Bike under big skies, by giant lakes and over the Continental Divide.
Alberta, British Columbia, Montana. The names alone conjure images of a timeless and legendary west, of giant landscapes and great beauty.
Seeing these areas by bike is just about ideal. The distances are such that biking can get you there—wherever there happens to be: Banff, Missoula, Kootenay, Waterton, Glacier.
Being part of an Overland group makes the experience all the richer. With us it’s not just about the riding or the sights (although both are great!). With us, it’s about you and the people you’re with—your group and your two Overland leaders. The fabric of your experience is woven with these relationships—relationships that become close. Friendships that matter.
When the riding is done, when the sights have been seen, we’ll laugh and hug and cry and say goodbye. The Canadian Rockies & Montana will stay with us–the rugged mountain peaks, the bright blue glacial lakes, our rides over the Continental Divide, our swim in Lake McDonald. But, more importantly—much more importantly—all that we’ve done and seen and shared together will stay with you. For a very long time.
From the initial meeting, I was blown away by both leaders. I felt completely comfortable leaving my daughter with these two capable, enthusiastic, energetic, optimistic people. My initial impressions were only exceeded by Caroline's experience with them on this trip. Bravo to your interviewing team!
- Janice Gault, Penn Valley, Pennsylvania
Day 1: Trip Start
After meeting in Calgary, we’ll take a shuttle to our campground where we’ll build our bikes, practice riding as a group and prepare for the journey ahead.
Days 2-5: Bow Valley and Kootenay National Park
To start our exploration of Banff National Park, we’ll ride to the shore of Lake Minnewanka. We’ll then head north alongside the turquoise glacial waters of the Bow River to Lake Louise. We’ll climb over the Continental Divide and into Kootenay National Park. Leaving behind the impressive, rugged landscape of Kootenay, we’ll descend toward Radium Hot Springs. Building to our average of 45 miles per day, we’ll grow accustomed to riding with weight and as a group.
Days 6-8: Columbia Valley
Over three days, we’ll bike south through the rolling terrain of the Columbia Valley. Passing the Kootenay River and Columbia Lake, we’ll continue into the mountains and past the ski town of Fernie.
Days 9-11: Crowsnest Pass and Western Prairies
Up and over Crowsnest Pass, our second crossing of the Continental Divide, the jagged mountains of British Columbia give way to expansive golden fields of wheat and the farmlands of Alberta. We will pedal to Waterton National Park for our last evening in Canada before crossing the border into Montana.
Days 12 & 13: Glacier National Park
We will camp lakeside before rising early for a challenging climb up Logan Pass. Our route follows the renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only road that crosses Glacier National Park. Biking past waterfalls and jagged peaks, we’ll cross the Continental Divide for a third time.
Days 14 & 15: Big Sky Country and Paddleboarding
Heading west through Big Sky Country, past ranches and farms, we’ll bike to the western town of Whitefish. Here, we will spend the day standup paddleboarding and relaxing.
Days 16 & 17: Swan Valley
Surrounded by Montana’s rugged peaks, we’ll bike through the rolling hills of Swan Valley enjoying the western sun and one another’s company.
Days 18-20: Missoula and Trip End
During our final days, we’ll ride along the Blackfoot River and into the Missoula Valley where we’ll bike triumphantly into town. Together, we’ll enjoy a final dinner and celebrate three weeks of fun, accomplishments and new friendships.
19 nights of frontcountry camping. All campgrounds facilities will include flush toilets or composting toilets. Many campgrounds will have showers and/or laundry.
1 night in a hostel in Fernie, British Columbia.
Day 1: Trip Start
After meeting in Calgary, we’ll take a shuttle to our campground where we’ll build our bikes, practice riding as a group and prepare for the journey ahead.
Days 2 & 3: Bow Valley and Kootenay National Park
Alongside the turquoise glacial waters of the Bow River, we’ll ride to Lake Louise. We’ll climb over the Continental Divide and into Kootenay National Park, enjoying glacial rivers and mountain vistas. We’ll then leave behind the impressive, rugged landscape of Kootenay and descend toward Radium Hot Springs.
Days 4-7: Columbia Valley and Western Prairies
Riding south through the rolling terrain of the Columbia Valley, we’ll build to our average of 75 miles per day. Passing the Kootenay River and Columbia Lake, we’ll continue into the mountains and past the ski town of Fernie. Up and over Crowsnest Pass, the rugged mountains of British Columbia give way to expansive golden fields of wheat and the farmlands of Alberta.
Days 8 & 9: Waterton and Glacier National Park
We will pedal to Waterton National Park for our last evening in Canada before crossing the border into Montana. After camping on Saint Mary Lake, we’ll rise early for a challenging climb up Logan Pass. Our route follows the renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only road that crosses Glacier National Park. Biking past waterfalls and jagged peaks, we’ll cross the Continental Divide for a third time.
Days 10 & 11: Whitefish and Swan Valley
In Whitefish, we’ll spend the day standup paddleboarding and relaxing. Surrounded by Montana’s rugged peaks, we’ll bike through Big Sky Country and the rolling hills of Swan Valley enjoying the western sun and one another’s company.
Days 12 & 13: Missoula and Trip End
During our final days, we’ll ride along the Blackfoot River and into the Missoula Valley where we’ll bike triumphantly into town. Together, we’ll enjoy a final dinner and celebrate two weeks of fun, accomplishments and new friendships.
12 nights of frontcountry camping. All campgrounds facilities will include flush toilets or composting toilets. Many campgrounds will have showers and/or laundry.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- A high-visibility outer layer is required at all times while biking. See packing descriptions for more details.
- If you are flying to your trip start, pack your sleeping pad and bike shoes in your bike box or checked bag. Take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items, in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. Pack all remaining items in your checked duffel bag or in your checked panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage; see luggage description for more details.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Pair of Panniers (waterproof preferred)
Students should bring all belongings to the start of the trip in the panniers they will use this summer. Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. You will want large panniers, 2,400-3,000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Synthetic High-Visibility T-Shirts (3) & Vest (1)
A high-visibility outer layer, preferably a solid color, is required at all times while biking (high-visibility is a neon or fluorescent color, typically yellow, orange or pink). On warm days a high-visibility T-shirt will be sufficient. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding on cooler days. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. High-visibility bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary.
- Bike Shorts (2)
Biking-specific spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts fit snugly in order to reduce chafing and discomfort from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.
- Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
Lightweight for sun protection.
- T-Shirt (1)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Shorts (1)
Comfortable shorts to wear around camp.
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Underwear (4)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (4)
- Socks (pair) (1)
Warm synthetic and/or wool socks to wear at night.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
To stay warm in camp on cool nights.
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Winter Hat
- Waterproof Raincoat
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Choose high-visibility if available (a high-visibility outer layer is required at all times while riding; if your raincoat is not hi-vis then you'll have to wear a hi-vis vest over your raincoat when riding). Raincoats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric, but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (optional)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We recommend either synthetic or treated down material. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
Full- or ¾-length compact sleeping pad. We recommend closed cell foam that is thin and firm (e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest).
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
- Water Bottle
A 24-ounce bike bottle is ideal (but a smaller size is acceptable). Overland will provide a second water bottle on arrival.
- Hydration System with a 2- or 3-liter capacity
A small backpack with a bladder inside (e.g., CamelBak or Platypus) works well. If you bring a backpack, we recommend a high-visibility color; however, this is not necessary. The backpack should be designed primarily to carry water (if it is too big or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day).
- Touring Bicycle & Rear Rack
For Canadian Rockies & Montana 3-week, you may choose to rent a bicycle and rear rack from Overland to use during your trip or you can bring your own. Please note: the American Challenge, European Challenge and Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-week require specific bikes--keep this in mind if you are buying a new bike now and plan on doing one of these trips in a future summer. For Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-week, one of the following bikes is required: Trek 520*, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Salsa Marrakesh or Novara Randonee**. These bikes must be in excellent condition and must have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles are not acceptable. Please see the Right Bicycle for Your Overland Trip for more information about acceptable bikes and traveling with your bike.
* Starting in 2017, the Trek 520 will only have mechanical disc brakes. This is acceptable.
** The Novara Randonee was discontinued in 2017. A model from the past 48 months is acceptable.
- Clipless Pedals or Toe Cages
The bikes we rent come with flat pedals appropriate for biking in running shoes. If you are renting a bike from Overland, you should bring your own "clipless" pedals (and bike shoes) or toe cages to attach to the flat pedals.
- Bike Helmet
If you are flying to trip start, carry your helmet on the plane with you.
- Rear Bike Light
A rear bike light is required when riding in low light conditions. The light should be battery powered with a variety of mounting options (clipping on to a pannier or a rear rack, for example). The Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 and the Planet Bike LED Superflash turbo are two examples of bike taillights. Even if you are renting your bike from Overland this summer you will need to supply your own light for your bike.
- Bike Gloves
Well-padded for comfort
- Bungee Cords (4)
These should be 18-24" in length. Bungee cords are included with an Overland bike rental.
- Water Bottle Cages (2)
Attached to the bike frame. Some smaller-sized bike frames cannot accommodate two cages. If this is the case, you will be able to strap additional water bottles to your rack with your other gear. All Overland rental bikes come with two water bottle cages.
- Spare Bike Parts
The following are included with an Overland Bike Rental. If you are bringing your own bicycle you will need to bring: four spare spokes (two rear & two front); one spare tube (matched to the size and diameter of your bike's tires); one spare set of brake pads; one tire patch kit; and one set of tire levers.
- Chamois Cream (optional)
Special cream to put on your bike shorts chamois to reduce the risk of chafing and saddle sores. Some popular brands are Chamois Butt'r and Assos. You can purchase chamois cream at any bike shop.
- Shoes for Biking (pair)
Bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and "clipless" recessed cleats. A popular style of clipless shoes and pedals are SPDs. You may also ride in running shoes and bring toe cages to attach to your pedals. Please do not bring racing shoes as they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in.
- Water Shoes
Closed-toed sport sandals, water shoes or old sneakers to wear on the water. Sandals must have a heel strap for activities such as kayaking, rafting or canoeing (flip flops and Crocs are not acceptable).
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Pre-trip Training Calendar
For students on the 2-week trip only: please bring your completed and signed calendar to trip start.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Large Trash Bags (5)
To waterproof your gear.
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Spending Money
$30 per week in cash or a debit/ATM card.
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Canadian Rockies & Montana?
The climate and weather on Canadian Rockies & Montana varies. In the British Columbia, the weather is commonly cool and wet in the mornings and warmer in the afternoon with temperatures between the 50s and 70s. In Alberta and Montana, temperatures range between the 80s and 90s. In the mountains, cool evenings and mornings are common. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
Your child will fly to Calgary International Airport (YYC) and depart from Missoula International Airport (MSO). We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
While we have regular access to showers, most students will shower once or twice a week. Groups will do laundry once a week.
- What do you do about bears?
Traveling as a large group goes a long way in preventing unwanted attention from wildlife. In addition, we instruct our leaders how to set up camp and store food in ways that reduce the chances of attracting wildlife, including bears. We’ll brief students on these routines at the start of the trip. Both of our leaders also carry bear spray in case of a bear encounter.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
Bike, paddleboard and explore between Banff and Missoula.
Students going on Canadian Rockies & Montana should prepare for:
- 15 or 9 days of biking with an average of 45 (3-week) or 75 (2-week) miles per day
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Biking
Overland bicycle tours are self-contained—there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear and food, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords. On average, you will carry about 40 pounds of equipment on your bike (not including the weight of the bike).
While there is always a range of physical ability and fitness in each group, it's important that you follow our training schedule and that you take the time to gain confidence on a bike—mounting and dismounting, shifting gears, braking and making turns. We expect you to prepare adequately so you can keep up physically and participate in all of your group’s activities.
Canadian Rockies & Montana 3-week
Daily rides average 45 miles over varying terrain, with six days over 50 miles and a longest day of approximately 60 miles (the exact mileage may vary by group). The itinerary includes one buffer day to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend this day partially or completely off of the bikes) and a second day off the bikes to go paddleboarding.
- 5 weeks before your trip: two rides of 8 to 12 miles.
- 4 weeks before your trip: one ride of 8 to 12 miles and a second ride of at least 20 miles.
- 3 weeks before your trip: two rides of at least 20 miles.
- 2 weeks before your trip: two rides fully loaded. One of 8 to 12 miles and a second of at least 20 miles.
- 1 week before your trip: two fully loaded rides of at least 20 miles. A good goal to work towards is 25 miles in one ride.
All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of between 10 and 14 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of between 8 and 12 miles per hour (or greater).
Groups typically average between 8 and 12 miles per hour while riding (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks throughout the day—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust panniers, etc.
Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-week
Daily rides average 75 miles over varying terrain, with five days over 80 miles and a longest day of approximately 100 miles (the exact mileage may vary by group). The itinerary also includes one buffer day to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend this day partially or completely off of the bikes) and a second day off the bikes to go paddleboarding.
- 12 weeks before your trip: two rides a week of one hour each (12 miles) over varied terrain.
- 8 weeks before your trip: two rides a week of 90 minutes each (18 miles) over varied terrain.
- 4 weeks before your trip: four rides a week, two of two hours each (24 miles) over varied terrain and two rides of four hours each (48 miles) over varied terrain. You should also complete one ride of 75 miles or greater (the average daily mileage for Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-Week).
All training rides should be fully loaded. You must be able to maintain 10 miles an hour fully loaded on terrain that includes hills. Groups typically average between 10 and 12 miles per hour while riding, although pace varies by group. You will start riding at first light, taking short breaks during the day, and complete the day's ride in the late afternoon to early evening. All pre-trip training rides must be completed using the bike, pedals and shoes you will use on Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-Week.
Please refer to the Pre-Trip Training Calendarwhere you will record your training in the weeks leading up to trip start.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the bike—than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and road conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might get a flat tire or encounter another issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive in to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the bike.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.