Premier Listings: Mountain Biking: Vancouver, Coast & Mtns

Although the seat of extreme mountain biking lies just across the Lions Gate and Second Narrows Bridges from Vancouver and Burnaby on the North Shore, Vancouver itself has very little in the way of challenging fat-tire trails, aside from those in Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

Everett Crowley Park is located in Vancouver’s Champlain Heights neighbourhood. Although the park has only been in existence since 1987, it has already gained a reputation as a place to ride a bike, be it skinny tire, fat tire, or BMX. In July 1997, the park served as the venue for the mountain-bike races for the BC Summer Games. Burnaby actually won the right to host the games, but as cycling is prohibited in all its parks, the city refused to sanction a location for the mountain-biking events, even though, for example, Burnaby Mountain is a latticework of trails and would have made the ideal choice. In casting about for a site as close to Burnaby as possible, games organizers arranged for the use of Everett Crowley Park, which lies just a few handlebar lengths inside Vancouver near Boundary Road and SE Marine Drive. Named after the founder of Avalon Dairy, who was also president of the Vancouver Parks Board in the 1960s, the park occupies what for years was the Kerr Road dumpsite and is splendidly overgrown with brambles and alder.

The focal point of the park for mountain bikers is a steep-sided mound of compacted soil dubbed Mount Everett. As seen from the top of this lone, cone-shaped promontory, Boundary Bay’s intertidal surface glitters to the south. To the west across the Strait of Georgia, the ghostly forms of Malahat Ridge on Vancouver Island seem pencilled into the horizon. Not far below, the Fraser River flows by, flat as a plate. The mound is treetop tall and is covered in Scotch broom. There is an interesting demarcation that can only be discerned from the top of the mound. Most of the open ground below is completely overgrown with evergreen blackberry, which meets the forest head-to-head but goes no further. It makes you wonder if there is an eternal contest between the two to gain the upper hand. The single-track bike trails that weave through the thickets leave little room for pilot error. If you were to tumble into the blackberries, you’d burn for sure.

Easy riders (and easy walkers) don’t have to concern themselves with suffering a similar fate. The bark-mulched pathways are broad and level, and loop around the 96-acre (39-ha) park, touching on several viewpoints along the way. At one, a handmade sign nailed to an old tree trunk points to Mount Baker. You’ll find enough trails in Everett Crowley Park to keep you content for more than one visit. If you aren’t completely satisfied, bike a short distance downhill on Kerr Street to Riverfront Park. You can see the park’s piers, which jut out into the Fraser from Everett Crowley. Bike paths run a long way west beside the river but provide little of the views that make its counterpart up the hill so special. The entrance to Everett Crowley Park is located on the east side of Kerr Street near E 63rd Avenue across from Fraserview Golf Course. There’s room for a dozen cars to park beside the unassuming trailhead. Riverfront Park is located nearby at the intersection of Kerr and Kent Avenue East and extends west to Gladstone Street.

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The trails on Burnaby Mountain (elevation 1,340 feet/403 m) are not open to mountain bikes, but try telling that to the mountain bikers who regularly make their way along one of the dozens of trails that crisscross the mountain. Its high usage stems in part from the fact that students attending Simon Fraser University at the top of Mount Burnaby want alternate paths up to and (especially) down from school other than the two roads that wend their way up Mount Burnaby (more often referred to as Burnaby Mountain): Gaglardi Way from the east, and Curtis Street (which becomes University Dive) from the west.

The use of the challenging trails around Buntzen Lake by those on mountain bikes is currently under discussion by a mixed group of hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. Some trails are open, such as the service road along the east side of the lake, while others aren’t. The wheel’s still in spin, as it were.

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