This is an updated version of the BBitCR version, with a start/finish at Station Flats. The route is almost 100% singletrack, with a short gravel downhill between Pneuma
and the Moosepackers Trail
. If you're short on time and/or energy, ride Sulphur Springs
out to Moose Mountain Road
, and then ride up the road to the Kananaskis Lookout trail instead of taking Pneuma
over the top.
The order of the trails is:
1. Elbow Valley
2. Sulphur Springs
4. Kananaskis Fire Lookout
5. Moosepackers Trail
7. Tom Snow - South
Most junctions are signed, although the Sulphur Springs
one might be missed if you're not expecting it. Moosepackers Trail
are very well signed. It's entirely possible to ride this in reverse/CCW, but Pneuma
makes for a very mediocre descent, and climbing up the gravel section from the top of Moosepackers Trail
There is a fair bit of challenging climbing on the loop. The grades on Sulphur Springs
can exceed 20% for short stretches. Ride time for the whole loop is 2.5 - 4 hours depending on your skill and fitness levels.
Horses and hikers can be found on just about any section of the trail, especially EV and SS. Cattle will be present at random spots from mid-June through to mid-October. Assume that all dry-looking cow patties actually have a liquid center...
From Station Flats, turn left out of the trailhead onto Elbow Valley
(EV) [right turn goes up Tom Snow - South
]. This first section is wide and flat for a few minutes before turning uphill to the right. Riding up an eroded section of trail pops you out onto a bench with some off-camber roots that angles down, then up and then down again in short order [watch for a rough "wall ride" on the right]. Ride the dragon down to the junction of Elbow Valley
(EV) and Sulphur Springs
(SS), where you'll make a hard right onto SS.
About 100m along SS, keep an eye out for singletrack on the right that diverges from the main route. Taking this section of trail ["Irwin's Folly" - unsigned] allows you to skip a couple of muddy sections on the wide main trail, plus it's a fun bit. Rejoin the main SS trail and keep rolling along on the wide single/doubletrack. Watch for puddles - some might look shallow, but if the horses/cows have been through early in the season, you may bury your front wheel up to the hub in mud.
After blasting through the creek crossing, the trail turns uphill for quite a while. The climb is not terrible, and you should be properly warmed up by this time. There are plenty of trees alongside the trail to lean against for a brief respite. Soon enough you'll pop out of the trees into a broad cutline. Continue across and rip a short, loose and rocky descent that immediately turns uphill after the micro wallride on the right.
Keep an eye out for the connection to Pneuma
on the right [staying on the main trail takes you out to Moose Mountain Road
]. The connector [known as the Scottish Wiggle] weaves back and forth through the trees and eventually turns into Pneuma
. It's a long way to the top of this trail. Lots of people bail from Pneuma
to Moose Mountain Road
at various points, especially by Billy Dog
and Race of Spades
If you ride the road up to the top, you'll come to a parking area off to the side of the road, while the road is blocked by a gate ahead. Just before the parking area, there's a short incline to the right that has a gate across it. Go around the gate and you'll be on the Kananaskis Lookout Trail. If you ride all of Pneuma
up and over the top, you'll meet up with the Kananaskis Lookout Trail near the bottom of the hill. In either case, continue down the wide and loose road, keeping an eye out for the right-hand turn onto Moosepackers Trail
. It's well signed, with a map.
is a hoot, with opportunities for air and some very fun corners. Check out the separate description for that trail. After ripping all the switchbacks and airing out what you can, you'll roll into a meadow with some oil and gas hardware off to the left. The meadow sometimes fills with dragonflies, and is a great place to catch your breath and high-five your friends. Continuing along the singletrack takes you onto Ridgeback
. You'll see the Hellmouth at the start of the trail. About 10' above it you'll see a discharge pipe, which likely fired water down the slope in a powerful stream during the heavy rains preceding the 2013 Flood, cutting the channel.
This first section of Ridgeback
is fast, with lots of flow and one short/sharp climb before resuming the descent. A mellow climb takes you through to a brief connection with Tom Snow - South
. The trails merge together so smoothly, you might not notice that you made the switch. The transition off of Tom Snow and onto the next section of Ridgeback
is just as smooth. Some climbing awaits, but nothing as steep as on SS or Pneuma
. Ride the ridge all the way down to the next junction with Tom Snow, and zip past the turnoff to Bobcat
Cross a small bridge over Ranger Creek and ride a short rise to the next junction with Ridgeback
, a hard right. It's all singletrack on the next two sections of the trail, with some short sharp climbs, berms, quick descents and lots of smiles. Finish up on Tom Snow - South
to Station Flats.
This loop has been around since the late 80s, but used to be much shorter, right around 20km. The EV/SS and Moosepackers Trail
sections haven't changed, but the old route required a ride up the road and down Tom Snow - South
. During the two weeks in late August that all of Tom Snow - South
was dry, it was very possible to do the loop in 1:45 or even less.