One of the most incredible things about living in or near the mountains is the multitude of ways to get out and enjoy nature. Fat tire biking is a new activity for us, but we were instantly hooked. Winter can feel free to stick around while we have fun fat biking in Banff and area!
A few years ago, on a whim I signed up for a half day clinic on fat biking in Canmore. With zero experience fat biking, it looked like a fun thing to do in the winter. Fat biking in Canmore on that chilly winter day was such a blast, I’ve wanted my own fat bike ever since!
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Whether you are brand new to fat biking or have been doing it for several years, we hope that you’ll find this page to be a good resource for fat biking in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis. Bookmark this page, as we will keep it updated as we continue to explore the fat biking trails in Banff National Park and area.
Be careful, you just might find yourself loving winter!
Fat Biking Banff, Canmore & Kananaskis
- Fat Biking Trails
- What to Bring for Fat Biking in Banff, Canmore or Kananaskis
- What to Wear for Fat Biking in Banff
- Fat Tire Biking Etiquette
- Where to Rent a Fat Bike
- Staying Safe While Fat Biking in Banff
Fat Biking Trails
If there’s one thing that’s become very apparent about fat biking, it’s that the conditions are key. A day with hard packed snow will have you begging to get out fat biking again. Soft snow is slow and you might find yourself spending more time off your bike than on your bike. For the best experience fat biking in Banff and area, don’t plan on going right after a large snowfall. Conditions are best when the snow is hard packed.
Don’t expect riding a fat bike to be the same as biking in the summer. It’s a lot of work pedaling a fat bike up a hill, plus you have snow to contend with. If it’s soft packed you won’t get as much traction and you might find yourself pushing your bike up short, steep hills.
If you want a hard work out, by all means, be the first person out breaking the trail for the rest of us. For beginners, you’ll find it very difficult and it will likely end in frustration. Aim for hard packed fat bike trails and even groomed trails. There are plenty of trails that are hard packed by hikers and snowshoers.
Where to find fat biking trails? Your options for fat biking trails are bike trails, wide hiking trails, pathways and groomed trails.
Please respect all signs, especially those for cross country ski trails that are not shared trails.
Fat Biking in Banff
For an easy fat bike around Banff start with Fenland Trail and bike along Vermilion Lakes Road. For a longer ride, the Spray River East Trail is 12 km out and back. It gets packed down by snowshoers and other fat bikers.
For more of a challenge, fat bike the Tunnel Bench Loop trails.
Other fat biking trails in Banff National Park that aren’t in the town of Banff include shared trails like Healy Creek, Moraine Lake Road or the Great Divide. Keep in mind that these trails are shared with cross country skiers, so know the fat biking etiquette before you go and never ride in or over the ski tracks.
Fat Tire Biking Tour in Banff
If you are brand new to fat biking, we recommend doing a local tour with a guide who can give tips on riding in the snow and the best trails for your skill level. In Banff, we recommend the BikEscape Fat Bike Tour which will take you to all the highlights around the Banff Townsite. If you love touring on bikes, you’ll love this fat biking tour just as much!
Disclaimer: Clare at BikEscape is my go-to mountain biking person. Not only is she passionate about biking, she’s extremely knowledgeable about biking and the Banff area. My kids have attended her summer bike camps and I’ve received amazing tips from her through group rides (both mountain biking and fat biking). I’ve also had a sneak peek of her fat biking tour around Banff, which was a super fun outing!
Fat Biking in Canmore
There are plenty of trail options for Canmore fat biking to suit any skill level.
For easy trails in Canmore, start along the Bow River Pathways near the Engine Bridge. These pathways go all the way up to the Three Sisters Neighborhood.
The trail along the Rundle Forebay Reservoir in Canmore gets plenty of foot traffic and this trail will take you along the Powerline back to the Three Sisters. Alternatively, you can start in Three Sisters and ride to the Canmore Reservoir and back.
The Quarry Lake area has plenty of hard packed trails to follow. The Mosquito Bite trail is a single track trail that’s fun to ride in the winter.
Other single track trails in Canmore that are frequented by fat bikers are the Horseshoe Loop, the Highline, Guy Lafleur and Loki’s. Many of these get a combo of bike and foot traffic so they should be packed down.
Canmore Nordic Centre has fat biking trails that get groomed and you can rent a fat bike at Trail Sports right at the Nordic Centre. If you are a frequent rider at the Nordic Centre in the summer, you’ll find yourself on familiar trails like EKG, Odyssey, and Long Road to Ruin.
Fat Biking in Kananaskis
Many of the shared winter trails in Kananaskis make for good fat biking trails, for example the popular snowshoe trails that are packed down by snowshoers. From the Kananaskis Village, the Ribbon Creek snowshoe trail and Troll Falls trails can be explored by fat bike.
The Bill Milne paved trail that gets groomed and trackset is another shared trail that can be ridden by fat bike.
There are other shared snowshoe trails around Kananaskis Village that can be fat biked as well.
Further along in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, the High Rockies Trail is a great option for fat biking. It also connects many of the easy snowshoe trails in Kananaskis like Penstock, Sawmill, Hogarth Lakes and the Lower Kananaskis Lake snowshoe.
In Spray Valley Provincial Park, the Watridge Lake winter trail is a groomed ski trail that is shared with fat bikers, hikers and snowshoers. You can bike this trail to Watridge Lake then park your bike to hike up to Karst Spring.
West Bragg Creek trails are very popular for winter biking and the trails are groomed for fat biking. There are fat biking trails in West Bragg Creek for every skill level. If you frequent those trails, please consider a donation to support the work they do on those trails!
What to Bring for Fat Biking in Banff, Canmore or Kananaskis
Most important is the tires on your fat bike. Our winters with chinook winds cause a lot of freezing and thawing resulting in patches of ice on the trails. Studded tires for icy trails are a must as you never know when you’ll encounter patches of ice.
If you are new to fat bike riding in the winter, you’ll want to go to extra lengths to keep your hands and feet warm. I rarely struggle with cold toes, except when I’m fat biking. Especially if I’ve done a hard climb that results in sweaty feet.
Toe warmers and pogies are an absolute must. Toe warmers have made a huge difference for my toes while being out on my fattie. Pogies do an incredible job at keeping hands warm. Bulky gloves and mitts are much harder to bike in.
What the heck are pogies? They are neoprene pockets that fit over your handlebars cover your grips, brake levers and shifters. They offer protection from the wind and snow, keeping hands warm while riding. There are also varieties available for extreme cold like these.
Here is what we recommend you bring when fat biking in Banff and area. Adjust it based on the length of your planned outing.
- Bear Spray
- Snacks (high energy that won’t freeze)
- First aid kit
- Bike pump / repair kit
- Hand and toe warmers
- Any extra winter survival gear – depending on length of outing
- Also pack an extra warmth layer, extra hand warmers and toe warmers
What to Wear for Fat Biking in Banff
One of the things I struggle with most is what to wear on each fat bike outing, but I’m starting to figure it out.
Wear Layers: Layers are key, as you’ll be removing and adding layers depending on how difficult of a trail you are on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll start generating heat on a climb. Try not to get too sweaty as you’ll cool down fast on the downhill! You may need to readjust your layers as you go. Learn how to properly dress in layers.
Protect Your Head: For my head, I typically wear my bike helmet and a low profile toque or buff is enough to keep my ears warm. If it’s extra cold out (-10decC or below), I’ll consider wearing my ski helmet instead.
Pogies for Hands: I have these pogies which are good enough in almost all the temperatures I’ve fat biked in. I’ll typically wear either my bike gloves or a thin pair of fleece gloves underneath. I’ll pack an extra pair of warmer gloves for stops or in case my hands get too cold.
Winter Boots: For my feet, I wear my winter boots with a pair of wool socks. I add on toe warmers before I leave the house, because my toes seem to get cold regardless of the temperature.
Shell Pants for Legs: For pants, a pair of soft shell pants that can offer some protection against the wind and snow but still allow easy movement.
Shell Jacket and Mid-Layer: For my top, I start with a base layer. I’ll add a fleece and a soft shell jacket on most days. If it’s really cold, I’ll opt for a down mid-layer instead. On warmer days, I might just throw on my shell jacket. I also adjust this based on which trail I’m heading out on and the temperature. I always check the wind chill as well.
Fat Tire Biking Etiquette
As with most outdoor activities, fat biking has it’s own set of etiquette rules. A lot of it is common sense, like yielding to other users on the trail and staying off any cross-country ski trails.
There’s definitely a debate about tire size and what is allowed in the winter. Skinny tires can leave ruts that will be there for the foreseeable future. If you are on a groomed fat bike trail, you’ll be expected to use a fat bike with tires over 3.8 inches wide and keep your tire pressure below 10psi.
If you want to read more on tire pressure, this post has good info on fat biking tire pressure.
When it gets warm out, even fat tires will leave ruts. If you find you are sinking more than 2.5 cm, it’s best to leave fat biking for another day.
Besides that, respect the work the groomers have put in and stay on designated trails. If the trail is only open to cross-country skiers, move on to another trail.
Hardtail Canada has some great tips on fat biking etiquette and how to be a good ambassador for this sport.
Where to Rent a Fat Bike
Fat Bike Rentals Canmore
Fat Bike Rentals Banff
Fat Bike Rentals in Lake Louise
Fat Bike Rentals Kananaskis
Staying Safe While Fat Biking in Banff
As with many outdoor winter activities, it’s important to take a few extra steps to ensure you return home safely.
- Plan Ahead: First and foremost, always know the terrain you are entering and avoid avalanche terrain if you aren’t trained or prepared. Check avalanche and trail reports before heading out.
- Download Maps: Get familiar with the trail you plan on riding using an app like Trailforks. Download maps before you go as you may not have cell coverage.
- Ride in Groups: Ride with someone else and always make plenty of noise. Carry bear spray in case of any animal encounters. If you do go out alone, let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be expected back.
- Check the Weather: Check the weather forecast and turn back if the weather starts to change. Make sure you have enough daylight time to make your return trip. It gets dark very early in the winter in the mountains.
- Pack Extras: Pack extra layers, hand/toe warmers and extra snacks. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a headlamp and even a power bank.
Love Fat Biking in Banff, Canmore or Kananaskis?
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