The North Shore is rightfully renowned for some of the most challenging off-road mountain-bike trails in the world. Most of these have only recently been constructed as the popularity of single-track riding has outpaced road riding. These routes are cut by ad hoc groups of cyclists desperate for some quality singletrack to call their own, often without permission from municipal or provincial governments. Clandestine trails are not well signed, but in most cases you won’t have any problem finding them.
One of the attractions of the North Shore slopes, particularly at lower elevations, is that trails stay snow-free throughout most of the winter. This is a prime reason why many of Canada’s elite mountain-bike riders live and train in North Vancouver. A myriad of off-road trails leads through the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. True to its name, part of the largely second-growth forest is a manicured showcase for the logging industry. Much of the undergrowth has been brushed out in places near the park entrance, which makes for smooth trail riding. Several of the hiking trails here are also open to mountain bikes, including Twin Bridges, Riverside, and Fisherman’s. Tie in a trip around the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve with an off-road spin through nearby Lynn Canyon Park, located immediately south and west of Seymour’s parking lot. Main trails are all well signed to avoid confusion. Trail maps of Lynn Canyon Park are available at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre at the entrance to the park.
Mount Seymour Provincial Park (see Hiking on the North Shore), near Deep Cove in North Vancouver, has several trails on which mountain biking is sanctioned. In turn, these link with many unofficial ones outside the park’s boundaries, including the infamously challenging and colourfully named Severed Dick Trail. To reach it and many others, follow Old Buck Trail as it climbs steadily beneath a forest canopy for almost 1.5 miles (3 km) to a BC Hydro service road. Old Buck Trail begins on the west side of Mount Seymour Road just inside the park gates. This former logging road has been reinforced to withstand the rains that often soak the mountainside and to absorb the impact of knobby bike treads. (Old Buck is the site of the start/finish area for the annual Hell of the North mountain-bike race held each July.) Short stretches of single-track trails crisscross the mountain both above and below the service road.
The well-marked Baden-Powell Trail (see Hiking on the North Shore) runs east and west through the park and is always a good touchstone with which to orient your scrambled senses; however, it’s more suited to walking than riding. Severed Dick is reached by heading west on Baden-Powell from its intersection with Old Buck. Where the Baden-Powell changes from a wide pathway to rough single-track, watch for the entrance to Severed Dick on the left. Severed Dick eventually connects with the Bridle Path Trail. Bear left here to return to Old Buck. Along the way, granite outcroppings amid a second-growth Douglas fir forest provide twisting drops over loose, loamy soil. The maze of trails here is so dizzying that you may quickly lose your bearings. Maps are scarce. Try these trails with a friend who knows the topography, and ask directions wherever you go.
Additional trails in the vicinity of Mount Seymour Provincial Park can be reached from the north ends of Riverside Drive and Berkley Road, both of which intersect with Mount Seymour Parkway immediately east of the Seymour River. Anglers and horseback riders also use these trails, so be cautious as well as courteous. Cross the Seymour River north of Riverside Drive at Twin Bridges to connect with the lengthy Fishermans Trail in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.
Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver has only one official trail, named BLT (boulders, logs, and trees), which begins just north of the entrance to the old logging road at the first switchback on the Cypress Pkwy. Another entrance is from the maintenance yard above the fourth switchback. BLT may be the only trail, but at least it’s got length (10 miles/16 km return) in its favour. There are a number of trails just outside the park, ranging from the idyllic Fern Trail to the psychotic Sex Boy, both of which link with BLT. Fern Trail begins where BLT meets Cypress Bowl Rd’s third switchback. Entrances to upper and lower Sex Boy occur along BLT north of a BC Hydro substation and the third switchback. Mountain biking elsewhere in the park is illegal (rigorously enforced). Expect fines or bike confiscation (as well as scorn and ridicule from park authorities) if caught. Another series of trails is found at the second switchback higher up Cypress Pkwy. These trails, including Skyline, Panorama, No Stairs Allowed, and My Friend the Stupid Grouse, run through the forested British Properties neighbourhood. Although they haven’t been officially sanctioned, they haven’t been officially condemned, either.
Grouse Mountain and its companion peak to the east, Mount Fromme, sport a number of trails that are open to mountain biking, most of which intersect with Old Grouse Mountain Highway. The gravel-surfaced road once carried busloads of visitors to the top of Grouse Mountain. It’s long been closed to vehicles – but not hikers or bikers – on the slopes above North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley neighbourhood. To reach the gated trailhead, head to the north end of Mountain Hwy, one of the principal streets that intersect with both Lynn Valley Road and the Upper Levels Hwy. The Old Grouse Mountain Hwy begins climbing first the side of Fromme, then Grouse, from here. Keep track of the switchbacks to locate pioneer mountain-bike trail builder Ross Kirkwood’s Seventh Secret, which descends from the seventh major bend. Griffen, Roadside Attraction, Leopard, Crinkum Crankum, Cedar, Egg, and Dweezil are trails open to mountain bikes. You’ll find them spread along the north (uphill) side of the road soon after beginning the climb. Other trails, almost all of which descend to the Baden-Powell Trail (see Hiking) from the road beyond the fifth switchback, are not open to mountain bikers.
A 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay lands you on Bowen Island. Bowen is a paradise of trails, from relatively easy loops around Killarney Lake in Crippen Regional Park to the burning climb up Mount Gardner. The island is a world unto itself, so take the time to explore and revel in Bowen’s sedated pace. Although the tempo may be relaxed, mountain bikers will find the roads that ring the island demanding, with few level stretches and even fewer beach-access points for well-deserved breaks. For a map of Bowen Island, stop at the island’s gas station near the ferry dock.