Canadian Rockies & Montana

From glacial lakes to rugged mountains and stunning wildlife, few places compare to the Canadian Rockies and Montana. Explore Alberta, British Columbia and Big Sky Country in Montana as you pedal down giant valleys, across western plains, over mountain passes and through Glacier National Park.

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go

Overview

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 ideal. In this cluster of natural beauty and national parks, 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. 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.

Questions? Contact us!

I can’t say enough great things about Overland. This was another amazing trip for Jack—seeing the world, working hard and meeting wonderful people.


- Lisa Schulman, Highland Park, Illinois

Day 1: Trip Start

After meeting in Missoula, we’ll head to our campground to practice riding as a group, prepare for the journey ahead and share our first dinner together.

Days 2-6: Swan Valley and Whitefish

We’ll begin our journey in the rolling hills of Swan Valley, heading north past beautiful lakes, surrounded by Montana’s rugged peaks. We’ll get to know each other and become comfortable riding in our group as we build to our daily average of 45 miles. We’ll arrive in Whitefish and spend a day off the bikes standup paddleboarding on beautiful Whitefish Lake, views of Glacier National Park just around the corner.

Days 7-9: Glacier National Park

Leaving Whitefish, we’ll ride into Glacier past Lake McDonald, and cross the Continental Divide over Logan Pass, on renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only road that goes through the park. Surrounded by stunning vistas, we’ll descend back down to Saint Mary Lake, where we’ll camp for the night and get ready to enter Canada.

Days 10-13: Western Prairies, Crowsnest Pass and Fernie

We will pedal across the border into Canada, and ride through expansive golden fields of wheat in the farmlands of Alberta. We’ll explore Waterton National Park and ride up and over Crowsnest Pass, over the Continental Divide for the second time. We’ll land for two nights in a hostel in Fernie, and we’ll explore this ski town in the heart of the Canadian Rockies together.

Days 14-16: Columbia Valley

We’ll continue north through the rolling terrain of the Columbia Valley. Passing Columbia Lake and the Kootenay River, we’ll stay at Radium Hot Springs and enjoy our last week in the vast Canadian Rockies together.

Days 17-20: Lake Louise and Banff

To finish out the trip, we’ll camp at picturesque Lake Louise and continue on to the mountain town of Banff, nestled in the mountains. We’ll camp in Banff and spend our final day off the bikes, exploring all that Banff has to offer: lakes, mountains, and small-town charm. We’ll celebrate together with a final dinner, and head to Calgary for our flights home on the last day.

ACCOMMODATIONS

17 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary and may have flush toilet and showers.

2 nights in a hostel in Fernie, British Columbia.

Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.

Day 1: Trip Start

After meeting in Calgary, we’ll drive 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

Heading south through the rolling terrain of the Columbia Valley, we’ll ride 75 miles a 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 and spend a buffer day there to enjoy our last day 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, eating ice cream 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.

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

12 nights of frontcountry camping. All campgrounds facilities will include flush toilets or composting toilets. Many campgrounds will have showers and/or laundry.

Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
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Luggage

  • Panniers
    Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. You should have 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 panniers and have some space left for group gear.

Clothing

  • Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
    We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
  • Synthetic High-Visibility T-Shirts (3) & Vest (1)
    A high-visibility outer layer 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 shorts with a padded seat.
  • Lightweight Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
  • T-Shirt (1)
  • 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 (4)
  • Socks (pair) (1)
    Warm synthetic and/or wool socks to wear at night.
  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom
  • Gloves or Mittens
  • Swimsuit
  • Pajamas (optional)
    Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
  • Winter Hat

Outer Layers

  • Waterproof Raincoat
    Choose high-visibility if available.
  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover
  • 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.

General Gear

  • 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
    ¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or self-inflating.
  • 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
  • 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
    A CamelBak or Platypus (or similar) with a 2- or 3-liter capacity. Must be a high-visibility color (if it is not hi-vis, you must cover it with hi-vis fabric or tape). The hydration system should be designed to primarily carry water (if it is too big it will be uncomfortable to wear all day).

Bike Gear

  • 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 or Salsa Marrakesh. 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.
  • 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—both when you train in the spring and once you are on your Overland trip in the summer. The light can be USB or battery powered with a variety of mounting options (clipping on to a pannier or a rear rack, for example). There are a wide range of bike lights available; we recommend the Bontrager Flare R or Flare RT, which are available from Trek bike dealers and on the Trek website. Note: if you are renting a bike from Overland this summer, please bring your bike light (your leaders will help you mount it on your rental 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)
    Two cages, attached to the bike frame. Some smaller-sized bike frames cannot accommodate two cages. If this is the case, you will be able to carry water bottles in your panniers or on your rack. 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 reduce chafing and saddle sores. You can purchase chamois cream at any bike shop.

Footwear

  • Shoes for Biking
    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).

Miscellaneous

  • 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).
  • Travel Size Toiletries
  • Large Trash Bags (5)
    To waterproof your gear.
  • Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
    To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
  • Insect Repellent
  • Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
    A digital or disposable camera.
  • Personal Journal or Book (optional)

Important Documents

  • Health Insurance Card
    Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
  • Passport
    Please bring a passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date.
  • Passport Photocopies
    Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.

Spending Money

  • Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
    Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.

Things to know

  • We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on your packing list.
  • Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
  • Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
    Please visit the FAQ tab 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 schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
  • Please wear the navy Overland T-shirt that you receive from Overland to your trip start location.
  • What is the weather like on Canadian Rockies & Montana?

    You can expect typical summery weather with lots of sunshine, some rain, warm days and cool nights.

  • What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?

    For Canadian Rockies & Montana 3-week, your child will fly to Missoula International Airport (MSO) and depart from Calgary International Airport (YYC). For Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-week, 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 trip.

  • How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?

    We'll have frequent (but not daily!) access to showers. 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 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 trip 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.

    When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our Admissions Review Forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card to hold your place in the trip pending a favorable admissions review. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss your second choice, third choice or other options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.

  • What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?

    PHONES
    To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers. 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 an expensive smartphone, instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.

     

    ELECTRONICS
    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).

     

    COMMUNICATION
    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 other 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.

  • Can I send mail to my child during a trip?

    Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:

     

    1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only.  If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.

    2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).

    3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.

    4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.

    5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.

Bike, paddleboard and explore between Banff and Missoula.

Students going on Canadian Rockies & Montana should prepare for:

  • Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
  • Camping out and cooking meals as a group
  • 15 or 9 days of biking with an average of 45 (3-week) or 75 (2-week) miles per day
  • A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience

We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.

Preparing for the 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).

You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more challenging and longer than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables—weather patterns change and road conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might get a flat tire or encounter another mechanical issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive at camp in the early afternoon, while on other days your group will spend more time on the bike.

While there is always a range of physical ability and fitness in each group, it's important that you follow the 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.

Pre-trip training:

  • 4 weeks before your trip: one ride of 6 to 8 miles and a second ride of 8 to 10 miles.
  • 3 weeks before your trip: one ride of 8 to 10 miles and a second ride of 10 to 12 miles.
  • 2 weeks before your trip: one ride of 10 to 12 miles and a second ride of 12 to 14 miles.
  • 1 week before your trip: one ride of 12 to 14 miles and a second ride of 14 to 16 miles.

All training rides should be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour. Once on the trip, your group will average between 10 and 12 miles per hour while riding on fully loaded bikes.

Canadian Rockies & Montana 2-Week
Daily rides average 75 miles over varying terrain, with three days over 80 miles and a longest day of approximately 100 miles.

Pre-trip Training:

  • 8 weeks before your trip: two rides a week (on consecutive days) with loaded panniers of one hour each (12 miles) over varied terrain.
  • 6 weeks before your trip: two rides a week (on consecutive days) with loaded panniers of two hours each (24 miles) over varied terrain.
  • 4 weeks before your trip: three rides a week (on consecutive days) with loaded panniers of three hours each (36 miles) over varied terrain.
  • 2 weeks before your trip: four consecutive rides with loaded panniers of three hours each (36 miles) over varied terrain.
  • 1 week before your trip: five consecutive rides—three of three hours each (36 miles) and two of four hours each (48 miles). All rides should be fully loaded over varied terrain.

You must be able to maintain 12 miles an hour fully loaded on terrain that includes hills. 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 Calendar where you will record your training in the weeks leading up to trip start.

Preparing for an Overland Experience

Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. 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. 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 trip!