When outsiders think of Canada, it’s images of the rugged Canadian Rockies that often come to mind. Yes, our mountains and national parks here in Western Canada are indeed famous and what better way to view them than from the seat of a motorcycle.
A route that travels through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, taking in three of Canada’s major national parks, is the Golden Triangle Circle Tour. A 320-kilometre ride—or about 640 kilometres if Calgary, Alberta, is your start and finish—the Golden Triangle can easily be completed in one day, but with so much to see and do along the way, you’ll want to take an extra day, or two.
According to the Calgary Chapter of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), the Golden Triangle can be ridden from April to September, but the group recommends checking the weather reports before you head out. Even then, the weather can change in the mountains at a moment’s notice.
The Golden Triangle actually begins at the Castle Mountain Junction, which is 26 kilometres west of Banff. If you rode from Calgary, you’ll have crossed the park gates and paid your entry fee into Banff National Park.
All traffic, except vehicles that won’t be stopping in the park (“stopping” includes bathroom breaks, fuel stops and picture taking) are required to buy a park pass, but the pass is valid for all the other parks and the money goes to keeping them protected.
From the Castle Mountain Junction, most motorcyclists begin the Golden Triangle by turning off Highway 1 and heading south on Highway 93 to Radium Hot Springs. This 103-kilometre stretch of the Triangle probably has the most twisties in it and the highest concentration of wildlife.
The highway climbs, slowly at first, and eventually crosses over the Vermilion Pass and the Continental Divide into B.C. and Kootenay National Park.
You’ll then be treated to views of colossal mountains and sweeping river valleys. The road is broad and spacious for most of the way. Just before the Village of Radium Hot Springs, it narrows, squeezing its way through a sheer rock canyon.
Extended stop: Radium Hot Springs
Depending on when you left, there should be plenty of time for you to find a hotel and plan your evening activity.
If you have the growlies, local bikers recommend the Horsethief Creek Pub & Eatery, and if your legs need a stretch, cruise down Foresters Landing Road and take a walk on the Sinclair Creek Pathway. This three-kilometre trail follow Sinclair Creek and it has several kiosks along the way, outlining points of interest.
No visit to Radium Hot Springs would be complete without a soak in the hot pools. You will have passed the pools on your way into Radium Hot Springs. Open daily, these natural mineral springs are the cure-all for aching muscles.
Radium Hot Springs is ideally situated to offer visitors a wide array of outdoor activities. If you have time, consider swinging a club at the Resort Course or The Springs Course. Both golf courses are at the Radium Resort.
Short stop: Golden
Whether you are needing a break or not, it will be worth your while to explore Golden. In the core, you will discover a variety of trendy pubs, cafés and shops. You can also take a short walk over Canada’s longest freestanding timber frame bridge.
With three mountain ranges, Golden is a mecca for outdoor recreation. From downhill mountain biking at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to ATVing, the town has something for everyone, and you may find your side trip into Golden turning into an overnight stay.
Short stop: Takakkaw Falls
A worthy side trip near Field is Takakkaw Falls. At a height of 380 metres, Takakkaw is one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. To get there, follow the Yoho Valley Road, which is three kilometres east of Field. The road will take you to a parking lot where there is a 2.4-kilometre trail to the falls.
Once you’re back on the Trans-Canada, it will be about half an hour to Lake Louise.
Short stop: Lake Louise
Despite the crowds, Lake Louise is a must-see for any traveller. Overlooking the emerald waters of the lake is the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Most visitors are content with walking around the lake or canoeing it, but if you are feeling a bit adventurous, consider hiking one of the many alpine trails or even taking a guided horseback ride.
From Lake Louise, you can either continue along the Trans-Canada or take Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway. This secondary highway is a little twistier and may be quieter than the Trans-Canada. It’s not uncommon to see black bears along the way. A park pass is required for the Bow Valley Parkway, whether you are stopping or not.
The Bow Valley Parkway reconnects with the Trans-Canada just before Banff, taking you back into Calgary, thus completing your journey along the Golden Triangle.
Bob Van Nes, who is the ride co-ordinator for the GWRRA—Calgary Chapter, has ridden the Golden Triangle every year for the past 25 years. He said spring and fall are the best times to ride the loop, and that Highway 93 between Castle Mountain Junction and Radium Hot Springs is probably the best section.
“Along Highway 93 there are a number of places to stop and take in the scenery,” he said, and later added, “I like to put the motorcycle on cruise control . . . and enjoy the ride.”
Event >> Horsethief Hideout Memorial Rally
This event takes place annually on a privately owned ranch just outside of Invermere—which is about 15 minutes south of Radium Hot Springs. Activities featured include a golf tournament, live bands, food and merchandise vendors, a poker run and biker games. Visit the event website for this year's dates.