Hit the pedals this summer and explore British Columbia by bicycle. Cycling is a unique way to explore the province’s terrain and towns and connect with the locals. On a bike you can feel, hear, and even smell the scenery going by.
Whether you seek scenic highway tours, gut-wrenching single-track challenges, or leisurely pathways, there’s something for every cycling level and interest. Here are nine tips to see British Columbia by bike:
Mini-Trips to Multi-Day Tours: If day-tripping or short overnight trips are your thing, cycle the B.C. portions of the Trans Canada Trail. Do an overnighter from the old mining town of Greenwood, west to tiny Rock Creek where you can try your hand at gold panning. There are lots of tour companies in B.C. offering bike tours, from half-day excursions to fully escorted multi-day adventures complete with gourmet meals and deluxe accommodation. Some tours also combine cycling with kayaking, canoeing, or white-water rafting.
Chew on Dirt: B.C. is mountain biking heaven, and trail-busters of every ability head for the 200 kilometres (125 miles) of trails in Rossland, “the mountain biking capital of Canada”. All over B.C., old logging roads, mining trails, and railbeds provide countless opportunities for cycling and trail-riding. With names like Snakes and Ladders, Tree Hugger, Flying Monkey and the Vertical Smile, there are thrills awaiting in the hills.
Ride the Rails: This province is dotted with abandoned railbeds, many of which have been converted into excellent cycling or multi-use paths. Probably the best-known cycle-rail path is the 600 kilometres (375 miles) Kettle Valley Railway which travels from Hope to Midway through the exquisite scenery of the Thompson Okanagan over trestles (18!), through tunnels, past ghost towns and through the lovely Myra Canyon. If riding from urban to suburban sounds appealing, try the tamer Galloping Goose Regional Trail, named after the old Galloping Goose gas car which travelled this railline until the 1930s. The trail starts in Victoria and extends 61 kilometres (38 miles) into Sooke, passing lakes, marshland, Douglas fir forest and rural farmland on the way. Also on Vancouver Island is Port Alberni’s Log Train Trail, once a railbed for the Bainbridge Mill rail-logging operation and now a multi-use 25 kilometre (15.6 mile) trail that goes along the foot of the Beaufort Range.
Super Scenery: This Kootenay bike-circuit is a favourite with experienced cyclists: starting in Nelson, heart of the Kootenay arts scene, the circle trip goes north to Kaslo (if it’s August, stay for jazz fest), on to New Denver, takes a sidetrip to Nakusp (jump in the hotsprings), then heads back south via the beautiful Slocan Valley. Another favourite (but strenuous) cycle tour is the Golden Triangle which follows the Rocky Mountain trench between Golden and Radium Hot Springs and crosses into the Rockies. Stunning scenery, three national parks, and a serious workout. If you prefer wider vistas and less exertion, take a day trip through the open grasslands of the Chilcotin plateau to the undisturbed volcanic lake called Dante’s Inferno.
Cycle and Sip: Ride through the rolling hills of Okanagan country: smell the fruit blossoms, take a dip in Okanagan or Skaha Lake, and tour the many wineries and vineyards that dot this area. Monashee Adventure Tours offers cycling tours through Okanagan wineries – ride through the famous Quails’ Gate, Summer Hill and Cedar Creek vineyards. The Cowichan wine region on southern Vancouver Island also offers opportunities to cycle, wine and dine – sample wine straight from the barrels, enjoy fresh bread and gourmet cheeses or participate in the great stomping of grapes.
When the Snow Melts: Hit the slopes with rubber instead of skis. In the summer, many of B.C.’s ski hills and resorts open their runs to mountain bikes. Vernon’s Silver Star Mountain, Whistler-Blackcomb, Apex Mountain & Sun Peaks in the Thompson Okanagan and North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain all offer world-class mountain biking for cyclists of every ability. In the north, point your wheels downhill at Morice Mountain Ski Trails near Houston or explore the paths at Prince George’s Otway Nordic Centre Trails or the Waterlily Cross-Country Ski Trails near Vanderhoof.
River Riding: For a more leisurely cycle experience, ride Quesnel’s riverside pathways alongside the mighty Fraser or Quesnel rivers. In the south, relax while you pedal past tidal flats on Richmond’s 6 kilometres (3.75 miles) West Dyke Trail or on the dyke trails in Abbotsford and Pitt Meadows. Or glide along the broad, level PoCo Trail which follows the Pitt and Coquitlam Rivers past waterfowl nesting grounds, log booms and lazy anglers in Port Coquitlam.
A Peak Experience: B.C.’s Coast Mountain Range, with its many towering peaks, is an ideal destination for heli-biking: that’s fly-in and bike out. It may seem like cheating, but cycling an 1800 metre (1,969 yard) vertical single-track descent from high alpine meadow to valley floor is unarguably the thrill of a lifetime for hard-core mountain bikers. It’s a vacation highlight for those who enjoy high-speed, stunning scenery and adventure.
Down to the Woods: If your tires are hungry for rocks, trees, and dirt, Campbell River’s Snowden Demonstration Forest is a favourite single-track riding destination on Vancouver Island. The wooded mountain trails of Vancouver’s North Shore, especially the Seymour Demonstration Forest, are also a popular spot for urbanites seeking a forest-riding challenge.
Remember that in B.C. you are required by law to wear a bike helmet while cycling. Please help us protect B.C.’s ecology by staying on the trails. Have fun!
More information: HelloBC is your source for information on everything British Columbia.