This is a classic gravel ride in the Jasper area where water is everywhere and the mountain views are epic. The route starts off with views of the Athabasca River, which was running high with the milky aqua-color water typical of glacial meltwater carrying "rock flour". Then you cross and follow the Snake Indian River which leads you further along the route where you have stunning views of both Celestine Lake and Princess Lake.
We saw several large elk in the fields near the campground right at the beginning.
At some point in your climbing there is a huge view of the river and valley below, and just as we were marveling, a huge and colorful train came rushing though at high speed. It was far enough away that we felt safe and yet close enough that we could feel the vibration and power of the train which was pretty awesome.
At mile 11.5, the road forks and you have to take a left to stay on Celestine Lake Road and from here to the trailhead parking lot, it is forested, shaded and smooth packed dirt. It made for a nice contrast to the exposed roads with sweeping views.
There was some active construction happening along Celestine Lake Road. We got an early start on a weekday and encountered a little convoy of trucks heading up. We had to pull over to let the dust settle as they passed, but beyond that, there was very little vehicle traffic.
The areas around the construction and orange traffic cones did distract a little from the beauty, but it was on such a small percentage of the route, we were able to easily forget about it.
There are some very steep grades of around 15% that had really loose gravel. We had trouble keeping our momentum and ended up hiking up a couple of these short sections, but it was nothing that should deter you from doing this awesome route!
Do this ride if you are near Jasper, Canada and you are willing to climb some hills to get a classic Canadian Rockies experience with epic views of mountains, wildlife, rivers and lakes.
We parked in the day-use section of the Overflow Camping area just past the Snaring Campground on Snaring Rd.
Beside vault toilets and water, there are no other services near the campgrounds. Pick up supplies and take enough nutrition with you to get you through all 30 tough miles. The town of Jasper, which is about a 15-20 min drive (17.3 km) is where you will need to go if you want coffee, beer, ice cream or a meal.
While we didn't see any bears on this particular bike ride, you are still in bear country. Don't forget to bring your bear spray!
The Celesitine Lake Road is typically closed November-May. You'll want to check the Parks Canada website before you head out to make sure there are no special considerations or circumstances. We encountered a small river crossing near the beginning that got our feet a tiny bit wet, but we could imagine it gets a little deeper at other times of the year. Technically, the road is a one-way road with only certain hours that vehicles can travel up and down; However, we stopped and talked to a construction worker and he said we were fine as bikes to come and go at any time. He was even nice enough to radio ahead to workers further up the road to tell them there were bikers coming!
The road eventually dead ends into a trailhead parking lot. We continued down the single track trail that leads to a bridge. This is where we turned around. We hear you can continue further and will eventually find a water fall, but those trails are probably better suited for a mountain bike.
If you are looking for a place to rent gravel bikes, we found a great place in Calgary for very reasonable rates at Sports Rent. (We rented their Specialized Diverge with 38c tires.)