The 80-kilometre High Rockies Trail, in the works for years in Kananaskis County, is almost ready for families and experienced mountain bikers.
For this week's Outdoor Report, the Calgary Eyeopener's Paul Karchut hopped on his mountain bike to check out the final leg.
The trail is a missing link to the Trans Canada (or the Great Trail, as it's been renamed) between Banff and Fernie, B.C. It's designed not just for mountain bikers but also hikers and trail runners — and even for winter use.
The trail is friendly for beginner to intermediate bikers and also has great flow if you're more advanced.
The 80-kilometre stretch covers pretty challenging terrain with high run-off creeks to cross, avalanche terrain and wildlife corridors.
That's a big reason why this section hasn't been done before.
The Outdoor Report featured the first 40 km from Canmore to the Buller Pass last year. Now, Karchut has explored the section from Buller Pass to Elk Pass.
'Definitely my baby'
It was 34 C the day Karchut took a ride — a hot day made harder by the fact his guide once raced on the World Cup Circuit. Matt Hadley ranked 4th in Canada for mountain biking at one time.
Hadley also designed and oversaw construction of this project, working as a trails technologist with the company hired to build the High Rockies.
"Definitely a lot of blood and sweat has gone into this over the last four years, really, with all the design work and trumping through the woods and working with contractors and now riding it," Hadley said.
"It's definitely my baby in terms of putting so much time into it."
And he knows the trail well, having hiked about 2,000 kilometres while bushwhacking. He knows the twists, turns and panoramic views intimately.
The grand opening is scheduled for the end of August, and it's best to wait until then to try this trail section as a few parts are under construction.
When it is officially open, it'll include a suspension bridge to go over Black Shell Creek. Other bridges go over waterfalls.
The bridges, waterfalls and viewpoints make this trail great for family hikes because you're getting rewards throughout the trip. You're also never far from the road with access points every five kilometres or so.
It makes for a rare example of a trail that can be all things to all people, from young kids going for a hike to hard-core, long-distance mountain bikers.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener
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