Bikepacking the Lower Sunshine Coast

  • Distance

    75 Mi.

    (121 KM)
  • Days

    3

  • % Unpaved

    92%

  • % Singletrack

    70%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    5

  • % Rideable (time)

    100%

  • Total Ascent

    7,962'

    (2,427 M)
  • High Point

    2,503'

    (763 M)
A forty minute ferry ride from Vancouver, British Columbia, is all it takes to escape urban chaos. No more than 5 minutes after docking at Langdale, on the Sunshine Coast, this route leaves the pavement behind, and enters a lush green tunnel and a seemingly endless network of loamy mountain bike trails.
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This route loosely follows Stages 3 and 4 of the world-famous BC Bike Race, for that same “ultimate singletrack experience” without the mayhem and expense of an organized event. Since we’ve ridden the opposite direction as the race route, there are some deviations to keep climbs rideable, and descents exciting. Nowhere else have I found extensive wood-work stunts, and purpose-built trails on a bikepacking route. The result is a two or three day ride consisting of great mountain biking through heavy forest. The route passes through the town of Sechelt at around half-way, making resupply and logistics easy. The riding, however, is heavy with proper, technical mountain biking. The result is a great intro to bikepacking for those coming from a mountain biking background, wanting to try a one or two night ride.

  • Highlights

  • Must Know

  • Camping

  • Food/H2O

    💧

  • Classic ‘north shore’ style riding on trails like Ripped Nipple, Eldorado, and Hwy 103 (it’s a trail name, not a highway).
  • The type of loamy, organic trails that made BC a famous mountain biking destination.
  • Riding past huge, old-growth Douglas-fir trees on Hwy 102 and 4D.
  • Swimming in Chapman Creek and Crowston Lake.
  • Coffee and/or brunch in Sechelt.
  • The difficulty rating is 5, but you must be able to ride blue/black rated mountain bike trails.
  • You can find GPS files of the BC Bike Race stages, as well a many trails in the Lower Sunshine Coast region on Trailforks.com.
  • There is no GPS basemap that includes the full trail network, but the Ibicus (free) Canadian Topo map, Garmin Topo Canada, or the Backroads Mapbook GPS Map, will provide topographic info, lake locations, and many creeks. Use Trailforks to build an overlay of the mountain bike trails.
  • There is no public bus service to Earls Cove at the north end of this route. Once a day, the Sunshine Coach bus travels from Powell River, on the Upper Sunshine Coast, to Langdale, via Earls Cove. It is apparently possible to flag it down Earls Cove.
  • Otherwise, hitchhike or ride 39km south along Highway 101 to Halfmoon Bay, from where public bus service will deliver you back to Langdale (for $2.25). There is space for two bikes in the bike rack.
  • Wild camping is possible a few kilometers outside of towns.
  • There are hotels and established campgrounds in Sechelt, which is at about the halfway mark.
  • There is an excellent established Forest Service campground at Klein Lake, just south of Earls Cove, and another at Big Tree Rec Site, about 10km north of Sechelt.
  • This ride can be completed with no camping (or cooking) at all, if you opt to complete it in two days, staying and dining in Sechelt.
  • Sechelt offers an array of supermakets, liquor stores, and restaurants at about the halfway mark.
  • A small cafe-restaurant at Earls Cove offers cold drinks and nice meals at the northern terminus of this route.
  • If you have time to kill before catching the ferry back to Vancouver from Langdale, choose from some nice restaurants in the quaint sea-side village of Gibsons Landing, a 5km from the ferry terminal.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Robert Grey

    love this ride! i’ve done it three times this year already; the sheer number of trails can make it a different experience each time. the trail map for sale in many local shops is very good and totally worth the $12. bonus that it’s waterproof.

    another point of interest, if you’re waiting for the boat back to horseshoe, is that the brewery near the langdale terminal is excellent and it’s literally all down hill to the ferry; just about 5 minutes with almost no pedaling.

    my next coast endeavor will be up to powell river and across to cumberland, with a loop back to nanaimo, hopefully. should be good times.

  • viajero en bici

    Hi Rob, I’m thinking about doing this route this summer. I am not familiar with the area, and I’m wondering if this route would be wise for a solo cyclist to attempt. I would obviously buy the book that you reference, and I would speak with locals before heading out. But, I wouldn’t be using a GPS or anything like that. Any thoughts or advice? Also, I would like to extend the route if possible and take in some more of the surrounding singletrack. Do you know of any other books or guides that might be useful for bikepackers? Thanks.

  • Rob Grey

    my first time riding this route i went solo, so it’s absolutely doable for a solo cyclist. as for some pointers; i’d definitely get the map, and i’d really suggest at least getting a gps app for your phone, assuming you have one. i use gaia gps for android, and it has paid for itself many times over, certainly worth the $20 or so dollars they’re asking for it. the ride is definitely doable without gps, but with the maze of trails through spockids park, roberts creek, west sechelt, and halfmoon bay – a lot without signage – it’s good for peace of mind to have the little blue dot on a map to show where you are.

    as for extending the trip and hitting a bunch of singletrack, i say definitely do it! there are many, many options and it is so good. the trails on the coast aren’t as busy as on the island or lower mainland so they’re almost always in fantastic shape. especially if you get into them just before the bc bike race when the trail builders buff the route into perfection. for good local insights, check out the sunshine coast united mountain bikers – “scumb” on their website or on facebook. also take a look at trailforks.com it’s an excellent resource with most trails mapped.

    i tend to ride there a lot, we might even cross paths… hope you have a good trip. cheers.

  • viajero en bici

    Thanks so much for all the great info, Rob. I will definitely download a GPS app for my phone so that I can pinpoint myself on the map. I will also check out the other resources that you mentioned. Thanks again, and yes, perhaps we’ll cross paths. Saludos, Chris.

  • Clinton Watson

    Question for you: the guide above says riders must be able to ride black rated trails. Where I live black means gaps and serious drops (1-3 meters.) Can you clarify?

  • Tricia Davis

    Hey Guys, wondering what time of the year is best for this ride with weather and bugs? We were hoping to not be in too much rain, but I know the area can be hit and miss. I’ve done the BCBR a couple of times and know it can be hot and cold, dry and really wet all within a few days, but what about say early June? Like the 11th, think that’s pretty safe?

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    No time is totally safe. Typically our dry season is mid-July to mid-September. June is variable. If you live close by, watch the forecast and play it by ear? If not, at worst it will be rainy, but not too cold. Sorry I can’t help more than that!

  • Tricia Davis

    Thanks for that Skyler! Can’t wait to come back!

  • RJ

    Thanks for sharing Skyler. Do you foresee any major issues riding this route the first week of April?

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    Sorry I missed your comment until now! If it’s not raining, you should be good to go. If it’s raining, the trails will still ride fine, but you’ll be, you know…wet. That’s no fine.

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    No mandatory drops. No, just some steeps, and roots. A few skinnies that you can walk around if you like. Cross-country blacks, not bikepark/DH blacks!

  • Ryan

    Thanks for posting this great looking route Skyler! In your Coast Mountain route writeup you mentioned loading your bike on the bus. Does that mean my ECR’s 29+ tyres should fit in the front rack of a translink bus? Or was it some other type of bus? I’m considering the bus if I don’t have enough time to bike to Lion’s Bay from downtown. Thanks for the help.

  • RJ

    Just rode this route this weekend… unbelievable. So many great trails, most of which are blue and green (with a few blacks if you seek them out). No sections were dangerous, the technical is in the bike skills, especially if carrying gear on the bike. But completely rideable. Lots of water for drinking from the streams. I recommend getting the Trailforks app. Came in handy when seeking a quick profile of any given trail or route which made exploring even more fun.

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    You’ll need to let air out of your tires to fit them into the front racks of public buses. 29+ fits with about 5 PSI.

  • http://www.leavenotraceexpeditions.com Zoran Vasić

    I am in Seachelt now waiting for my breakfast. I was adventure yesterday and proof that people with moderate MTB skills can finish first stage and stay alive. :-)
    It was hard to because I had to push (hike a bike) my 29er loaded with little primitive bag setup. I don’t have a full setup like Revelate etc.

    But I was able to ride and if you have lightweight setup this first stage can be more enjoyable. You have to have good lungs to ride Sidewinder and Highway 102. Good skills to ride Durango or Witches Brew. I am not so good but I will work on that.

    Now, I am going to Earls Cove and will see can I have more fun. I will cross to Powell River then to Comox and bike through Port Alberni to Nanaimo.

    VikB from Victoria posted this route and I can’t stop looking into the map since then.
    Zoran

  • http://www.leavenotraceexpeditions.com Zoran Vasić

    I am in Seachelt now waiting for my breakfast. It was an adventure yesterday and proof that people with moderate MTB skills like me can finish first stage and stay alive. :-)
    It was hard because I had to push (hike a bike) my 29er, loaded with primitive bag setup. I don’t have a full setup like Revelate etc.

    I was able to ride and if you have lightweight setup this first stage can be enjoyable. You have to have good lungs to ride up Sidewinder and Highway 102. Good downhill skills to ride Durango or Witches Brew. I am not so good but I will work on that.

    Now, I am going to Earls Cove and I I am in Seachelt now waiting for my breakfast. I was adventure yesterday and proof that people with moderate MTB skills can finish first stage and stay alive. :-)
    It was hard to because I had to push (hike a bike) my 29er loaded with little primitive bag setup. I don’t have a full setup like Revelate etc.

    But I was able to ride and if you have lightweight setup this first stage can be more enjoyable. You have to have good lungs to ride Sidewinder and Highway 102. Good skills to ride Durango or Witches Brew. I am not so good but I will work on that.

    Now, I am going to Earls Cove and will see can I have more fun. I will cross to Powell River then to Comox and bike through Port Alberni to Nanaimo.

    VikB from Victoria posted this route and I can’t stop looking into the map since then.
    Zoran will see can I have more fun. I will cross to Powell River then to Comox and bike through Port Alberni to Nanaimo.

    VikB from Victoria posted this route and I can’t stop looking into the map since then.
    Zoran

  • Annie

    Just did this route over the long weekend – it was great! The Trailforks app worked the whole time and made it super easy to navigate. I searched for the BC Bike Race route and followed that. A Sechelt local also recommended the trailmapps app as is was a bit more up to date with new trails in the area. We were coming from Victoria so we took the ferry from Comox to Powell River. We spent a day checking out the trails and Townsite Brewery there (definitely worth it!), then took the ferry from Saltery Bay to Earl’s Cove the next morning. We spent the night in Sechelt then continued to Langdale on our last day. Then back to Van Island via Horse Shoe Bay ferry terminal. I really liked riding it in that direction because the last bit of down on the last day was epic! Great trails. Thanks for all the info Skyler.

  • Vik Banerjee

    Here is our TR from last weekend’s ride of Skyer’s route: https://vikapprovedblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/sunshine-coast-bikepacking/

    It’s well worth checking out and delivers lots of smiles/mile. Thanks Skyler. :)

    A few points I’d add to the info on this page:

    – in August water wasn’t as plentiful as I had expected. I got by with 2 water bottles, but just. Riding earlier in the season water is likely not an issue.
    – the Sun Coaster Trail from Klein Lake to Earl’s Cove is a really fun ride and we finished that way vs. Skyler’s GPS track. It’s easy to find and navigate.
    – the cafe at Earl’s Cove closes at 730pm [summer hours] so if you are expecting to have a meal there don’t get there too late.
    – the bus from Powell River seems to stop pretty reliably in Earl’s Cove if you are hoping to get a lift all the way to the Langdale ferry. The folks at the cafe were pretty helpful so you can ask them about where to wait for it.
    – if you want to ride south on the highway to Halfmoon Bay and catch the BC Transit bus an early start before the first ferry means a far more peaceful ride.
    – there is an amazing cafe [Emelle’s Madeira Bistro] in Madeira Park that’s well worth stopping for breakfast/coffee.
    – BC Transit fare is $2 and covers your bike.
    – BC Transit buses have a rack for 2 bikes, but if they are full and you ask the driver really really nicely he may let you bring your bike inside the bus.

  • Costaman

    Would the 12$ trail map be available for purchase online?

  • Rob Grey

    not sure if you can purchase the paper version online, but there is an electronic version of the same map available for your device. it’s produced by the same people, and it’s constantly updated, so any changes will be apparent in your latest download. check the app store/google play for “trailmapps: sunshine coast.” $10. cheaper than the paper version.

  • AP

    Would you say this is rideable on a CX bike with 38-40mm tires?

  • Patrick Logan

    Anybody have a bike recommendation for this trail? I was thinking of taking my Full Sus enduro bike but I’m not sure if this would be overkill? Would my Rigid 29er be a better option?

  • http://kyletaylor.la/ Kyle Taylor

    Anyone have a good route for riding this north to south?

  • Mark Mace

    What about parking for motorcycle and camp trailer while riding the trail. 3-4 days max. Pref. inside storage locker so camper bed dry when return.

  • Arlin Ffrench

    I road the section from the ferry to Sechelt mid July. I was pressed for time to meet some friends at Klein lake so I road the highway from Sechelt to the Egmont turnoff, camping at Smugglers Cove for the night.

    I rode my Surly Straggler as I had a fair bit of road to do from my house to the ferry and the north end of the trip. Equipped with 45c touring tires and some low pressure I had no problems on the trail part.

    It was only a few days before the BC Bike Race so the trail was in great condition and well marked. Even with the race marked the sprockids area is very confusing. Having gps trail map really helps.

    It was hot and dry, so no mud problems, but finding water got tight a few times. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf50bcd0819b1ab7256f67dcae8c8999c373f4241b7eb96254b2cf5fe7716051.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f7d298e11ee0967e903de4caa41afcd0aeb6ecd822f4f0004b8a5441cf6e3755.jpg

  • Tom Johnstone

    I’m a UK bikepacking guide and used to year round trips which can include up to 4″ snow and -5 degrees overnight. Will this route be doable in the first week of December or do I need to slate up another trip to BC earlier in the season to get this done?

  • https://allowlive.com/floyd-mayweather-vs-conor-mcgregor-live-stream/ mayweather online

    The route passes through the town of Sechelt at around half-way, making resupply and logistics easy. The riding, however, is heavy with proper, technical mountain biking. The result is a great intro to bikepacking for those coming from a mountain biking background, wanting to try a one or two night ride.