Lake Minnewanka Trail Notice - Alberta

Mar 26, 2011
by Tyler Maine  
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.




62 Comments

  • + 62
 Hmmm...I can't help but feel that this is another typical Parks anti-cycling decision. While I totally agree with the objective, I strongly disagree with allowing hikers and excluding cyclists. Quote "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" Could that "no proven science" have anything to do with never actually trying it out? Limited sightlines? I understand rate of speed on a bicycle but the limited sightlines don't disappear from a hikers perspective. Contrary to Parks wisdom, cyclists can be rather organized and cautious in bear country. The motto that the group should be as fast as the slowest rider has always been practiced in groups that I know. Bear bells, hoots 'n hollers, readily accessible bear spray and rider round-ups are routine at Minnewanka and elsewhere. My personal encounters don't suffice as science but I've had more positive bear encounters on bike then on hike (a bigger profile, noisy bike chatter and rapid attention to detail might explain this). Again, I strongly adhere to and agree with any wildlife first principal but allowing one group over another is always controversial. As long as "no proven science" remains without trying the FOR approach with cycling, I have to remain part of an offended user group (yet again).
  • - 1
 Not that I've had any experience with bears, but I imagine a lone cyclist looks quite different to a bear (or any other animal) than a group of hikers. Even if you try very hard to stay bunched together there will be points where people are spread apart - and when you're flying down a trail you don't pay attention to anything other than what's right in front of you. I guess the concern is that a bear will see a single pedaling cyclist and decide to charge. We've all seen those nature videos of bears absolutely mauling deer to pieces from nowhere (and I know deer aren't exactly small or weak). I wouldn't want that happening to me.

That said I don't believe any article that contains phrases such as 'science proves...'. I can believe it has been proved for hikers at least but some references to proper studies would be nice. The plural of anecdote is not data.
  • + 9
 Parks allows cyclists to travel in the groups of 4 on the Moraine Lakes trail - the same treatment as hikers. So why is Minnewanka different? The sightlines on both trails are very similar. This is pretty disappointing. I know there's lots of places to ride but Lk Minnewanka is pretty special. Is there a number to call or give feedback? I know its probably too late but maybe it will help with future decisions
  • + 9
 I can't agree more with dis-allowing dogs on trails. Everytime there is wildlife on/near a trail, dogs aggrivate the situation. I know everybody thinks their dog is special and different (along with their special andunique children) and beautiful and loves them, but that is pure delusion.

Also, there has always been a friction between cyclists and certain hikers who have decided that they are the park/trail stewards. It's just bad timing for cyclists that one of these hikers has enough influence within Parks Canada.

The solution? Make it an election issue! Write your MP and vote for a candidate that supports your values on responsible use.
  • + 2
 nukka, Id rather be on a bike around a bear infested area. Fuck walking around Bears! Bikes go fast and provide a metal barrier in the event of an attack!
  • - 2
 ^ I somewhat agree with that, a fully grown bear can run upwards of 30 mph, you could possibly excel that speed on a bike, especially if you are going down hill. (never been to this trail so i'm not sure if its all downhill or not). And i disagree with not allowing dogs with the hikers. It HAS been proven that once a bear picks up the scent of a dog, it'll will avoid the dog, especially if the bear has cubs. If you run into a male bear though, your f*cked Razz
Bottom line, if anything, bikers should be able to get in over hikers. but the decision is already made, so anything anyone says now won't have much of an effect.
  • + 5
 Another trail closed to bikers eh? how do they figure that a trail used extensively by hikers AND horses ( are the horses to be not allowed anymore ? ) is being eroded and abused anymore by bikers? and how is it not possiblle for bikers to keep to a tight group of 4 ? Do bikers also not at times carry bear spray?

I dont ride minnewanka often, but This is pure Weak.. again trails in the bow valley are messed with, At least they didnt edit the trail as they did with re-claimer, making the kind-of technical features Even more lame and easy, outting jumps where they are un-usablle and borking, and making the final 50 feet of trail an uphill schlog..... I think this is a step backwards for sure. Anybody remember when mount norquay had trails down from the road ( not talking about stony squaw ) ??

Guess, though I live here I will continue to go To B.C. on all weekends for some real riding..... or just simply go back to moose.

Salute
  • + 2
 I thought Parks were embracing mountain biking? Minnewanka was the only reason I go into Banff in the summertime.
  • + 3
 Avery25 - you obviously know nothing about bears if you think you can outrun them on a bike and/or defend yourself with it.
  • + 1
 if going down hill, given the circumstances of being chased by a bear, you have a BETTER chance of outrunning it than if you are on foot. after a short while, the bear would slow down and eventually give up. but yes, I do agree defending yourself with a bike is a little far fetched. Let's face it, if that bear catches you, bike or no bike, your fucked.
  • + 0
 @cosslett. If you were placed at the top of a hill with a bear and they said "GO!" would you rather run away with just the clothes on your back, or ride the f*ck away down a mountain with a helmet and possibly other pads , and with the slight chance that the bear does catch upw ith you, you have a bike to at least act as an improvised barrier? In MY opinion, id go with the bike.
  • + 3
 Man I'm glad I live in New Zealand lol

It's like Canada, but bear free... Eh!
  • + 1
 loll, true, but having bears around isnt bad at all. I've a few encounters with bears, Non of which were life threatening situations given the fact that i was on an atv Razz
they are extremely cool animals, and it's really cool to watch how they behave, especially grizzly's, but man, you do something to piss them off, such as ride over they're berries Razz You are pretty much f*cked.
  • + 1
 Be loud, smell like NOTHING.... stay alive.

bears are occasionally dangerous and mostly harmles. If you smell like food.. you are food.

... Z land has some pretty wild quakes as of late however, Still Looking forward to checking it out. Salute
  • + 56
 my mate's girlfriend is a bear and she tries to stop him from riding all the time.
  • + 3
 Hilarious!
  • + 3
 LOL!!! Salute
  • + 6
 When I first read the title of the article, I figured a Minnewanka was a midget working at a Rub and Tug ...
  • + 24
 I'm glad I have no man eating animals on my trails, apart from haggis.
  • + 11
 yes but if a young or small haggis gets into your shorts and burrows into your undercrackers you are basically fu**ed
  • + 3
 fuckin lol
  • + 5
 Jerome's on the money - Minnewanka is perfect for April and November when everything else is out of condition. There's tons of better rides during the closure period and too damn many hikers anyway. No big loss unless you live in Banff. Better to go along with the closure and try to use that as a bargaining chip to get Parks to loosen up on riding in other spots. I think the future of better riding opportunities in the parks is purpose-built bike trails, even if that sounds like a ganga dream. Sharing with horses and hikers sucks.
  • + 2
 purpose built bike trails already exist in Banff with more on the way - check out the backside of Tunnel Mountain once the snow is gone.. new trails went in last summer... more on the way... future is bright
  • + 5
 sooo I really like the sending the hikers out to battle the bears idea. Then when the bears are all full of unevolved human... time to ride!!!! Gotta give props to canada on there bold resourceful solutions ha
  • + 3
 I love this trail as much as any other local cross country rider (I live in Canmore). And I must confess that I agree and find the Canadian National Parks edicts and policies as arrogant as they come. But, I still feel that we should consider ourselves fortunate to be able to mountain bike in our National Parks at all considering that ALL hiking trails in ALL national parks in the USofA are closed to bikes. No biking there, no-way, no-how. No exceptions. So let's consider ourselves fortunate that we have access to the many national parks trails that we do. Is that glass half full or half empty?.. In our case it's nearly full to the brim with some of the best (legal) mountain biking on the planet so get out there and get some!
  • + 6
 the banff area parks are protected. we are the visitors. lets give the bears this one!
  • + 3
 check out bvmba.org for info on the progress that has been made the past few years in regards to the relationship of the BVMBA and Parks Canada in Banff. It's a long slow progress, but positive things have been happening the last couple of years and sometimes you have to "give a little to get a little". Come ride Star Wars(a mtn. bike specific trail) on tunnel mtn. in banff this summer and see the new good things that are happening in this Nat.l Park that has, historically, not had much to offer for mtn. bikers.
  • + 1
 amen brother.. way too much ignorant whining going on here in my opinion (and experience).
  • + 3
 To me, this is one very small and well rationalized loss in the wake of huge gains that we (mountain bikers) have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy in the Bow Valley and beyond... I hope everyone here whining about this loss puts they same amount of energy into moving biking forward and making a difference in their riding communities
  • + 2
 I like how the photos are of wide open spaces where you could see a bear for more than enough distance to prevent unwanted encounters. Unless the majority of the trail is in densely spaced scrub, I have a hard time believing there's a real problem here. How many incidents have there really been? There must have been quite a few incidents to warrant this kind of action. Closing portions of trails for extended periods is nothing new in the parks though. Every season Jasper closes sections of the Overlander around the Athabasca for elk calving season. Put it this way, if our user group wants to keep mountain bike access in the parks we had better heed the trail closures and police ourselves if we see people violating the rules. There’s a core group of riders in BVMBA doing a lot of work for us as a whole to keep our privileges in the parks. Also, don’t lose sight of all the good things that have been going on in our favour over the years, and more recently work on Tunnel Mountain. Just be glad it isn't a permanent closure because of irresponsible riders. That would be a whole different story all together.
  • + 2
 I live and ride in bear country. Over the years I've had countless encounters with bears. I've riden up on them both on the trail and to the side of trail. Ive seen cubs with mamma, and full grown adults. Some of these have been on blind corners, coming within several feet of the animal. Every single time, the bears turn and flee the imediate vacinity. Never once have i encountered any form of agression. From my personal experiences, i believe cyclists startle and confuse bears. That being said. If hikers are allowed, cyclists most certainly should be as well. There may be no "science" stating it as safe, yet there is also none stating that it isn't.
  • + 1
 grizzlies or black bears? Mose western canadians have had loads and loads of encounters with black bears... at Silverstar and Whistler you can basically bitch slap them on the snout in between railing berms if you really wanted to... Grizzlies on the other hand... different story, never seen one face to face on a bike or a hike... only from the car a couple of times.

There is a history on this specific trail with encounters with aggressive grizzlies including a close call a couple of summers ago
  • + 1
 Black bears mostly.
  • + 2
 this is my favorite XC trail. this is so sad. my plan for this summer season is to actually go biking there as often as i can. well, better than having it closed forever. i think this is a better compromise. i hope you guys try the trail at lake minnewanka. its one of the best XC trails out there.
  • + 2
 oh we know what a wanker is but that's the name of the trail and it is a gem of a trail. I am kind of ok with it as there is too many people anyway and in the Summer I stay away from there as I know I would have to stop every 2 minutes to let hikers go by.
  • + 3
 Not too happy about this one. Ride at your own risk would be a better option. Does this mean that all other hiking trails that used to be bike trails will be open to bikers before July 10th and after sept 15?
  • + 3
 Trail closure ? A bit much..

I agree with Jack and hurtinunit's comments. Bears and berries are everywhere! Look at Whistler, Golden, Panorama. Seriously banning one user group over another is just plain wrong. This is a step backwards !

Riders and hikers must use at their own risk and that is that.
  • + 3
 I'm sure just like Whistler, the bears here are getting too used to people, and then they wander in to town and have to be habituated.(Killed)Bears were there first. Unlike Whistler in Banff they actually do something about the Bear and Human conflicts. Respect nature, there's still hundreds of KM's of trails you can still ride.
  • + 1
 Agreed; however, imagine Parks limiting Valley of the 5 or the Saturday Night Lake Loop (though not quite the same significance as Minnewanka) to just hikers and eliminating cyclists altogether. I'm sure you'd find the logic skewed. Jasper is unique in that indeed there are a lot more KM's to explore. Banff, not so much.
  • + 0
 Not sure how many grizz there are at Whistler.... Black bears whatever, no big deal, grizzlies are freaky shit.
  • + 1
 Oh ya, black bears no big deal. They could kill you pretty easily....
  • + 1
 Yeah but they generally do not. Grizzlies are the king of the woods and they know it. I know I am a lot more scared after seeing a griz then a black bear. Both could mess you up good for sure.
  • + 5
 bikers can ride in groups of 4 or more and carry bear spray. This is BS
  • + 1
 Okay, so they're going to close this trail for a year, and granted I don't think a one year closure is the end of the world, but what are they going to do after that? What sucks is that the article doesn't say anything about a long-term sustainable solution that makes all bikers, hikers, and equestrian users happy. It's almost as though they're setting the biking community up for a bigger disappointment (aka permanently banned for mountain bikers).
  • + 1
 dude, wake up and read the article. it's a seasonal closure, not a one year closure, and this IS the long-term sustainable solution.
  • + 1
 Sorry, you're right on that one I just skimmed it quickly and made a comment. Still, it kind of sucks that they're taking the window you can ride Minnewanka and more or less cutting it in half. Again this is only my opinion, I think a sustainable solution would involve making everyone happy, and to me this doesn't seem like it is from the number of people on here criticizing Parks Canada's decision.
  • + 1
 whistler bears r ur friends! they patrol the trailsSmile many run ins with the bears of whistler. whats the big deal? they should have insurance so if u crash into a bear thats if u r not eatenFrown this is alberta so why is this an issue the bears can have alberta
  • + 0
 Thanks BVMBA for selling us to the wolves. Gutless.

I don't enjoy the Minnewanka ride other than for the scenery, but I don't agree that one user group should be shut out while others aren't. Tunnel Mountain a good alternative? LOL. I guess I'll push up Johnson Canyon with my big bike and give it a good rip down, elbows out. In fact, I'm going to promote it on my popular tourism website, maybe sell tickets.

Total crap.
  • + 0
 Well first of all, I say "Hats off to the BVMBA and Parks Canada" for negotiating a seasonal closure. It can't have been an easy decision...

The BVMBA website says the Minnewanka Trail closure is the result of a number of cyclist/bear encounters over the past years and this adaptive management solution has already proven itself on other popular trails inside of Banff National Park. Agreements reached between Parks Canada and the BVMBA have been bearing fruit for a number of years, so how about we give a little credit to the good folks who are working towards keeping this trail safe for bikers.

If you are familiar with this (amazing) trail, and are aware of the bear activity in the area, then you know that sooner or later one of these encounters could go very, very wrong. Do you honestly think the trail would remain open to bikers after that? I actually see this closure as a way to prevent, rather than react to, a mauling. Cyclists, by virtue of their speed, are far more likely to surprise a bear so the chance of an ugly encounter is greater than that of a hiker. If you've ever been on the wrong end of a charging Grizzly, trust me, you'll never feel the same. It's a terrifying experience. And for all you heroes out there, NO, you'll never out run him, whether on or off the bike, and you're dreaming if you think you will on this trail. If the bear is protecting a kill site, cubs or buried food cache, you're in for some trouble no matter what your group size.

So let's all get with the locals and their program. They're actually doing us a favour by keeping us off a super busy summer trail, during a time when the bears are out there feeding. Let's ride Minnewanka in the spring and fall like the locals do. Meanwhile, there's a ton of great riding elsewhere in the Bow Valley. Get on it.
  • + 1
 i had a bear completely blocking a trail at whistler one of the tighter ones on garbo only thing to do was speed up and hope it runs away so i could get through
  • + 1
 This one time, I was charged by a black bear at Diablo Freeride Park in Vernon, NJ...it was an interesting experience.
  • + 0
 just gotta say, parks you suck, and we will still ride it, its really our choice, and i am not going to stop riding there.. thanx for the concern though
  • + 2
 That's a long closure.
  • + 1
 YAY SCIENCE!
  • + 1
 incredible:O
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