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Spray Lakes Road

August 17-19, 2007

Last year I had read on the Adventure Riders Forum about a group ride that was organized by some Calgary area riders involving a loop including the Spray Lakes Road and Powderface Trail (south and east of Canmore, Alberta). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to participate in that group ride but had been wanting to explore the same route, and decided it was time. My plan was to head south from Edmonton towards Canmore on Friday afternoon, ride the Spray Lakes Road and Powderface Trail on Saturday, and back to Edmonton on Sunday.

August 17

I left Edmonton heading south in the early afternoon on Friday, August 17. Since I hadn't reserved any hotel rooms ahead of time (and figuring Canmore might be booked over the weekend), I planned to head south to Cochrane, and get a room there on Friday night. Wanting to include some dirt on the way south, I decided to take paved roads towards Rocky Mountain House and then take the Forestry Trunk Road south towards Cochrane.

I've ridden the Forestry Trunk Road north of Rocky Mountain House (Hwy 11) several times, but this would be my first venture south on this dirt and gravel road. Out of Edmonton, I took the major highway (Hwy 2) south, and then cut west on Hwy 33 (south of Leduc), and then south again on Hwy 22. Although paved, taking Hwy 22 is a much nicer ride than the superslab of Hwy 2.

Reaching Rocky Mountain House, I grabbed a quick lunch at Burger Baron and then filled up with gas. I cut over to the Forestry Trunk Road by taking Hwy 591 west. I quickly notice that the Forestry Trunk Road south of Hwy 11 is much more scenic than north of Hwy 11. The road runs through the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, and includes much more elevation changes than its northern counterpart.

Forestry Trunk Road

The weather reports had threatened possible showers and cool temps for the day, but luckily it turned into a very nice afternoon with mostly sunshine and temps in the 70's F (low 20's C).

The gravel and dirt of the Forestry Trunk Road is an absolute blast to ride the GS on. Although there were a few spots where the gravel was pretty loose and deep, for the most part it was firm enough to cruise comfortably at 65 to 70 mph, and I'd occasionally hit about 85 mph or so (at least on the straights). I'd have to be careful in some areas (corners, blind hills, etc.) to be on the watch for traffic coming the other way. There wasn't a lot of traffic, but enough to keep you on your toes - mainly cars and trucks loaded with ATV's. I don't think I saw a single other motorcyclist while on the trunk road.

I found a neat little spot off of the Trunk Road to stop, rest, and drink a bottle of water. It was a very pretty area next to a stream.

My Rest Stop on the Forestry Trunk Road

I'd occasionally spot some wildlife - coyotes, mountain sheep, and deer - but the most common sight was this.

Wildlife on the Forestry Trunk Road

The further south I went, the more cattle I saw. Near the MountainAire Lodge, I took a spur road south from the Forestry Trunk Road that leads to the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, which is a federally operated working horse ranch owned and operated by Parks Canada. At the Bighorn Campground, there were a large number of horse riders that use it as a staging area for trail riding into the ranch and backcountry.

Eventually, I made by way back to the Trunk Road and continued on until it meets with Highway 1A between Cochrane and Canmore. I headed east to Cochrane to find a hotel, but found that all rooms were booked (a golf tournament in town). So I headed further east towards the edge of Calgary, and found a room at the Red Carpet Inn for the night.

Tomorrow, I ride the Spray Lakes Road.

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