Canmore to Banff via Rundle Riverside

Mount Cascade from the Bow River PC: Canmore Runner

I am the king of the hiatus! I make these pronouncements about being back – I literally said, “and we’re back” and then i’m gone again for a period of months. This time around, it can be explained in part by the fact that I haven’t been up to anything new on the trail running front. I pounded up and down the Powerline trail for much of winter and spring, gaining the double-edged Strava “local legend” title in the process – an accolade which of course accentuates the pounding. But the Powerline is not the most thrilling of trails to run, let alone write about.

I’m also still beset with this heightened anxiety about bears which manifests in a sensible tendency to not run alone, especially somewhere new. And not without reason. Ms Canmore Runner and I ran straight into a, luckily uninterested, grizzly on the Loki trail in April.

All that to say, I was very pleased when my good friend and ace local photographer Simon Lee suggested a Saturday morning jaunt from Canmore to Banff along the Rundle Riverside Trail, as part of his quest to get fit for this year’s TransRockies. I wasn’t going to pass that up. And we were joined by the always modest, unassuming and yet powerful Bob Graham Round alumni Jennifer Shutt and Tom the border collie – on the condition that they agreed to run slowly.

We started the run at ArtsPlace in the centre of Canmore and finished at the Banff Avenue Bridge which made for a 23km run with around 770m of elevation gain which looks like this on Strava:

The most challenging part of the route was the 102m climb up to the Canmore Nordic Centre from the Bow River (via the steps next to the TransAlta plant and the Legacy Trail extension). At the Nordic Centre we picked up the Banff Trail and followed this for approximately 5km until we reached the boundary with Banff National Park and the start of the Rundle Riverside Trail.

At the Park boundary PC: Canmore Runner

You could of course start at the Nordic Centre and save yourself 3km.

This is one of those run’s that get more interesting as it goes on. Personally, I find the Banff Trail short on thrills – a gentle, easy run along a wide trail in the trees, albeit with some great views of Mount Rundle from the Mine Meadow.

Once you pick up the Rundle Riverside trail, it’s essentially single track for the next 8km. It begins with a great little descent followed by a more undulating and runnable trail all the way to the Banff Springs Golf Course.

Rundle Riverside trail PC: Canmore Runner

But as nice as it would be to slip into autopilot and flow along the Riverside trail, it’s also a root strewn hell for the first few kilometres. The good news is that you’re not missing much in terms of views as you concentrate on avoiding roots and rolling an ankle. It’s not until around the 14km mark that the views start to come with occasional glimpses of Mount Rundle to the left…

Mount Rundle PC: Canmore Runner

…and the Bow River to the right. The views of the latter become all the more impressive the further you go:

Bow River PC: Canmore Runner
Mount Cascade and the Bow River PC: Canmore Runner

And then, some 17km in overall, you pop out onto the Banff Springs Golf Course road. I always find the sudden transition from trail to road to be quite jarring and this was no exception, not least because it seems to go on forever…

Pavement to Banff PC: Canmore Runner

But, it’s actually only about 4km of pavement before you are rewarded with the always spectacular Bow Falls:

Bow Falls PC: Canmore Runner

Follow the trail along the bank of the Bow River to the pedestrian bridge which we crossed and then headed along the opposite bank to the until the Banff Avenue Bridge and you are done.

And then you can either do what we did and dash to catch the Roam bus back to Canmore; or, I would advise, grab yourself a nice flat white at Wildflower or Whitebark and feel good about the fact that you’ve just run from Canmore to Banff.