Cycling Highwood Pass - Canada's Highest Paved Highway


Highwood Pass, on Alberta highway 40 is located deep in Kananaskis Country about 60 minutes south of the TransCanada Highway. It takes about an hour from Grandview Chalet's B&B in Canmore to the start.

Since it is a sensitive wildlife area, it's closed to car traffic from mid December until June 15 each year. There is a short period of time when you can cycle within the closed portion without pesky cars after the snow melts away in the spring (about June). The length of the closed area is some 54 km, with the big pass closer to the north end. There are many commercial tour groups cycling over the pass through the summer, but in this case, it's mostly locals with several cycling clubs and race clubs mixed in with recreational riders on whatever bikes (one on a big tricycle!). Some ride from gate to gate and back for maximum length (108 km). Today we parked on the north end of the closure, road up to the pass (500m), over the top, and did a speed descent to Mist Creek picnic area, and then climbed back up and over for a total of 70km (43 miles), and some 1200m of vertical (3937 ft).

The previous day, it had poured rain in Canmore (overdue), leaving snow in the higher elevations. By the time we got to the start, it was getting very pleasant, and the snows had retreated to leave absolutely beautiful scenery. There were hundreds of riders on this Sunday, but all spread out on a smooth swept highway in a happy mood. The grizzly's must have known this was going to be a bit crazy, so they were discretely somewhere else. But we did see some nice young big horn sheep lambs with their respective moms. The weather threw some winds at us, but they seemed to be swirling through the valley, and not too bothersome. People milled about at the top, getting trophy pictures of the sign highlighting the achievement, and then descending in either direction at various speeds depending on the necessary amount required to give you a big rush! Not too hard to hit 80+kph if you're in the mood. And not worried about cars.

Here's a Stava link for an overview: