"What happened to the falls? And where are all the tourists?" Takakkaw Falls in late October following the closure of the Yoho Valley Road.

“What happened to the falls? And where are all the tourists?” Takakkaw Falls in late October following the closure of the Yoho Valley Road.

As happens every year following the Thanksgiving weekend, Parks Canada has closed all the side roads in Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks for the season. The week or two following these closures is always bittersweet—sad to see the end of summer but a great time to bike dry, traffic-free roads to some of the best hiking areas in the Mountain Parks.

There is a great weather forecast for the coming weekend, but expect to encounter a dusting of snow above 2000 m. Following is a list of traffic-free roads that can be biked to nearly deserted trails:

BANFF
Moraine Lake Road—12.5 km. Access to the Paradise Valley trailhead (2.5 km) and all the outstanding hiking trails in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. But you should take at least three people with you if you plan on hiking since the “Group-of-4” requirement is still in effect for this grizzly-inhabited area.

YOHO
Yoho Valley Road—13 km. A great bike ride to a much-diminished Takakkaw Falls. And if you still have energy left after the fairly strenuous approach, you can hike up the Yoho Valley trail towards Laughing and Twin Falls. Camping is available at the Takakkaw Falls walk-in campground for those with a backcountry permit.

JASPER
Cavell Road—14.5 km. Even if you don’t hike up into the snow-dusted Cavell Meadows, Cavell Pond and the dramatic north face of Mount Edith Cavell are well worth the steady uphill pump.

Miette Hot Springs Road—17 km. The 4-km Sulphur Skyline trail is the primary attraction at the end of this road. But since it’s a long ride, you might want to limit your walking to the short 0.6-km trail leading past the old Aquacourt to the Miette Hot Springs source pool.

Geraldine Lakes Road—5.5 km. This gravel road leads to the 5-km Geraldine Lakes trail (only 1.8 km to Lower Geraldine Lake). This is a road that might appeal to mountain bikers who will enjoy the rougher track.

While round-trip distances on these roads might seem a bit intimidating, you will enjoy speedy downhill runs at day’s end. But make sure to have bike headlights or headlamps in case you are overtaken by darkness, which occurs around 7 pm at this time of year.

Photo by Brian Patton