Highwood Pass Ride

Lots of cars lined up at Highwood Junction

Lots of cars lined up at Highwood Junction

Every year Highwood Pass closes to cars for the winter. This turns a normally busy motorway into a cycling wonderland. It’s 60km from gate to gate with 950m vert reaching 2300m elevation. Sometimes, there are snow-banks at the top of the pass covering the road with only a skinny track through, and other years (like this one) the park goes ahead and snow-plows the pass so that we cyclists can have a few weekends before the gates open.

Highwood ride


So at about 11am I was turning the cranks on the 34km trip to the summit. Funny thing is that it wasn’t long before I ran into a guy that I went to University with and ended up riding the remainder of the way to the pass summit with some nice conversation. I like riding by myself but after a while it’s nice to have someone to talk to.

First summit of the pass.  Lots of cyclists up here.

First summit of the pass. Lots of cyclists up here.

There was quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road at the summit but nothing on the road itself. There was literally a traffic jam of bikes right at the top. People riding everything from $10k colnago’s to a hipster on something from 1973. After parting ways with my new riding buddy and putting a jacket on, I was pointing it downhill toward Kananaskis.

Mother nature's bike stand

Mother nature’s bike stand

The ride down to the other gates was fast with my 52-11 combo being spun out most of the way. After hopping over the gate it was another 8km to the Fortress junction gas station where I ate a 480 calorie ice-cream sandwich and f-ing loved it.

Nice view just north of the gates.

Nice view just north of the gates.

After making mouth-love to my ice-cream sandwich and re-filling water bottles I was off for my second summit of the pass. Going from Kananaskis to the summit is shorter (~20km) but very steep compared to the other direction. At this point I was pretty tired with my legs feeling the 900m vertical from the first summit and the weather looked like it might come in. Snow at the top of the Highwood pass was not something that I was interested in.

On the way back over

On the way back over

After the 20km grind back to the top, it was a quick stop for some pics and then back to the car as fast as my toasted legs could take me.

Second summit

Second summit

Some nice views

Some nice views

Finally back at the car after just under 5 hrs ride time and my Garmin was telling me 3000 calories (based on HR). So I headed to the near-by gas station for some M&M’s and Ketchup chips.

I would recommend this ride to anyone. You can go as fast as your fitness level allows and enjoy Canada’s highest paved mountain pass (sans cars).


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