes our ultimate reward: a big descent down to Whitefish Lake and into the city proper. After this long and unforgettable ride, you may want to stop and celebrate at the centrally located Great Northern Brewery and perhaps, take a few days to explore Glacier National Park before heading home.

"The leaders were top notch. They made us feel like co-adventurers with them, not customers. Is there a more beautiful place in North America than the Canadian Rockies -- up close and personal?"

2012 Tour Participant

"Is there a more beautiful place in North America than the Canadian Rockies up close and personal?"

2012 Tour Participant

"The group camaraderie really made the trip. We were fairly evenly matched in ability, and everyone was helpful to each other. Despite being of different age groups, from different parts of the country, and having different backgrounds the group dynamics worked well throughout the trip. Of course the leaders were great too."

2012 Tour Participant

"I enjoyed the mix of people and the variable intensity and abilities of the other riders. It was great to see and hear the mix of knowledge about everything "bicycle"."

2012 Tour Participant

Photo by Aaron Teasdale