The trip from Revelstoke to Nelson includes hot springs, ghost towns, lakes, mountains, and orchards. Mountain biking during the long, green summers in Revelstoke is a great complement to its thriving winter scene, with several excellent cross-country trail systems surrounding the town. Just up the road is the world-class alpine singletrack splendour of the Keystone-Standard Basin trail. Revelstoke is also experiencing a recent growth in freeride trail building, making it a worthwhile visit for any off-road biker.
As soon as Revelstoke’s deep snows flee the valley and ooze back up the mountainsides, the mountain bike season creeps its way in. In early April, the sun-exposed out-and-back track of the Mt. Cartier trail is first to open. This is soon followed by the southfacing trails on Mt. Revelstoke. By early May the base of Powder Springs Ski Resort on Mt. MacKenzie is thawed out, revealing a great system of cross-country loops. Pedal up the gated access road, try Fault Line and the Big Easy each about 5km (3 miles), then duck behind the day lodge to drop the friendly flow of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride back to town.
With late May comes summer heat and the Mt. MacPherson trail systems, bisected by Highway 23S. The trails above the road are smooth, wide cross-country loops, with singletrack connectors scattered between. Check out Buff Enough, Root Canal, Richard Liquer, Break-A-Leg, and TNT. Go below the road for some downsloping fun on the Quarry Trail, then maybe try Sex On The Beach. Finish off by taking a Tantrum back to town.
When the snow finally vanishes from surrounding peaks, make sure you try the crown jewel of Revelstoke riding, the Keystone-Standard Basin trail, one of the best alpine singletrack rides in the region. Located at the end of a logging road off Hwy 23 north of town, the ride features awesome singletrack through rolling alpine meadows, marvellous views, and, with good timing, a patchwork quilt of wildflowers so vibrant and thick that overwhelmed riders have been known to fall off their bikes.
Freeride mountain biking is on the rise in Revelstoke, with an expanding trail network on Boulder Mountain, offering steeps, flow, technical roots, rocks, and stunts. There are about four trails on the go, with trailheads at the 5-km, 7-km, and 9.5-km marks on the access road. Check at High Country Cycle for the latest developments. A gravity-driven highlight is Sale Mountain, near the hangglider launch above Martha Creek Provincial Park. Start with a good set of directions, and expect close to an hour’s descent through a gauntlet of steep, tight and rocky terrain, rolling on through a subalpine bog, giant forest singletrack, zoomy gullies, then onto a windy old cutblock finish.
Revelstoke is a hub for a number of excellent paved secondary roads and some fine out-and-back road tours. For jumping, the Revelstoke freeride park is located in the middle of town.
From Revelstoke, travel south on Hwy 23 along the shore of Upper Arrow Lake. 50 km from Revelstoke is Shelter Bay, where a free ferry will take you across the lake to Galena Bay. Another 49 km brings you to Nakusp, where you can visit the Nakusp Hot Springs. Providing a vivid hotspring experience, the setting here is a narrow canyon through which runs the Kuskanax River, surrounded by dense forest.
Continue southeast on Hwy 16 for 46 km to New Denver, a former mining town noted mainly for its spectacular location on Slocan Lake. The 47 km east on Hwy 31A to Kaslo passes through the ghost towns of Zincton, Retallack, Three Forks, and Sandon. The villages of New Denver and Kaslo and are ideal for cyclists looking for mind-blowing wilderness and fascinating BC history, all nicely off the beaten path. For cross-country enthusiasts, road riders and downhillers, the New Denver and Kaslo area is most noteworthy for its incredible frontier feel. Cyclists literally pedal through history, whether passing by century-old paddle wheelers and mining sites, or riding the very same backcountry routes forged by the railway builders and prospectors of yesteryear. The wilds of Kokanee Glacier and Valhalla Provincial Park, Goat Range Provincial Park and the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park border the area on all fronts.
For freeriders searching for that unforgettable destination, rides out of both New Denver and Kaslo serve up singletrack made famous by truly awesome vistas. The northern mountain ranges of the West Kootenay are jutted by dozens of sharp peaks, glaciers and deep evergreen valleys. Riders can see it all from on high with the help of shuttles. The truly fit and adventurous can choose to pedal up. While there aren’t nearly as many trails or stunts in this neck of the woods compared to other Kootenay Rockies downhill hot spots, the trailheads that await offer dreamscape 360-degree panoramas, followed by epic vertical, high speeds and heaps of flow.
Contrary to what the skyscraping geography might suggest, there is ample opportunity near both Kaslo and New Denver for cross-country riders of all abilities. From effortless flats to lung-busting ascents, cross-country trails originate from the quaint outskirts of both communities. Kaslo has 45 kilometres (30 miles) of trail including the True Blue Recreation Area, which is a great destination for a fun few hours of pedalling, with family or on your own. New Denver has over 64 km (40 miles) of trail maintained by local volunteers. In many cases, trail networks showcase the pioneer past of both villages. Cycling routes follow old telegraph lines and long ago thoroughfares for wagon traffic in once-booming cities like Sandon, which today has a great museum and tea house open during the summer. Other cross-country tracks zip along old miners’ routes and ‘rawhide trails’ perfectly dished out by horse-drawn rawhide sacks laden with tonnes of ore. There are many trails in the New Denver, Rosebery and Sandon area, so make sure to pick up the New Denver Mountain Bike Trails Map.
Major volunteer efforts have helped reclaim beautiful stretches of former rail grade north and east of New Denver on two former railways including portions of the Canadian Pacific and Kaslo and Slocan. Gently graded, these rides are great for all ages and families, for trips of a few hours or a number of days. East of Kaslo and New Denver and north of Highway 31A, a 5 km (3 miles) trail runs along the former Canadian Pacific grade to the old mining site of Zincton. The 42 km (26 miles) K&S line can be ridden from Kaslo to Retallack –– but check for updates on the project’s progress. The Galena Trail, however, is the region’s biggest and best maintained Rail to Trail effort so far, offering beautiful views of Slocan Lake and Valhalla Provincial Park.
With vistas galore, twisty-turny curves, challenging ascents and thrilling downhills, Kaslo and New Denver are becoming famous for their road riding routes. Ample accommodation in the way of historic hotels, excellent B&Bs and well-kept campgrounds line most routes. There’s a bit of riding for BMXers in the Kaslo/New Denver area. New Denver’s Centennial Park, located on Third Street, has a small stunts and trials course, and Kaslo has a skateboard and BMX park.
From Kaslo, take Hwy 31 south 36 km to Balfour. Ainsworth Hot Springs is located approximately midway – here you can explore caves of piping-hot, waist-deep water, or swim in the slightly cooler pool. Another free ferry crosses Kootenay Lake from Balfour to Kootenay Bay, bringing you to the last leg of the journey.
Tucked away on the scenic shores of Kootenay Lake, surrounded by spectacular peaks and glaciers, Nelson is home to a collection of cycling opportunities, a place where mountain bikers of al kinds will feel right at home. The quaint heritage city supports two bike shops, a shuttle service, and of course, some of the most coveted trails in all of British Columbia: alpine to lakeshore descents, road tours through some of Canada’s highest passes, and Rails to Trails rides past quiet beaches, each with stunning views of the Selkirk Mountains.
Nelson is infamous throughout the mountain bike community for its unique and extensive collection of challenging riding. Trails are well-built, well-maintained and cater to a wide variety of skill level. Mountain Station, just a few blocks from downtown, is a prime example. Maintained by the Nelson Cycling Club, Mountain Station features a map at the trailhead and good signage to some 20 trails of varying difficulty: stunts, technical descents and free flowing singletrack. (Mountain Station is on private land so please respect all signage). Other longer rides like the Vein, Plascenta Descenta, and the Paper Bag are also accessible by riding right from downtown, taking riders on adventures deep into the forested mountainsides surrounding Nelson. Visitors should also consider a trip to trails in outlying areas like the West Kokanee area, a 20- minute drive east from Nelson on Hwy 31.
While the predominantly steep nature of the terrain doesn’t lend itself to the traditional notion of cross-country riding, there are some great rides in the Nelson area those of the all-mountain ilk will enjoy. From multi-use trails like Sproule Creek and the Silver King Stanley Loop, to leisurely doubletrack rides like Kenville Mines. For the experienced cross-country rider, many of the trails classified as freeride are also worth exploring, trails like Space Junk, Log Jam and 49er – technical rides with long singletrack climbs, but with few stunts or jumps.
Following the old railway line from Nelson, either eastward along the southern shores of Kootenay Lake’s West Arm, or northwest towards Cottonwood Lake, is a stunning, peaceful ride cyclists of all ages and abilities will enjoy. A number of trestles along the eastward section of the trail have been refurbished with railings and new decking, making for a cruisy 6-km (4-mile) descent from Nelson to Troup Beach, a beautiful jut of land perfect for picnics and a dip. An hour from Nelson by car north towards Slocan offers another great Rails to Trails ride for cyclists of all abilities. The Slocan Rail Trail follows the gentle, flowing banks of the Slocan River. Ride past old farmsteads and quaint rural communities with few hills to climb and a number of places to stop and swim or grab a bite to eat.
Blessed with some of the most stunning highway loops in British Columbia, keen road cyclists will enjoy Nelson’s proximity to a number of challenging rides on winding mountain roads, over high passes and through remote villages. Nelson has a popular indoor BMX and skateboard ramp at the Nelson District Youth Centre, located at the centre of town.
Nestled amongst the rolling ridgelines and peaks of the Southern Monashee Mountains, Rossland is home to hundreds of kilometres of mountain bike trail, solid grounds for its claim as the ‘Mountain Bike Capital of Canada.’ Rossland offers a high level of riding to a variety of different cycling enthusiasts. Many of the trails follow old wagon roads, rail grades and pack trails – vestiges of Rossland’s rich mining history. New projects like the Seven Summits Trail, a 30-kilometre (19-mile) point-to-point singletrack through alpine and sub-alpine forest, and the recent opening of Red Resort’s new bike park have added significantly to Rossland’s strong mountain bike repute as one of the best off-road destinations in North America.
The freeride scene thrives in Rossland. The undulating nature of the terrain, with its easily accessed ridgelines, proximity to mountain environments and steep, rocky landscapes make it a downhill rider’s paradise. Most freeride trails, like Interstellar Overdrive, which drops more than a kilometre and a half of vertical relief (1 mile), can be accessed by car or by bike. Other trails like The Flume, with its rock slabs, flowy singletrack and stunted airs, benefit by their proximate location to town. Trails play host to all the features that make freeriding in the Kootenay Rockies so popular: stunts, jumps and steep technical descents – some dropping more than 1,000 vertical metres (3,000 feet) – have made Rossland one of the genre’s most popular destinations.
The bike park at Red Resort, located just a few kilometres up the road from Rossland, adds greatly to the riding scene in Rossland, with four lift-accessed trails rated green through double black. Riders access the trails via Red’s Silverlode triple chair, riding through widely spaced forests on perfectly manicured singletrack.
The Seven Summits Trail has quickly become one of the most sought-after cross-country all-mountain rides in North America. Built with funds raised through the Rossland Trails Society, the multi-use trail travels along a long ridge from Strawberry Flats north of town, passing along seven mountain summits on its way to the trail’s terminus to the southwest of Rossland. The trail is 30 km (19 miles) long and will take most cyclists 7-9 hours to complete. Views of the surrounding countryside are well worth the effort. A map of the trail is available at most outdoor stores in Rossland. Other cross-country trails in the Rossland area include the Full Monty, a technical ride close to town, Larry’s Loop, a highly enjoyable singletrack ride on the shoulder of Red Mountain, and Miners, another Rossland classic.
Most of the established trails around Castlegar are of the beginner to intermediate variety, including Beaver Trails, or Beev’s, in local parlance. Located just northwest of the junction of Highways 22 and 3, these are a mess of interconnected trails of varying difficulty. Snails Trail connects this series of trails with the slightly easier (and less developed) system of trails around Merry Creek, which can also be accessed from the Merry Creek Forest Service Rd, 2.5 miles (4 km) south of town towards Grand Forks on Hwy 3.
Mountain biking around Grand Forks is done in grand, sweeping style. There is very little in the way of short, technical rides, and a great many epic, day-long adventures that will take you up some pretty big climbs, then down the same. Expect rides like the Vertical (S) Mile, which climbs 5,300 feet (1616 m). For most of these rides, you’ll want to start early and know exactly where you’re going. If you’re lucky, you can hook up with a few of the locals for a mondo ride . . . if you can keep up.
There’s an extended ride to Christina Lake from Grand Forks known as the Spooner Creek Route. Fair warning, though: If you do ride out, chances are, you’re not going to want to ride back unless you’re a real goer. Best arrange for a pickup. Ride from town on Overton Rd to Sand Creek Rd. Go right on Sand Creek Rd through a logged area. Take the road that heads to the top of the logging block. Once through the block, climb to the top of Sand Creek. Follow this road until the next right, and go down 10 miles (14.5 km) on Stewart Creek Rd. Ride Stewart Creek Rd 5.5 miles (9 km) until you see the flagging on your left: this is where the Spooner Creek singletrack downhill starts!
A few thousand feet downhill at Christina Lake, take the Deer Point Trail, an out-and-back excursion from the Texas Creek campgrounds. It’s 3.5 miles (6 km) to Deer Point, and about 6 miles (10 km) to Troy Creek. The trail is an up-and-down affair, great riding married with great views of Christina Lake. You can also try the Dewdney Trail. It’s about 5.5 miles (9 km) up Santa Rosa Road (there’s one left turn about 4 miles/ 7 km along), and there are some great views from the top. Dewdney Trail crosses the road. Take it left, and enjoy the ride back to the lake.
The aforementioned Vertical (S) Mile is 19 miles (31 km) east of Christina Lake. The road up starts in the Bonanza Gravel Pit. You’ve got a slog ahead of you, but the screaming downhill should more than make up for the effort.
Another place you can ride to directly from Grand Forks is Morrisey Lookout. Follow Morrisey Rd out of town, then right at the first junction. The third left will bring you all the way up (4,000 feet/1200 m) to a viewpoint overlooking Sunshine Valley.
The Thimble Mountain Trail begins about 13 miles (21 km) west of Grand Forks on Hwy 3. There’s a pullout beside the highway to park your car. Cross the cattle guard, follow the gravel road to the first left turn. A short way down this road is a sign marking the Thimble Mountain Trail. Hours of pristine singletrack lay before you, so get moving.
The Kootenay Rockies are a cyclist’s paradise waiting for your discovery; small, friendly townships and pristine mountain wilderness brought together via an eclectic network of singletrack trails, country roadways, converted railway lines and adrenalin-raising downhills. Whether it’s a first-time foray into cross-country mountain biking, leisurely rides on dirt backroads or freeride trails full of stunts, jumps and fast, flowy descents, it’s all here, accessed through some of Canada’s most pleasurable and scenic small towns and cities.