Who says you can’t take it with you? If you’ve jammed your saddlebags to the bursting point and still need to pack more gear, there’s only one way to go: a trailer. They’re popular accessories for long-distance touring riders, especially if they’re traveling two-up and camping, but you should keep a few hints in mind.
USE ENOUGH BIKE It makes no sense to try to pull a giant trailer with a Vespa. Pick a bike that has enough power for the job—1000cc or more.
FILL YOUR TIRES The trailer puts additional load on both bike tires, especially the rear. Inflate them properly, on the upper end of your bike’s GVWR.
HITCH IT RIGHT Your bike needs to lean into turns, but the trailer doesn’t lean. You’ll need a hitch that lets the trailer both turn and swivel—think about how a U-joint works.
Day 1 – Calgary to Waterton: 298 km / 184 mi
While you can do this in one day, you need to make it a two day trip to fully take advantage of the awesome scenery and roads within the Waterton National Park.
From Tim Horton’s on Pegasus Trail take hwy 2 (Deerfoot Trail) south through the city and exit west on hwy 22X (you all know how I dislike taking 4 lane high speed highways). 24 km / 14 mi down the road turn right on hwy 22 toward Turner Valley. At Turner Valley take a left on hwy 22/hwy 7 for 4 km / 2.5 mi to Black Diamond where you turn right (south) on hwy 22. Both Turner Valley and Black Diamond have great places to stop for coffee or breakfast. While Turner Valley was once known for its vast oil and gas reserves, Black Diamond got its start from large coal deposits, however today both energy sources are long gone and the area now revolves around ranching and tourism.
From Black Diamond it is 130 km / 80 mi south to hwy 3, passing through the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As you go past Longview check on your fuel because it is 126 km / 86 mi to the next fuel station, and while motorcycle boots are great for riding, they suck when you have to walk 5 miles. 40 km / 25 mi beyond Longview is Spray Lakes Provincial park – great place to stop for a rest (they have a small restaurant) and stretch your legs.Turn right at hwy 3 for 6.5 km / 4 mi where you will turn left (south) on hwy 507 toward Lee Lake. Hwy 507 turns east and takes you to Pincher Creek where you will pick up hwy 6 south to Waterton National Park. From Pincher Creek to the park entrance it is 49 km / 29 mi, but just before the park entrance is the Waterton Buffalo Paddock (watch for the sign). A small herd of Buffalo live here in the wild and while they discourage bikers from taking the
loop road (these animals are huge and can be mean – not a good combination to go up against with a 800 lb motorcycle), you can many times see them grazing from the top of the hill as you exit hwy 6.
To get into Waterton National Park you will need a Parks Canada pass which can be purchased at the entrance gate. This pass is good at all Canadian National Parks so the $60+ is a little easier to swallow as you also need it for some of the other rides on this site and it is good for 12 months. The park has a diverse history; formed in 1895 with the Prince of Wales hotel constructed in 1926 by the American railroad company, Great Northern Railroad, to entice Americans to come north during prohibition. In 1902 oil was discovered a few miles west in Cameron Valley and the Western Coal and Oil Company established the first oil well in western Canada. By 1931 the townsite had the most modern facilities of the day, including a garage, golf course, tennis courts, campgrounds, post office, hotels, dance hall, a drugstore, 2 butcher shops, 5 restaurants, 2 churches, RCMP barracks, swimming pool, school, playground, telephone service and many summer cottages. Unfortunately the depression of the 1930’s and the subsequent WWII took its tool and today the town has a permanent population of about 100 while the summer tourists drive this number to over 400,000. Make sure you book ahead for hotel reservations as they fill up quickly. I stayed at the Bear Mountain Motel and found them to be extremely biker friendly, even offering relaxed cancellation policies due to weather for riders. Located on the west side of the village is Cameron Falls – a great photo opportunity with an adjacent picnic area where you can sit under the shade of a tree and listen to the roar of the water as it cascades down the mountain side.
At the north end of Waterton Village, you will see a sign for Cameron Lake (hwy 302A/13A) going west. 7.7 km / 4.8 mi down this road (actually it climbs up over a mountain first) you will come to “Discovery Well #1” – the first oil well in western Canada. The ride over the mountain is spectacular with numerous places to stop to take pictures.
Day 2 – Waterton to Calgary: 275 km / 171 mi
From Waterton National Park take hwy 6 south – it automatically turns into hwy 5 and then turns east toward Cardston. Hwy 800 comes in 17.8 km / 11 mi where you turn north. Hwy 800 takes you through rolling hills dotted with farms and past Hill Springs to hwy 505. Turn right on hwy 505 and follow it 10 km / 6.5 mi to hwy 810. Turn left (north) on hwy 810 and follow it 42 km / 26 mi to highway 3. Besides the normal farming of grain and animals this area is known for a new kind of farming – wind farming – you will pass by hundreds of windmills along the way and awe in their majestic size. Turning right on hwy 3 takes you past hwy 2 and into the town of Fort MacLeod, known for its restored NWMP/RCMP fort, built in 1874. From Fort MacLeod go back east on hwy 3, 3 km / 1.8 mi to hwy2 and take it north back toward Calgary. 183 km / 113 mi later on this 4 lane highway and your back to your starting point.
FIND YOUR PLACE Trailers are almost always wider than a bike, so you’ll need to ride closer to the center of the lane than you would without a trailer. You’ll also be riding closer to the center-of-the-lane oil slick you’ll find on most roads, so exercise caution.
STOP THAT THING Trailers increase a bike’s weight and stopping distance. They also want to overrun the bike when stopping unless equipped with their own separate trailer brakes. Ride with caution, brake early, and allow yourself plenty of stopping room.
FIND PARKING Your motorcycle-and-trailer rig is much longer than your bike alone, so you need to scout out an appropriate parking spot. Fine one that will let you pull straight out when leaving. Bikes are agile; towing trailers, not so much.