Deep within the fabric of Vancouver Island’s culture is the quintessential activity of mountain biking. A foundational element of any young islanders’ youth, mountain biking is necessary beyond recreation. For the young rider the bicycle is freedom, with endless logging roads and rugged trails actingas the island’s arteries.
Whether you are born and raised as a local or a visiting from afar, you will find out soon that Vancouver Island has become a worldwide Mountain Biking destination. If you’re looking for relaxed riding on gravel paths along serene seashores, first class single-track speed or technical downhill pistes the island has something for every rider.
Vancouver Island’s most renowned riding region is undoubtedly found in the forests of Cumberland. The vast trail network maintained by dedicated enthusiasts like UROC(United Riders of Cumberland), is encompassed by emerald canopies and watered by rushing creeks with rider built bridges crossing them. The trails skirt cliffs and canyons and drop into low lying basins with views of the surrounding mountains. Theyeventually finding their terminus on the shores of Comox Lake or in the eclectic village of Cumberland nearby.
Cumberland’s trails are built and maintained by committed riders who ride and build up the area year round, constantly looking for new lines and technical challenges. There are routes here for all riding levels but expect very advanced technical trails including hardcore vertical drops, narrow ladder bridges and hard climbs. Be sure to inquire with local bikes shops like Dodge City Cycles about what trails are suitable for your riding level.
Some of BC’s best single-track descents are found in this area. Take in aerial views of the Comox Lake, Cumberland, Courtenay and Comox by the Sea with Denman and Hornby Island in the distance as you race down the trails. Ride through a mix of mature and young forests along mostly downhill routes that vary from fast and flowy with short climbs to technical and steep.
Two ferries from Buckley Bay will bring you to the charming shores of Hornby Island. Its unique and isolated position has produced a dynamic culture and a perfect riding environment. Mt. Geoffrey’s central position and gradual slopes mean most trails can be climbed easily and ridden back down fast with minimal braking. Don’t let Hornby’s size and isolated position fool you. These trails are some of the best maintainedtrails in the region with a dedicated local crew taking care of them. The well-designed trail network has been dug with great drainage and is ride-able even on some of the wettest winter days. Check out the Bike Shop at Ring Side Market for more information as well as repairs, rentals and sales.
Campbell River’s century’s old forestry economy has some great spin offs. A recreational trail creation has become the largest and arguably most longstanding network of trails on the Vancouver Island. The Snowden Forest trails alone, beginning at the famous Pump House, encompasses more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) of single track. This mix of painless scenic loops tempered with some highly technical routesoffers all day riding for any skill level.
Take the kids for a rip along Rail Trail in the beautifulBeaver Lodge Landssouth west of town or join the Swicked Cycles group rides Monday and Thursday nights year round. For more information on group rides or gear inquire at Swicked Cycles or other reputable cycle shops like Pedal Your World in Campbell River’s Merecroft Village.
For the intrepid rider looking for something remote, the Woodsman’s Wilderness Trails on Menzies Mountain are where some of the areas’ newest trails can be found. This largely undeveloped area just north of Campbell River has several cross-country and downhill style routes to offer. To get there, go five kilometres past Browns Bay Road on Highway 19 and turn right, a high clearance 4×4 is recommended.
Close to Highway 19 and just off of Nanaimo Lakes Road and Harewood Mines Roadis a large loop affectionately named after the nearbyAbyss. This long fissure was created by an earthquake long ago and is not something you would want to fall into, but it is certainly worth a cautious photo.The long single-track loop circuit is 10.4 kilometres (6.5 miles) through mixed terrain of light and dense forest starting at the signs for Trans Canada Trail.
Within this mid-island’s district is Mt. Tzouhalem’smix of double-track and slow technical single-track with some fast flowing routes in between. There isn’t a well-defined loop as much as there is a web of entertaining networks. Connect with locals to find a well planned course or get lost and explore, you’re not far from civilization and the riding area is smaller. The trailhead starts across from the park on Kingsview Road.
There is some single and double track cross-country riding available for intermediate riders near Cobble Hill’s Quarry Nature Park. Look out for other users since the trails are multi-use.If you’re up to it, there is a small dirt jump park near by.
Past Shawnigan Lake and over the Kokisalah River is a trail network known as Burnt Bridge. Follow Renfrew Road until it turns to gravel then drive a little more until you reach a yellow gate. This is where you park. This quiet area gives the opportunity for uninterrupted riding, however you could get lost with its unmarkedmyiad of fire roads and old logging roads, so its best explored with a guide. The best single track routes will be hard to locate without some local knowledge.
Some multi-use recreational trails can be found in and around Sidney. For practice on a technical course, discover the North Saanich Free Ride Park. The course is a pump track and the jumps are located just off Mills Road. Due to heavy rains that can happen during the winter, make sure you check to see if it is open.
Beautiful Douglas fir, red cedar, and arbutus frame the slopes of Mt. Work in
the long established Hartland riding area. Victoria’s large riding community means the area is well marked and maintained with its host of friendly locals around to give you the knowledge you need. Trials are even rated with a green, blue, or black colour to identify beginner, intermediate, or advanced trail sections. You will find all kinds of riders in Hartland whether on a rigid cross-country rip or on 8” full suspension machines.
The parking lot lies at the end of Hartland Avenue so look for it on the right just before the landfill gate. For more information of the area inquire at Victoria’s many excellent bike shops.
The growing trail network of Harbourview has catered heavily to advanced all-mountain and downhill riders but is establishing more flowing single-track for a more well rounded trail network. Kumquat trail is a great example of fast and fun trail and if you reach the peak of Mt. Manual Quimper, it offers gorgeous view of nearby SookeHarbour.
Turn off Sooke Road onto Otter Point Road toward Broom Hill for a good mix of cross-country and free ride trails. These mostly single-track multi-use trails have the odd stunt drop and dirt jump section. They offer a great variety and stunning views of SookeHarbour and the Olympic Mountains beyond.