May 26, 2021
I originally got the idea to cycle the Red Rock Parkway because Waterton Lakes National Park used to close it to car traffic one half day a week. It is now closed to car traffic from October 31 to May 1. Not a big window for cyclists, but it is possible to have snow free days during this time.
I cycled the Parkway in late May, and barely saw any cars. However, it was mid-week, and I started around 10:30 am, so before most traffic gets going. The road has zero shoulders. While it’s not overly twisty, the scenery and wildlife viewing potential may be distracting for drivers.
I felt like this road had a bit of an optical illusion when cycling north towards Red Rock Canyon. While the road is definitely gaining elevation from Highway 5 to Red Rock Canyon, the road itself always looked like it was going downhill. You’ll see this in a few of my photos. I was working my butt off going up all these hills, but I kept thinking that if this way was hard, I was going to get killed on the way back. While there are still hills on the way back, the general downward trend made the return trip faster and more enjoyable.
Bike, helmet, water bottle, snacks, and layers depending on the time of year. Wear bright colours. I used a road bike, but as it’s a short ride (29 km return), a hybrid or mountain bike will suffice.
I highly recommend using a high quality, bright red tail light on your bike. While cars should be looking out for riders, I always try to give myself a fighting chance by being as visible as possible.
Start in either Waterton Town or at the Red Rock Parkway gates. Cycle 15 km to the end at Red Rock Canyon. Return the same way.
Parking and Trail Head
If starting from Waterton townsite, bike east towards Red Rock Parkway on the separate paved Kootenai Brown pathway that parallels Highway 5. Add an extra 4 km to the distance each way.
If starting from the Red Rock Parkway, park in the small parking lot at the gate. The distances for this trip report begin at the gates. If you start at the gates, be prepared for a climb for the first 1.5 km or so.
Once on the Red Rock Parkway, we just keep cycling. The mountain views are truly stunning as the classic Waterton ‘prairie meets mountains” landscape unfolded before us.
There is a campground half way to Red Rock Canyon, plus horse riding, so watch for vehicles pulling trailers.
After cycling for just over an hour, we arrived at Red Rock Canyon Day Use area. There are picnic tables, and an indoor washroom. Mid-week and early season, we had it all to ourselves.
We had visited Red Rock Canyon on an earlier trip, and it’s well worth it to explore this area. It’s a short interpretive walk up both sides of the canyon. Click here for more details on Red Rock Canyon.
Red Rock Parkway Return
The sun finally decided to come out when we cycled back. After some cajoling, I convinced Mike to stop and enjoy one of the side streams. At the base of Mount Galwey is the aptly named Coppermine Creek.
The trip back to the Parkway gates was definitely downhill, as we only took 45 minutes to return, and that included the side trip to Coppermine Creek.
Watch for Wildlife
We saw onecoyote and a herd of Bighorn Sheep. While we didn’t see any bears, be aware that Waterton is crawling with them. The population might have been knocked back after the 2017 wild fires, but in 2016, there were an estimated 67 resident bears, and 172 grizzlies that use this area.
Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: May 26, 2021
Group: Two (Alisen and Mike)
Distance: 28.66 km
Elevation: 419 m (1,383′)
Time: 1 hours 47 minutes (includes breaks)