OverviewA very rare treat to cross the Great Divide from Alberta into BC and back...in a loop with 2 amazing passes and some really great (and rough) riding both technical and pleasant. it also requires a good deal of hiking including good exposure, and decent map / routefinding skills. this is an epic for the adventure and endurance enthusiast with roughly 70km of travel and 3000m of ascent, depending on the paths taken.
As well, there are backcountry campground near each pass with a variety of lakes and side trail for exploration.
Trail DescriptionThe trailhead starts at Cat Creek parking, on the northwest McPhail creek. The doubletrack/singletrack is long and extremely pleasant cycling towards the Divide.
The ominous divide headwalls of Mts. Mcphail and Muir loom overhead as the good trail ends and the first map consultation is made. Head towards the north side of the Weary Creek gap where there is a rough, exposed, but existing trail up into the pass.
Find your way over the creek and head southwest towards the ridge, and south towards the Muir cirque where another rough but obvious trail will appear. Near the bottom of the cirque is another trail that heads into the Elk Valley, a very long and occasionally steep downhill.
The trail ends at a gravel road and head south about 6km(heading north will join hwy 40) until the crossing with Aldridge creek. About 100m after the crossing head straight north into the clearing, parallel to the creek. Don't worry, it quickly becomes pristine singletrack.
Turn left at an old cutline intersection, and get ready for over 11km of push, ride, whatever through some overgrown, steep and loose trail. Finally you hit the alpine...but it's still a push to the pass.
Try to take in the amazing views in this remote area...then head towards the north side of the pass to join the downhill. There are 2 options which end at Baril creek..the "road" which is a steep, rocky trail. or the Great divide singletrack (entrance on the left of the road)which is an extremely technical DH. Be careful about how tired you are, there are some double black level sections. Eventually you will join Baril creek which is a buff, twisty and very fast shot to the hwy 40 junction and the short pavement ride home.
Getting ThereFrom Calgary, head 60km south to Longview. Turn West on the 540, head roughly 60km West (turn on hwy 40 junction into kananaskis) to the Cat Creek day use area. The trailhead is Mcphail creek, the good quality doubletrack on the northwest of the parking area.
Before attempting this trail one must have maps of the passes and the routefinding skills to get there. The mileage markers are very rough and depend on some of the route choices.
When to BikeThis is a high alpine ride with travel through unmaintained wildnerness over 2300m and as such should be ready late july - early october. choose a DRY day and start at sunrise. This is heavy grizzly territory (we followed fresh tracks for 10km), carry defense and make noise.
***This is a serious backcountry ride, through territory that is not well travelled. Be prepared for anything and bring water filtration***
Mileage3 keep right on mcphail creek
12 cross creek (right is lake of horns)
17 weary creek pass
24 elk valley powerline, turn left
30 aldridge creek crossing, turn left
42 fording river pass
50 keep right, follow Baril creek
57 hwy 940, turn left towards cat creek