Highwood Pass is the highest paved pass in Canada, travelling through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. A section of the road is closed to cars between December 1st and June 15th. This makes the road a haven for cyclists when spring arrives as we hope the road is clear enough for riding before cars are allowed through.
Spring in Calgary and the Rockies has been pretty phenomenal this year. In the middle of May a friend and I headed out to Highwood to take advantage! We parked at the Ribbon Creek parking lot to start our ride, which is about 25 or 26 km to the gate. This helps to make for a nice warm up to get your legs used to climbing.
The views weren’t too bad either!
Because it was the middle of the week the road wasn’t super busy with cars. This was good as the shoulder was a bit rough in spots. You’ll reach Fortress Junction about 20 km from Ribbon Creek. This is your last opportunity to purchase drinks or snacks from the gas station and cell phone service cuts out around here. Keep riding and you’ll reach the gate soon!
Given that I was just coming off of Ironman 70.3 St. George I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it to the summit. I wanted to ride as much of the road that was closed to cars as possible though!
There was one vehicle on the road, and Alberta Parks truck. He would drive a bit ahead of me, pull over to the shoulder and hang out for a little bit. When I finally caught up to the driver he was getting out, holding this funky antennae thing in his hands. He was looking for known bears in the area! There had been two out on the road earlier in the morning.
I had set myself a turn around time of 2.5 hours but I had a feeling the summit was ahead. I’ve ridden Highwood a few times (south from Longview – where I bonked and didn’t make it to the summit, and from Kananaskis several times) but I’ve never actually ridden to the summit before. I was starting to get summit fever and I wanted to keep going!
Finally just as I reached 2.5 hours of riding time I turned the corner and saw the summit.
It was an incredible feeling to climb all the way to the top!
The only snow I saw all day was in the shoulder at the summit. Road conditions were great! After grabbing a few photos it was time to start the fun descent back to the car. It was a chilly one though and I had to stop and put my arm warmers back on.
When I reached the gate I spotted these guys having a drink.
The way down was a lot of fun and I was thankful there wasn’t a crazy headwind. It only took 1.5 hours to ride down. 🙂
If you want to take advantage of riding Highwood Pass before it opens to cars this year you still have two weekends left!