Doctors in four provinces can now prescribe a free pass to Canada’s national parks. The rest of the provinces are set to join the program by the end of 2022.
The program is part of an effort to use time in nature as a way to manage anxiety, promote improved mental health and encourage physical activity.
So what are the best national parks to ride mountain bikes in? Most don’t allow mountain biking (though if you want to roll through on road bikes, there are some excellent options). The ones that do, though, are incredible. Here’s six Canadian national parks to fill your nature prescription with this summer.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Put the mountains back into mountain biking with a trip to Jasper National Park. Trails range from chill, family friendly paths (often with nature sightings) to technical XC and flowing fun riding. Challenge yourself with technical cross riding on the historic Overlander route and you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas. Or cruise along the many trails accessible in the Pyramid Bench and Valley of the Five Lakes closer to town. Many trails are groomed for fat biking in the winter, too. Set high up in the Rocky Mountains Jasper trails are a true parks experience so be prepared for wildlife, including bears.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park. While it was established in 1885, way before mountain bikes were invented, the park has more recently introduced mountain biking in with the other recreational activities. Trails are accessible right from the Banff townsite, including Star Wars, Return of the Jedi and the purpose-built technical twisting corners of Topp Notch.
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
Manitoba might not be the first province that jumps to mind for mountain biking, sure, but Riding Mountain National Park is a prairie gem. There are multiple trailheads accessing a solid range of mostly cross country riding, and several hundred metres of elevation to gain or lose along your route. Many trails stay open all winter, too, if fat biking is your jam.
Fundy National Park (N.B.) and Prince Edward Island National Park (P.E.I.)
Out east, there are two more opportunities to explore our National Parks off road. Fundy National Park in New Brunswick and Robinsons Island in Prince Edward Island National Park both have mountain bike-friendly trail systems. While Atlantic Canada offers riding for all abilities, including its own enduro series, these two riding areas tend toward more beginner and intermediate riding. Fundy is the more technical of the two networks with several challenging trails and a pump track to hone your skills.