There were lots of animal sightings on this route near Jasper. One of our Instagram followers called this route a "Canadian Safari", and that was about right!! We saw a herd of elk, a brown bear, a baby Osprey in its nest, a fox and a coyote!
The Overlander Trail is well maintained single track that was easy to follow, and up until our turn around point, there was not much elevation gain. Expect some small rocks and roots to navigate (Our 38c tires with low pressure handled it all easily.), and enjoy the mix of scenery that includes dense forest, flower-filled meadows, the remains of a century-old historic homestead and incredible views of the Athabasca River.
We found the Overlander Trail incredibly quiet and peaceful. We rode it on a weekday in mid-July and we saw way more animals than humans.
The Wapiti trail, which gets your from the Wapiti Campground to Athabasca Road and runs parallel to the Icefields Parkway, is a great way to be separate from traffic- plus the hard packed dirt single track is rolling, fun and flowy!
We originally thought we would take the Overlander trail to its end, but we were a little underbiked to do the last few miles. The steepness and exposed drop off at the point we turned around was about all we could handle on the gravel bikes. We hiked the bikes up to the overlook of the Athabasca River (totally worth it for that view!) and we're happy to turn around there.
We did have a (healthy) fear of encountering a Grizzly Bear since they are known to frequent this trail. We spent most of the Overlander Trail section making noise by belting out any song we could remember the words to (which turns out to be camp songs from when we were 12). 🤪
Don't forget to bring your bear spray!
Do this ride if you want to do one of Jasper's signature trails and enjoy easy single track through forests and meadows, with views of the Athabasca river and a high likelihood of seeing Canadian animals of all kinds.
We started and finished from the Wapiti Campground, where we were staying. There were bathrooms and water available here.
There is also drinking water available at mile 1.8 and a vault toilet at the Sixth Bridge Parking right before you hit the Overlander Trail (miles 8.5 on the way out and 20.1 on the way back.)
There are no good places on route to pick up supplies, so make sure you bring enough food/sports nutrition with you.
If you JUST want to do the Overland Trail, you can park at the Sixth Bridge Picnic Area/Parking Lot. (This would cut the mileage down to just 12 miles.)
The Athabasca River Loop Trail that parallels Old Lodge Road did have some loose and sandy sections. If you want to skip that, you can just take the road instead. (This is, however, where we saw the herd of elk and the Osprey nest.)
We did this route in July and were told that the best times to visit this trail are from April through September.
If you are looking for a place to rent gravel bikes and are flying into Calgary, we found a great place in Calgary for very reasonable rates at Sports Rent. (We used their Specialized Diverge with 38c tires.)
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.