Motorcycle Road Trip In The Canadian Rockies

Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Bow Lake & Glacier
Canada

This summer I rented a Harley Davidson motorcycle for a Canadian Rockies road trip through beautiful national parks in both Alberta and British Columbia. The area is full of scenic landscapes and diverse wildlife.

The motorcycle road trip began in Calgary. I was able to rent a Harley online before arriving in Canada, picking out a black 2013 Street Glide I nicknamed “Black Betty”.

At 1600 cc’s, she is a beast. To practice handling her on the road, I initially avoided the Trans-Canada Highway, enjoying the scenic and winding route 1A West towards Canmore.

Banff National Park was next, motoring North along the famous Icefields Parkway. Passing pristine turquoise blue lakes and ancient snow-covered glaciers along the way. Deer and elk were plentiful on the sides of the road.

After slowly making my way to the town of Jasper enjoying the epic views and cold fresh air whipping past, I grabbed a bite to eat in town, and found a nearby Hosteling International hostel to spend the night.

Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Bull Elk Sighting
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Red Footbridge in Kootenay National Park
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Saskatchewan Glacier
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Climbing Parker Ridge
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Downtown Banff
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Enjoying Back Roads in the Canadian Rockies

The Golden Triangle

My motorcycle adventure through the Rockies continued when I reversed direction and sped back through Icefields Parkway with completely different views. Stopping for a few hours to stretch my legs with a hike to the very top of Parker Ridge, overlooking snow-covered Mt. Athabasca. The slow-moving and impressive Saskatchewan Glacier carving its way into the valley below.

Next it was on to the Golden Triangle, a scenic motorcycle route that takes you into 3 different national parks: Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay. Right in the middle of the action is the small town of Golden, British Columbia. It’s not nearly as touristy as Banff, costs a lot less, and is surrounded by 5 different national parks.

Following the stop-off in Golden, Black Betty and I proceeded South down route 95 to Radium Hot Springs, turning East into Kootenay National Park. The road slices right into Sinclair Canyon before winding its way through the wilderness along the ice-cold Kootenay river. It was the perfect road to maneuver my powerful Street Glide through the curves.

I finished the Golden Triangle route in Banff before heading back to Calgary to drop the bike off and complete my Harley Davidson motorcycle road trip through some of Canada’s greatest national parks. It was one hell of an adventure!

SEE ALSO: Vancouver Island, Canada Road Trip

Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Icefields Parkway Ride
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Mountains of Banff National Park
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Entrance to Kootenay National Park
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Cruising the Trans-Canada Highway
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Lake Moraine in Banff
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Funny Pika Rodents
Motorcycle Road Trip Canada
Canadian Pacific Railroad

READ NEXT: Downhill Mountain Biking At Kicking Horse

Travel Planning Resources for Canada

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Ever been on a motorcycle road trip before?

Harley Davidson

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Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (71)

  1. Hi MAtt, love your story, must have been a great ride. any advice on hotels along the way, my plan for a ride in late August is from Seattle-VC-Jasper-Lake Louise- back thru the Rockies to Seattle . just finished the South Island of New Zealand on Harley Ultra Classic!

  2. Hi!! Im planning a cycle roadtrip from Calgari-Banff-Jasper. My dates are 1 sept to 7 sept. Do you recomend to do the roadtrip in cycle or in car because of the weather. I really want to make it on cycle but I dont know if its going to be too cold. Thanks for your help.

  3. Wow! That West Coast scenery is incredible!! Here in Eastern Canada we’ve got the lakes and forests, but wow are those mountains that are beautiful out there! I bet those roads were perfect for riding, especially with that big bike of yours. Thanks for the ride report, Matt! Now I’m going to start planning my trip to the West Coast with my bike!

  4. Matthew! This is great. I was just up in Banff, Jasper, & Yoho in October. I am wondering how many hours of riding this loop was? My drive from Calgary up to the parks seemed like quite a haul (potentially because of the cooler season). Does the golden triangle loop require passes to each of the parks?

  5. Great to see you hit all the best spots in the Rockies and got to see some wildlife! Golden really is a hidden gem, especially when you want to get away from all the tourists. Your pictures are so beautiful and really captured Canada’s epic scenery!

  6. Great article :) I’m off to Canada next week for a three week road trip around the rockies and the west coast. I also travelled in South Africa last year. I’ll also write-up my Canada trip when I get back in early September.

  7. Extraordinary photographs. Motorcycling through Canada appears like a wonderful thought, that I to must success sometime in the future!

  8. Your photographs are dynamite!

    The scenes, the hues, the surfaces… it beyond any doubt makes me have a craving for going by Canada!

  9. Pleasant ride! We purchased a 2013 Honda Forza here in Chiang Mai and are pumped to take it out on a voyage through Northern Thailand in Nov or Dec. Lovely photographs!

  10. Sounds and looks like you had an amazing Canadian Rockies Motorcycle ride! I am glad the weather was so sunny and clear for you. It can me so brutal at times. Beautiful pictures. I am leading a tour in August of this year. I can’t wait to go!

  11. Hi Matt. I am planning a four-six month visit to Canada from my home in NSW, Australia and I want to incorporate a good, long bike road trip while I’m there. Yours was the first post I clicked on after Googling what I wanted to do and I was super-stoked to read/view your photo-essay. I ride a BMW F700GS & a Suzuki V-Strom 650 here and was hoping to track down something similar to hire/buy while I’m over there. Thanks again :-)

    • Heya Jodie, we are from NZ and did 1/2 of a 3 week trip from SF up to Edmonton, via Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay Pass, Calgary and Drumheller on a hired BMW. Was fabulous and the riding was amazing..we kept off main highways as much as possible. Unfortunately I took ill and ended up in hospital so we are heading back next Sept to finish the trip doing BC over a couple of weeks.

    • Don’t know if you’ve made the trip yet, but if you want to rent, call Eagle rider. Lots of bikes good people. I’ll be renting in Seattle in July and doing BC
      I am pumped.
      John

  12. Hi Matt, those photos are amazing!! I saw your reply to another question about your camera, but had another question regarding it. You said you use an Olumpus camera…did you further edit these pictures with software? I only ask because the photos are incredible and I would love to know how to get similar quality. Thanks!

    • Yes I process all my photos using a combination of Lightroom & Photoshop. One of these days I’ll explain how I do it!

  13. Hi Matt,

    I love your ride report! Great photos and some good info. What time of year did you decide to take your trip? My boyfriend and I are riding a similar trip and are going late May into June and aren’t sure if the roads will be open.

    Thanks!

  14. Hi Matt,

    I forgot to ask what month you did your trip? What month would you recommend? I would like it to be as your photos show, snow covered mountains yet blue skies (hopefully).

    Cheers

  15. Hi Matt,

    Your story and photos have gone a long way in convincing my friends to join me on a Harley adventure through the Canadian Rockies. I live in Cairns (North East Australia). The minimum temperature in winter is around 25 degrees Celsius and obviously never see snow. Although riding here is great the Canadian Rockies has been a life long dream. A dream I will make true in 2017, the only thing is how many mates will come with me. Cheers mate and keep up the good work.

    • Hi Jon. Just read your post. I’m in the US (Idaho) and I’m making this run in Aug 2017. I have several friends in NSW who will be flying over to ride it as well. In fact, they hosted us in Oz in January 2016. Road all around the southern coast and into the Blue Mtns. Even flew to Cairns and the reef. Spectacular. When are you planning your ride? If there is anything I can do to help, let me know. My email is [email protected] Hope to hear from you. Maybe even ride! Cheers.

  16. That looks like a great trip. Thanks for posting it. Like others, I’ve wanted to do the Canadian Rockies for decades. I’ll be traveling to the Seattle area, from Florida, this summer (2015) for a high school reunion. Finally, I’m gonna run the Canadian Rockies. In my case, I’ll be riding a GoldWing and hope to be camping there too.

    Thanks for posting all those great pictures.

    Ride Safe
    goldwingrgreg

  17. Hi Matt,

    I am a firefighter from NY who is retiring this month. I am planning a trip to Alaska next year July 2015. I would like to do the Canadian Rockies on a Harley a couple of days before my trip. Any advise/ help that you could give me would be great. Where should I stay – where can I rent my bike – how many miles a day is good – I will be staying in one hotel because I will have my luggage for my trip to Alaska.

    • Hi Dean, I rented my Harley from http://www.harleydavidsonofcalgary.ca/

      There are plenty of cheap motels along the way. I don’t remember the names of the places I stayed at — nothing fancy. As for how long to ride each day, again that totally depends. I stopped a lot for photography, often for an hour or more each time. Just pull up your proposed route on Google Maps, and add a few hours for stops.

  18. Wow, this looks like an amazing trip. My father loves his motorcycle and has taught me to ride. We could definitely do something like this together. The pictures look incredible. Great post, thank you for sharing!
    -Sara

    • There is something very liberating about a motorcycle road trip, especially with scenery like this around you.

  19. I’ve done a lot of long distance riding including a 30 day, 22 state cross country ride with my son before he left for college! I enjoyed your story and am planing to ride the Rockies this summer, thanks for sharing!

  20. Hey Matthew, just wanted to say that I thought your post here was more than worthy of winning the hostelworld award. It was the one I voted for because it was most definitely the best. I believe the goal of a great photo essay is to inspire and sew seeds. After seeing your post, I fell in love withe the idea of the Rockies on bike. Your photos are amazing, creative and they draw you into the experience. Kudos.

  21. Wow!! The landscapes are so incredibly beautiful, I can’t wait for the chance to visit!! Amazing photos as always Matt!! :)

  22. Those photos look amazing. And so does the weather. Iv always wanted to see those lakes but maybe learning to ride a motorbike and doing it that way looks like the best.

  23. You never let me down with your awesome pictures.

    The thing I love most about going that far out into nothingness is the open windy roads. Also, good choice on the Harley.

  24. UNBELIEVABLE pictures! Could you PLEASE tell me what type of equipment you use?! I’m on the hunt for a new camera and was wondering whether you used the Go Pro HERO here? Seems to be the case in the “selfie” from your motorcycle ;D

    -Maria Alexandra

    • Thanks Maria! Most of these were actually shot with the Olympus OMD EM5. There are a few GoPro shots from the bike though.

  25. That last picture is fantastic! I’ve always been really inspired by your photography. This whole post makes me miss the Rockies, even though it’s only been 2 weeks since I was there.

  26. What a journey. Your photos are incredible. When we were completing our USA road trip we played around with the idea of heading north and driving this road as well, but it didn’t make the cut. Next time!

  27. Your images are breathtakingly amazing! Incredible journey. This has been a dream to do. Just began my motorbike license. ha ha ha first step

  28. Nice ride! We bought a 2013 Honda Forza here in Chiang Mai and are pumped to take it out on a tour of Northern Thailand in Nov or Dec. Beautiful photos!

  29. Wow this looks amazing! My husband and I are driving around the US at the moment but we often see people on motorbikes and it looks like fun. Next time we might have to get a motorbike instead!

  30. Epic road trip Matt! I’m from BC but haven’t lived there for years; it’s great to see snippets of home from your creative eye.

    • Thanks Sam. I was very impressed at all that BC has to offer. Now I need to return during the winter to sample some of it’s world-famous snow…

  31. Amazing breathtaking shots of the open road, your harley, and Canadian national parks. Nice to see some scenic outdoor beauty in North America that is not shut down due to government incompetence.

    • Couldn’t have asked for better weather. Warm during the day, cold at night. Plenty of sunshine to light up those impressive mountain peaks.

  32. Wow Matt, you sure managed to get some great, iconic, Canadian photos! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven along that road looking for elk and have never seen a single one!! Beautiful!

    • There was a female and baby with it too. Was psyched to see them all in one place. Early morning seemed to be the best time, but it was freezing on the motorcycle!