Bikepacking the Camelsfoot Range

  • Distance

    98 Mi.

    (158 KM)
  • Days

    4

  • % Unpaved

    100%

  • % Singletrack

    42%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    8

  • % Rideable (time)

    90%

  • Total Ascent

    15,000'

    (4,572 M)
  • High Point

    7,975'

    (2,431 M)
If variety is the spice of life, this is a five-star bikepacking route. From nirvanic double-track, to rowdy DH descents, with some rooty tech, some open alpine free-riding, a tough bushwhack, and a bit of gravel grinding thrown in, it has it all.
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There’s an unusually long and gentle alpine ridge making a stripe across the Camelsfoot Range – Nine Mile Ridge. Parallel, and just north, is the now closed China Head FSR, which is described as, “washed out, very rough, and only suitable for 4WD vehicles.” Perfect as a link into a loop with that big ridge. We started at Tyaughton Creek, in the South Chilcotins, and headed east – around the top of the Shulaps Range, across the upper reaches of the Yalakom Valley, and on to our elongated loop, twice across the top of the Camelsfoot. The resulting 4-day, 160km route wildly exceeded all expectations.

Ridden in a clockwise direction, the toughest climbs are on two-track, with the exception of the final bushwhack and trailess grunt up onto Nine Mile Ridge, and the abundant singletrack, often through spectacular meadows, is kept flowy and fun. But, this route is far from easy. Don’t be fooled into comparing distances to more classic, American bikepacking trails. Only the fittest riders, quick to hike-a-bike, and ready for long days, will exceed 40km per day. Still, the rewards, in the quality of riding and scenery, are proportional to the effort. Fortunately, the trail is merciful, with stretches of fast, fun riding, buffering moments of low-speed, highly technical and high-effort challenge. For me, this is the perfect bikepacking cocktail.

  • Highlights

  • Must Know

  • Camping

  • Food/H2O

    💧

  • Dancing with treeline on China Head FSR (now officially closed to motorized traffic). If there is a paradise awaiting bikepackers, the happy hunting grounds look like this.
  • Big DH runs off of Nine Mile Ridge, and back down to Mud Creek.
  • Nine miles of alpine ridge. Half of this has no trail, and is real free riding, the other half is on a beautiful, and spicy singletrack.
  • Top notch riding throughtout, punctuated by the grueling pushwhack up onto Nine Mile Ridge.
  • Seeing marmots, bighorn sheep, or grizzly bears in a wild setting.
  • Rideable from July to October, most years. Possibly mid-June, in low snow years.
  • This route is remote, even by British Columbia standards. There are no bail options, unless 70km of empty dirt road counts as a bail option. Be ready for any type of mechanical issue.
  • Pack light, as the push up from South Frenchbar Creek to that summit of Nine Mile Ridge is grueling.
  • There is no year round water source on top of Nine Mile Ridge. Find water 400m west from the col, below the final push up onto the ridge (see track), and again in a seep where the switchbacks end at Yalakom FSR. Detour off the ridge crest into one of the bowls until you find running water, if you plan to camp on this leg of the trail.
  • The loop over the China Head and Nine Mile Ridge can also be approached from Clinton and the Big Bar Ferry, to the east, or up the Yalakom FSR, from the south. The approach option from Relay Creek, included in this track, offers excellent riding in Lone Valley, and is recommended.
  • The western part of this route falls on the South Chilcotin Mountains map by Trail Ventures BC (order online, or buy at MEC). Refer to the Cariboo Chilcotins volume of the Backroads Mapbook ($21 at MEC), if you’d like to see the whole route on paper or carry photo copies of the relevant pages.
  • There is no complete, or completely accurate, Garmin basemap for this area. The best is by Backroads Mapbook (but it has a tendancy to show roads that don’t exist). Open Street Map shows less information, but is free and accurate. Both options, as well as the Ibicus (free) basemap, show topographic information.
  • Wild camping is available anywhere on the route; but please #leavenotrace.
  • The route starts at a Forest Service Rec Campsite – Tyaughton Creek Rec Site. Use this, or the Friburg Rec Site on Tyaughton Lake, or Tyax Resort/Campground on Tyaughton Lake, as a staging point, if you arrive a day before you start riding.
  • There are free, disused forestry rec sites, with tables and pit toilets, at Swartz Lake (night one), and South Frenchbar Cr. (night two).
  • There is also an unlocked hunting cabin in a bowl on the south side of Nine Mile Ridge (fourth bowl up from the Yalakom descent). Most cabins in the area see more use by packrats than humans though, so it is usually prferable to sleep outside. Still, if you see a cabin, you can count on a good water source nearby.
  • There is no resupply on route, bring everything you need.
  • Post ride victory beers and meals can be had at Tyax Resort on Tyaughton Lake, and at the Mineshaft Pub in Bralorne (recommended).

Tags

  • Robert Grey

    looks amazing! skyler’s writeup about this route over on his blog really caught my imagination, and got my legs itchy for a ride like this. excellent photos. bucket list material.

  • Matic Vecko

    Easily bumps a few other rides to lower spots on the bucket list :) Thank you for sharing!

  • PHam

    Just did a slightly shortened version of Skyler’s Camelsfoot loop last weekend! Fantastic! Thanks for the great route sleuthing, Skyler. It inspires all kinds of ideas for trips in that region as there are so many great access roads and potentially rideable alpine trails. As described, the route really is diverse and pieces together some great logging roads (active/deactivated) with the Nine Mile Ridge adventure. It is gorgeous in that you cross from the fir/spruce forests of the western Chilcotins to the dry pine forests on the east side. Great views back west to the Coast Mountains and south to the Shulaps and east to the Cariboos.

    At the start of July we were fortunate to have cool weather (nice compared to the often blazing heat of that region) and plentiful water throughout. Amazing wildflowers at every elevation as well. This year, there were still plentiful snow patches on the north side of Nine Mile Ridge.

    A couple of comments.

    1) There is a LOT of hike-a-bike on this route. On the 2-track jeep roads, the climbs are often steep and just rough/muddy enough that riding is difficult/inefficient on even many of the moderate grades. Take Skyler’s advice and don’t underestimate the 1300m “gruelling” climb up to the crest of Nine Mile ridge. It is mostly pushing and a significant portion of that is up steep loose gravel, bushwhacking up through steep trees, and finally some rubbly choss. Our group were more mountaineers than bike tourers and found it to be a fun challenge but it could be nasty if you are not prepared for it (especially if hot). If you have any concerns about the pushing, you might consider taking an extra day of food. We were eagerly anticipating the payoff to come right after the climb; it did in the views but not the riding. But don’t let the first, partially-rideable 5km of raw ridgeline get you down. Enjoy the views and look forward to the following fabulous 15km of hunting/game trail singletrack!

    2) If you don’t have a full 4 days for riding (more for travel), you can shorten the trip by using the Mud Lakes Forest Service Road. Doing that cuts off a half day of riding by eliminating the westernmost portion (Relay Creek road and (unfortunately) the Lone Valley trail singletrack). We did the Mud Lakes cutoff since some of our group had already ridden Lone Valley; it allowed us to drive from Vancouver and start around 3pm rather than driving and camping up there the night before.

    – Phil Hammer