Beginning this summer the Lake Minnewanka Trail will see a seasonal closure that will affect all mountain bikers. In the last several years there have been a number of incidents on this trail during the summer berry season that have brought people, hikers and bikers, in contact with bears.
Out of a concern for public safety, and in consultation with the BVMBA , Parks Canada has decided to implement a seasonal closure, similar to ones put in place elsewhere in the Park where there has been a history of bear encounters during the berry season. The plan, from Parks Canada and supported by the BVMBA, will mean that this trail is closed to all riders from July 10th to September 15th
We believe that trail closures should be a last resort option and at least, thankfully, this is a seasonal closure so we can all enjoy this gem of a trail in May and June as well as the fall season once the berries have finished. We hope all mountain bikers will support this closure and spread the word to all your friends and fellow riders. We really want to get this information out to all riders before they plan an outing that includes Lake Minnewanka.
During this summer berry period hikers will be allowed to use the trail, but they must be in minimum group sizes of 4 people, at least one of which must be carrying bear spray and hikers will not be allowed to have dogs accompany them. Science has demonstrated that hikers in tight groups of 4 have a good safety record while travelling through bear country. This group of 4 approach has been used successfully in the Moraine Lake and Paradise Valley area near Lake Louise for some ten years or more. Initially it was a minimum group size of 6, but has been successfully reduced to 4 in recent years. Unfortunately for cyclists, travelling in tight groups on a narrow singletrack trail that has many limited sightlines is not a realistic option and has no proven science to support it.
Parks Canada has put a considerable amount of thought into the timeframe that the closure will cover and has based their decision on a lot of video and camera data that they have collected. The buffaloberries(shepherdia) that are the attractant here for bears are a vital food source for them to build up the huge fat reserves they need to successfully go through their long hibernation period.
There are many options for riders that can be a great alternative to Minnewanka. The newly developed and signed trail system on the Tunnel Mountain bench is one example. Perhaps Rundle Riverside or Goat Creek trails could be what you are looking for or one of any number of very excellent singletrack trails in the Canmore area or within Canmore Nordic Centre. In the last two years the Nordic Centre has undertaken an extensive program of trail building and sign installation.
We thank you for your anticipated co-operation and support for what is trying to be accomplished on the Minnewanka Trail. As always, before you plan any ride in Banff National Park, or any other National Park, check the latest trail updates on Parks Canada's website or visit one of their visitor centres just to make sure there is no information with regards to trail conditions, wildlife activity, etc that you need to be aware of before you decide on a trail to use.