Canada has amazing trails and mountain bike destinations to get dirty with your bike
By Ron Johnson
Many mountain bike riders careen through neighborhood streets at break-neck speed dreaming of the day when their concrete playgrounds will be traded in for serious dirt. We watch bike porn at work (not me…this is just what I’ve heard) dreaming of places such as North Vancouver and Rossland. Sadly, all too often they are just that – dreams. But tourism in the name of off-road biking is a growing trend internationally and also locally and nationally thanks to recreational areas investing in trail infrastructure and ski resorts transforming into four-season playgrounds. The ‘climber’ of choice is often some killer mountain bike park, or epic cross-country trail with plenty of features for fun. Here are a few of the top destinations to get you on your way planning your next great trip.
Rossland, British Columbia
Rossland is the perfect town for outdoor enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes, and is located in the crater of an old volcano. When it comes to mountain biking, it is just better. Rossland has been the top of the knobby-tired heap in Canada since tires got phat, and although some areas offer a few bigger bells and a few fancy whistles, Rossland is still the primo destination for gearheads looking for a vacation filled with epic rides.
Trails: The Kootenay Trail Society manages 32 trails covering 170 kilometres and counting including the Seven Summits trail, classified as ‘Epic’ by the International Mountain Biking Association. Most tourists come to Rossland for Seven Summits. The 30-kilometre, ridge-line trail was built in 1999, and has attracted riders from around the world with is rare combination of killer singletrack, gut-busting climbs, screaming downhills and gorgeous sub-alpine beauty. The trail is actually located outside of town, but the tourism infrastructure has built up around the trail and there is no end to shuttle options. The recommended route is north-to-south, as most riders end up adding a bit more decent onto the end of their day by buzzing down the 100-year-old Dewdney Trail. If you can handle it. But there are thousands of feet up and thousands more down, so make no mistake that this is a serious six- to eight-hour day.
How to get there: Rossland is located halfway between Vancouver and Calgary. Flying into one of these international airports is the most obvious option, but flying into smaller airports in Kelowna or even Spokane, Washington can shave valuable hours off of travel time.
Where to gear up: Revolutions Cycle Shop
Best post-trail pints: The Rock Cut Pub offers nine premium beverages on tap as well as a great view of Red Mountain and a heated deck.
North Vancouver, British Columbia
When an area is credited with an entire style of riding, it is bound to attract attention. North Vancouver isn’t overrun with tourists looking for a little shore-style magic to rub off, but it is one of the destinations of choice for serious, highly skilled bikers looking for one of the most unique and challenging mountain biking experiences available in North America. It is no surprise Mountain Bike Magazine named North Vancouver the best mountain biking area … ever.
Trails: The North Vancouver trail network weaves around three major destination points: Cypress, Mt. Fromme and Mt. Seymour. There are trail maps available that provide riders with information on most of the trails in the area, but there are always secret spots best discovered by chance or perhaps buying the locals a few pints. The best place to start a North Van adventure is in Mount Seymour where the riding is slightly less gnarly than other areas providing a gentler introduction. CBC is a class trail, and Bridle Path is a fun cross-country option. After Seymour hit Cypress Bike Park and then on to Mount Fromme, otherwise known as Grouse Mountain for the serious Shore experience. Remember that the trails combine downhill with a ridiculous variety of obstacles both man-made and natural. Expect a bewildering array of ladders, teeter-totters, rocks and trees. Oh, and this is Vancouver so plan for rain and slick trails.
How to get there: Fly into Vancouver, but ignore the big-city trappings and get your caboose across the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver as quickly as possible – about a 20-minute drive from downtown, or take the sea bus.
Where to gear up: Cove Bike Shop has been around forever, and is a great spot to rent a mountain bike for your trip as well as harass shop employees into giving up vital information on the local trails (www.covebike.com). Many shops also offer group rides and tour information.
Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec
Quebec is a cycling Mecca with an awe-inspiring variety of trails from the world-renowned Rout Verte to the sublime mountain biking at Mont Sainte Anne that just keeps getting better and better. The mountain is already a regular stop on the World Cup mountain biking circuit, and offers some of the finest riding in Eastern Canada. The combination of world-class terrain and a cultural experience unlike any other in the country put the area at the top of many to-do lists.
Trails: Mont Sainte Anne boasts a trail network of more than 160-kilometres that includes cross-country, downhill and a freestyle park. Although the area had been criticized for the confusing cross-country network, there is work being done, new trails being added each year with more organization and planning evident on the trail maintenance side. But downhill reigns supreme at Mont Sainte Anne, and the gondola-serviced runs offer enough to satisfy intermediate riders looking to try their hand, as well as experts itching for an adrenaline fix. The area dubbed, Inferno X-Zone, though a bit aggressively named does offer up some cool bells and whistles including a pump park and plenty of “shore-style” features. There is a good mix of singletrack and doubletrack throughout with plenty of challenging terrain that demands a rider with solid technical skill – like much of Eastern Canada, roots and rocks are everywhere.
How to get there: From Quebec City travel east on Highway Dufferin-Montmorency, 440 East and Route 138 East to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. Follow Route 360 to Mont-Saint-Anne.
Where to gear up: Full day rentals for front suspension bikes.
Best post-trail pints: The Brez at the base of the mountain for beer and fondue.
The Yukon is quickly becoming one of the top mountain biking destinations in North America. It is unrivalled for sheer size and variety. Getting there takes a bit of doing, especially for residents of Eastern Canada. But, for those willing to make the trek, it might be the trip of a lifetime. Oh, and the 24-hour riding conditions in the summer are an added bonus if you really want to put your endurance to the test. See: 24 Hours of Light Mountain Bike Festival.
Trails: The network of trails running in the Yukon River Valley put Whitehorse mountain biking on the map, and it is still the area’s most popular riding. A day alongside the river invariably features a stunning view, historical stops along the way and nothing but singletrack heaven as far as the eye can see. But, a lot of the best new riding is in the Carcross region, home to sick and serious riding of all shapes and sizes as well as the world’s smallest desert. The eight-km Sam McGee Trail, an old packhorse trail named after, yes Sam McGee, down 7,300-ft.Montana Mountain is the primo example of righteous downhill in the Yukon. And, there are a number of other downhill trails on the mountain, such as Tin Cup. The trails are expertly designed with plenty of variety, and great flow.
How to get there: Residents of Western Canada could drive up the Alaska Highway for a few days. But mere mortals with more money than time will invariably take one of the daily flights Air Canada runs from Vancouver to Whitehorse.
Where to gear up: Cadence Cycle rents mountain bikes.
Best post-trail pints. The Deck at the High Country Inn. The largest outdoor patio in town, heated if need be, with great local brews on tap.