Premier Listings: Cycling & Biking: Vancouver, Coast & Mtns

Cycling & Biking in the Fraser Valley

North Fraser Valley
Nicomen Island is a short distance east of Mission, on the opposite side of the Fraser River from Matsqui Trail Regional Park. Entirely rural and level-surfaced, the lengthy dike trails (at least 10 miles (16 km) each way) around the perimeter of Nicomen Island are as sleepy as it gets. This is a pretty route to cycle or in-line skate in autumn, when the champion-sized bigleaf maples turn golden. After Hwy 7 passes Hatzic Lake, it runs through the small town of Dewdney and then crosses a bridge onto Nicomen Island. Leave your vehicle beside the bridge at Dewdney and use your bicycle to explore as far east as the rustic town of Deroche, located where Hwy 7 crosses from Nicomen back onto the mainland. (If you’re looking for even more easygoing riding on a paved road, a backroad leads west of Deroche along Nicomen Slough.)

South Fraser Valley
Paved shoulders on the Langley backroads around Aldergrove Lake Regional Park provide the extended length that you wish you could find everywhere for cycling and in-line skating. They are wide and smooth and, best of all, there is only a hint of traffic along most of the route. As you ride or skate along, you can relax and let your eyes drink in the views of the surrounding farm fields with Mount Baker towering over them. Park at the entrance to Aldergrove Lake Regional Park at Eighth Avenue and 272nd Street and begin from here. The paved shoulders nearby on 272nd Street have been installed by the district of Langley for cyclists and in-line skaters. Signs posted by the district of Langley point out the route to follow. A note of caution: Although you can in-line skate in the park, a steep hill dropping down to the lake will prove too challenging for novice skaters.

Matsqui Trail Regional Park offers level dike trail that run for over 6 miles (10 km) beside the Fraser River’s south shore, across from the town of Mission. It offers good views of the Fraser and the quiet farms that border it, as well as the snowcapped Cascade Mountains. The main trailhead can be a little tricky to locate. It sits under the south end of the Mission Bridge, which links Hwy 11 in Abbotsford and Matsqui with Hwy 7 and Mission to the north. Turn west off Hwy 11 onto Harris, then north on Riverside, which will take you right to the park’s Mission Bridge picnic area.

There’re always a few fisherman here casting from a nearby sandy fishing bar. Industries crowd the riverbanks west of Mission, but thin out as the trail leads east of the bridge. Several old riverboats are tied up at the Canadian Pacific Railway dock. Nearby fields are dotted with black-and-white Holsteins. The trail runs beside these fields and has long stretches where the full capabilities of a bike can be tested. Paths lead down off the trail to picnic spots beside the river.

Rounding the last major bend before the trail reaches Sumas Mountain and the Page Road trailhead, you finally look out at wilderness on all sides. Mission’s famous Westminster Abbey presides on a ridge to the northwest. The town of Hatzic is directly across the river. Strawberry Island is the large sandy expanse to the east on the far side of the Fraser. All signs of industry are beyond view downstream. This is the mighty Fraser as it should be: big river, big landscape, big fun. The Matsqui trail ends at an old quarry on the side of Sumas Mountain.

Riding time both ways from the Mission bridge is about one hour. With so many places to pull off and watch the river flow, it just might take you longer. In fact, you can expand your ride by tacking on the 4-mile (6.6-km) round trip between the west side of the bridge and the park’s Glenmore Road trailhead. This stretch leads past Gladwin Pond, and it’s rougher in places than the dike trail – skinny tires will definitely be a disadvantage here in wet weather. The backroads that lead west from the Glenmore Road trailhead pass through Bradner, Glen Valley Regional Park, Fort Langley, and Derby Reach Regional Park. The Pemberton Hills present a smoldering challenge to cyclists along the way.

One of the most laid-back rides in the South Fraser Valley takes riders along a section of the Canada-US border near Cultus Lake. Drive (don’t ride) along the Columbia Valley Hwy as it heads south past Cultus Lake Provincial Park onto the benchland above the town of Lindell Beach, a small lakefront village similar in flavour to Cultus Lake. Leave your vehicle here and begin to ramble by bike through the Columbia Valley. In contrast to the narrow shoulders and highway traffic running the length of Cultus Lake, the roads south of Lindell Beach are much quieter and ideal for cycling.

Columbia Valley Hwy divides south of the town’s golf course. Follow either one. Both Frost Road and Columbia Valley meet near the border after looping through the valley. Along the way, several side roads lead off into the far reaches of the valley. Avoid any that are posted ‘No Exit’ and you will have no trouble finding your way.

Both major roads level out soon after cresting on the benchland above Lindell Beach, and run 7.4 miles (12 km) to the Canada-US border. The border is marked by one small obelisk and a narrow 40-foot (12-m) cut visible on the hillside above the valley. Near the border, on the valley’s east side, the waters of Frost Creek run towards Cultus Lake. Canyon Rd is a pleasant, albeit narrow, gravel road that leads down to a bridge spanning the creek, then back up to Frost Road.

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