| Thousands of
visitors flock to what is fast becoming a North American mountain
biking mecca: the Squamish and Whistler
corridor. Piggybacking on the ever present forest industry, mountain
bikers from Squamish to
Pemberton have gone deeper
into the wood to build an enviable array of mountain biking trails
in pursuit of even gnarlier single track terrain and the satisfaction
only remoteness and exertion can create. The mountain biking in Sea
to Sky country is second to none and runs the gamut of difficulty
from valley bottom trails to breath stealing uphills, and technical
single track descents.
One of the biggest developments in mountain biking recently
in Whistler has been the opening of the Whistler Mountain Bike
Park. Located below the Olympic Station on the north side of the
mountain and accessible from Whistler Village by the Whistler Mountain
gondola, the self-guided single- and double-track trails provide for
all ability levels.
Whistler Bike Park has over 200km of lift-serviced gravity fed, adrenaline
fueled descending trails. Something for every level of rider. Gentle,
banked cruisers through the Coastal forest. Tight and twisty single
track - perfect for intermediate riders. For the armour clad, full
face wearing, 50lb. bike group there are steep rock faces, gnarly,
root strewn lines, drop offs of all descriptions and more.
The green skills centre is built close to the ground for riders
just learning to clear obstacles and ride planks.
The blue zone increases the difficulty by raising, narrowing and
tightening all of the constructed elements.
The double black skills centre is for expert riders only including
a dazzling display of North Shore-style obstacles.
Take it fast, take it slow. Huge banked corners, rhythm sections,
table tops, doubles - the closest thing to flying on two wheels.
If you don't have your own bicycle, you can rent one at the Whistler
Activity Centre. Transport yourself to the bike park on board the
Fitzsimmons Express chairlift (the bikes are loaded onto racks on
each chair) and enter the park at 800 metres above Whistler Village.
A "skills centre" near the chairlift presents riders with practice
puzzles such as a teeter totter and narrow wooden ramps resembling
logs. It is a good place to test your bicycle balance senses.
It is possible to ride the blue or green trails and still see the
black diamond bike trail action. Long table-top jumps launch riders
into the air while others drop off a high platform onto a steep,
sloping run-off hill. The black diamond cross trail emerges from
the trees on the lower slopes of the park and enters an open section
that resembles a luge track. Its walled corners - berms - promote
a speedy descent, and it is spectacular to watch the good riders
run the course from the vantage point of the hillside. Guided descents
of the mountain are also available.
Some of the
best single-track mountain-bike trails in the Whistler region are
found at the south end of the resort in the Whistler Interpretive
Forest. The trailhead is located at the beginning of the Cheakamus
Lake Road on the east side of Hwy 99, directly across from the entrance
to Whistler's Function Junction industrial park. The over 7.5 miles
(12 km) of well-constructed trails in the interpretive forest lead
along both sides of the Cheakamus River and onto the ridges at higher
elevations around Loggers Lake. Maps are available from a
dispenser at the trailhead; just reach underneath to get one. Most
trails are suited to intermediate-level riders.
You can ride
a mountain bike on the trail that leads to Cheakamus Lake
in Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is one of only two places in
the massive park where cycling is allowed, Diamond Head being the
other. Follow the Cheakamus Lake Road, which begins 6 miles (10
km) south of Whistler Village, east from Hwy 99. The road runs uphill
for most of the way to the park boundary, a distance of 3.7 miles
(6 km), from where a rock-and-rolling trail leads 2 miles (3.5 km)
through old-growth forest to Cheakamus Lake. This is a good trail
may trace its origins to the 1970s in northern California, but it
didn't take long to make its way to Whistler. By the early 1980s,
North America's longest point-to-point mountain-bike race, the Cheakamus
Challenge (about 30 miles/50 km, from Brackendale to Whistler),
was already underway. Held on the last weekend in September, the race
attracts a thousand riders, from elite pros to ordinary Janes and
Joes, who take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to complete the course.
Much of the distance covers the same route as the Sea to Sky Mountain
Biking and Hiking Trail that runs between Squamish and D'Arcy,
a distance of 93 miles (150 km) by road. When complete, it's expected
that the Sea to Sky trail will cover twice that distance as more use
is made of off-road trails, deactivated logging roads, and BC Hydro
Alice Lake Provincial Park is
almost as much a favourite with mountain-bike riders as the Stawamus
Chief is with climbers. Because it seldom occurs, mountain bikers
get a warm feeling when invited to ride trails in public parks. It
is hoped that this helps foster a better rapport between cyclists
and those on foot. This is the scenario at Alice Lake Provincial Park
north of Squamish.
Although not large when compared to neighbouring Garibaldi
Provincial Park, at 980 acres (397 hectares) Alice Lake is just
the right size for a rock-and-rolling 7.4-mile (12-km) trail that
everyone can enjoy 10 months of the year. In July and August, campers
take precedence in the park, and the Four Lakes Loop Trail is closed
to mountain bikers. It's cool. Everyone understands. Time to play
Trying to keep
up with the rapid pace of mountain-bike trail building in the Sea
to Sky corridor is enough to drive any cyclists to distraction,
but pleasantly so. Some of the best new single-track trails are
being built by the Ministry of Forests at their Brohm Lake Interpretive
Forest beside Hwy 99, 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Alice Lake Provincial
Park, near Squamish. Trail maps are available from the prominent
information kiosk at the entrance to the site. An extensive network
of new trails, some of which are still not complete, cuts through
the forest to the south and west of Brohm Lake. The best
approach to the mountain-biking trails is at a gated entrance about
0.6 mile (1 km) south of the lake's main paved parking area. There's
plenty of room to pull off Hwy 99 here, and the trailhead is marked
with a large, brown Forest Service sign, beside which is the covered
box filled with trail maps. The sounds of the highway quickly fade
away as you begin riding. At several places the 7 miles (11 km)
of connecting trails divide, offering a choice of directions to
cliffside viewpoints. At present, the trails around Brohm Lake itself
are unsuitable for mountain bikes. Keep your eye out for improvements
as the Forest Service continues work on the site.
Valley Road connects with a section of the Pemberton Trail,
one of the oldest trails in the Lower Mainland. This trading route
linked Native communities on the coast with the Thompson Plateau
in the Central Interior. It was along this route that the first
Europeans were guided, beginning with fur traders and later with
adventurers in search of good fishing in the Alta Lakes region.
Parts of the old trail are still faintly visible on the hillside
above the North Vancouver Outdoors School, located 1.2 miles (2
km) north from the Cheekye Bridge on the Paradise Valley Road. Today,
mountain-bikers follow the intermediate-level route beginning from
the bridge through Paradise Valley.
To find it, watch for the signs to Paradise Valley on Hwy 99 opposite
the entrance to Alice Lake Provincial Park. Travel 2.5 miles (4
km) west of Hwy 99 on the Squamish Valley Road to the Cheekye Bridge.
The Paradise Valley Rd branches off the Squamish Valley Road here
and runs for 7 miles (11 km) through Paradise Valley. The road is
paved for the first 3 miles (5 km) and parallels the Cheakamus River
for much of the way. A 3-mile (5-km) section of the Pemberton Trail
begins at the north end of Paradise Valley Road and leads to Hwy
At first it ascends along a rocky service road to the BC Rail tracks.
This is a difficult section to ride clean; don't be surprised if
you have a short hike with your bike over the roughest sections.
Beyond the railway tracks the trail smooths out as it makes a gradual
ascent above the Cheakamus Canyon, passes Starvation Lake, and finally
links with Hwy 99 near the north end of the canyon. Turn back here
and enjoy the descent, along with views of the Tantalus Range on
the western skyline.
many trails in Garibaldi Provincial Park where mountain bikes are
allowed, but one of the best is the 7-mile (11-km) trail to Elfin
Lakes in the Diamond Head region of the park. Plan on taking several
hours to ascend the old service road, then enjoy a thrilling though
not technically challenging descent.
of all ages and abilities can test their mettle at the Squamish
Test of Metal, regarded as one of the premiere cross-country
mountain bikes races in North America. The race is held on the world-renowned
singletrack trails and roads of Squamish in mid June, starting at
Brennan Park Leisure Centre.
The Test of Metal course is a very demanding 67-kilometre course
with more than 1,200 metres of climbing and 35 kilometres of singletrack.
The estimated time to complete the race will be just under 3 hours
for the fastest riders, and between 4 and 5 hours for the majority
of competitors. The stars of the tomorrow race on a short course
specially designed for kids. All abilities are welcome - from tricycles
to training wheels to budding mountain bike racers.
The Test of Metal evolved into the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival.
From the excitement and costumes of the head-to-head chariot races
on the streets of Squamish, to the cow bell-ringing crowds gathered
in Garibaldi Highlands, to the thrills provided in the trials competition
by some of the most acrobatic bikers in the world, the Squamish
Mountain Bike Festival provides a weekend of great entertainment
and fun for the entire family. Visit www.testofmetal.com for more
the longer off-road routes runs along the east side of Green
Lake and passes through the ghost-town of Parkhurst,
once a thriving logging community in the 1940s and 1950s. This 14-mile
(23-km) return journey follows a BC Hydro access road north from
the Valley Trail, where Fitzsimmons Creek enters Green Lake. Instead
of following the Valley Trail down to Green Lake, take the rugged
road that leads north beside the hydro towers. Instead of riding
this section 'clean,' you may have to push your bike until you reach
the crest of the slope. From here north is the most enjoyable section.
As the access road nears the lake's north end, watch for a side
road that leads to Parkhurst, the only such side road you'll encounter
on this ride. The access road eventually crosses the BC Rail line
near the approach to Wedgemount Lake on the east side of Hwy 99.
You can either retrace your tread marks or loop back to Whistler
on Hwy 99.
of Whistler is the route to Cougar Mountain and Soo River.
The road to Cougar Mountain begins at the north end of Green Lake,
0.6 mile (1 km) past the entrance to Whistler's Emerald Estates
neighbourhood. Take the two-lane gravel road that rises uphill on
the left (west) side of Hwy 99. A short way in you pass a brown
Forest Service sign marking the beginning of the road along 16-Mile
Creek. From here the road and then an enchanting section of single-track
trail lead explorers on a 12-mile (20-km) jaunt through clear-cut
fields choked with blueberry bushes to the Showh Lakes, and
from there to a grove of old-growth cedars near the summit of Cougar
Mountain on the Ancient Cedars Loop Trail. For an extended
mountain-bike tour of the base of Cougar Mountain, follow the Soo
River Forest Road. Stay to the left when the road forks around
the Showh Lakes rather than follow the well-marked road uphill to
the Ancient Cedars Loop Trail. Beyond here the road becomes rougher
as it heads north towards the Soo River Forest Road, which loops
east to Hwy 99.
North of Pemberton the
Sea to Sky Trail has received some of the most concentrated
attention, as trail builders fine-tune the route between Mount Currie
and D'Arcy. At present, a 31-mile (50-km) loop runs between D'Arcy
(the trail's northern terminus) and the whistle stop of Gramsons
on the BC Rail line south of Birkenhead Lake. Quite a variety of
terrain is up for grabs along the way. Decide which section best
suits your skill level. For beginners, the 4.3-mile (7-km) trail
that leads around Birkenhead Lake is a good route on which to practise.
Much of it is level as it follows an old fire road along the west
side of the lake. Only one section is so steep that you'll need
A more challenging section lies between Birkenhead Lake and D'Arcy,
particularly the steep descent on Smell the Fear, a short
but technically demanding piece of singletrack. For those who wish
a gentler approach, a power-line road is an alternative. The Sea
to Sky trail is well marked along this route, which passes beside
the Forest Service recreation site at Blackwater Lake near the halfway
point between Birkenhead Lake and D'Arcy. A 6-mile (10-km) intermediate-level
section of trail runs between the south end of Birkenhead Lake and
Gramsons. At Gramsons you can either retrace the route or follow
the D'Arcy-Anderson Lake Road north to where you began.
the Sea to Sky Trail, the heart of mountain biking in the Pemberton
region is centred around Mosquito and Ivey Lakes.
The two lakes are tucked in behind a knoll on the north side of
the valley between Pemberton and Mount Currie. A dozen or more trails
wind in and out of each other; principal among them are the Mosquito
Lake Trail, Ridge Loop, and Lake Loop Trails. Although
much of the fun is concentrated around Mosquito Lake (where a Forest
Service recreation site is located) and on the east side of Ivey
Lake Rd, the most challenging trails - Psychopath, Indy
500, and Blood, Sweat, and Fear - run along the west
side of the BC Hydro power-line grid.
More placid rides include the River Trail, which follows
a dike along the east side of the Lillooet River for a considerable
distance. Easiest access to the trails is from Hwy 99 between Pemberton
and Mount Currie, just east of the Lillooet River Bridge. The River
Trail begins beside the bridge. To reach the majority of the trails,
turn north off Hwy 99 at the first road east of the bridge, beside
an impressively landscaped log home. Follow this road as it crosses
the BC Rail tracks and then begins climbing the knoll. Watch for
trails as you ascend Ivey Lake Road. There are usually other mountain
bikers on the road to question about routes.
An alternative approach to Mosquito Lake is on the west side of
D'Arcy-Anderson Lake Road, just north of Mount Currie. It's a 1.2-mile
(2-km) ride from here on a gravel access road to the Forest Service
recreation site. Massive Mount Currie dominates the landscape, and
the views from the knoll are sublime. Equally absorbing are the
clouds of mosquitoes for which the valley is renowned, particularly
in late spring and early summer.
One of the
most extensive network of trails in the Lillooet
region is the more than 100 miles (162 km) of routes in the
South Chilcotin Mountains around Spruce Lake, which are also
utilized by hikers and horseback riders. The weather around Lillooet
is much drier and hotter than elsewhere in the Sea
to Sky region, so be prepared to consume a lot of liquid as
you pedal along the trails.