Bikepacking the Best of the South Chilcotin Mountains

  • Distance

    79 Mi.

    (127 KM)
  • Days

    3

  • % Unpaved

    100%

  • % Singletrack

    65%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    7

  • Total Ascent

    9,490'

    (2,893 M)
  • High Point

    7,300'

    (2,225 M)
The South Chilcotin Mountains are Canada's bikepacking hotspot. There is a good reason for this: nowhere else in the country offers such long singletrack trails of comparable quality in such a spectacular setting.
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For many mountain bikers living in the Pacific Northwest, a floatplane assisted trip into this wilderness park sits high on the bucket list. But, for anyone who enjoys pedaling, there is no need for a noisy and costly flight. The wide-open Relay and Big Creek valleys offer climbing on top-notch singletrack, and only the climb from Lorna Lake to Lorna Pass requires a short hike-a-bike.

The riding is characterized by generally smooth, fast singletrack through mid-elevation meadows, dry forests and open alpine in an area full of high mountain peaks and subalpine lakes. This route connects many of the best, most continuously rideable trails, with some quiet dirt road riding to close the loop.

  • Highlights

  • Must Know

  • Camping

  • Food/H2O

    💧

  • The riding along almost the entire route is flowy and captivating
  • The wide-open views from subalpine grasslands and high alpine meadows
  • Seeing the wildflowers in bloom in June and July
  • No mosquitoes
  • The route is best-ridden in an anti-clockwise direction for maximum trail riding fun.
  • Snow covers this area for much of the year. Trails are typically rideable from mid-June to late-October. July and August are the busiest, with enough floatplane traffic near Spruce and Warner Lakes on weekends that the noise pollution can be seriously annoying, though trail traffic remains light. (Be part of the solution, go self-propelled!)
  • The author parked at Tyaughton Creek Recreational Site, but since this route is a loop, it can start anywhere on the road section. Other good parking options are at Tyax Wilderness Resort at the north end of Tyaughton Lake, or at the end of Gun Creek Rd.
  • An excellent map of the area, by Trail Ventures BC (http://www.trailventuresbc.com/maps/south-chilcotin/order-chilcotin-map), is available for order online or at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver and the Bike Co. in Pemberton.
  • Yield to hikers and especially to horses.
  • Long-term mountain bike access to this provincial park is currently under dispute, so be polite and demonstrate how mountain bikers can coexist with other users. Besides, some of the riders on horsepacking trips are novices who have enough trouble controlling their horse without it getting spooked.
  • This is bear country. Make noise to avoid an encounter. Carry 14m of 3mm cord in order to hang your food high in a tree at night. Carrying bear spray as a defense weapon, in case of a confrontation, is recommended (and is more effective than a firearm). Leave no food scraps, since bears that have discovered human food become dangerous.
  • Driving times from Vancouver are about 4-5 hours via the Hurley FSR (rough 2WD) and an hour longer via Lillooet and Road 40 (mostly paved).
  • If you’re coming from far away on an extended weekend, you’ll probably want to drive to the trailhead the night before. There are several established (free) forest service campsites in the area (see Trail Ventures BC trail map).
  • The most strategically located forest service campsites are Friburg (Tyaughton Lake), and Tyaughton Creek.
  • In the park there are many established campsites (see Trail Ventures BC trail map). Some, like at Spruce Lake, have bear-proof food storage boxes and pit toilets.
  • Bring all the food you’ll need, there are no stores on route, and the store in Goldbridge has limited hours and limited choices.
  • Post-ride victory meals can be had at Tyax Wilderness Resort, or better (larger, cheaper) at the Mineshaft Pub in Bralorne.
  • Wayne

    More on the Chilcotins from the notorious (and noisy — he approves droning plane hops) VikApproved:
    http://vikapproved.wordpress.com/tag/chilcotins/

  • Brenwell

    I have recently done this ride (July 2016) and I would like to add a few things to this ride. But firstly, it is amazing.

    1. Only about 60% is rideable. Depending on how you calculate rideable. If you want to calculate ever second you are in the saddle maybe it is higher, but if you want to calculate based time spend in the saddle more than 2 minutes its quite low. This is a path shared by horses, during wet weather and the weeks after this track is about 30% mud pits up to you axles and the horses simply churn it up and make it deeper. I cycled anti-clockwise and I spent almost all of day 2 riding my bike for 1 minute and then pushing it through a 5 metre mud trap which had high exposed tree roots making it impossible to just power though.

    2. You are gonna get wet! There are many river crossings about 12 If I recall. And many are up to your waist, (at least when I went). Some of them get pretty hairy. To add to that, it is completely feasible that you will get rained in and be stuck at a river you are unwilling to risk your life to cross. Prepare for that. Take extra socks.

    3. There are Mosquitos!, don’t believe the author, hundreds of them and persistant. I pushed my bike over the pass on this route which gets up to snow level and has a really strong wind at the top. Mosquitos followed me the whole way and one or two managed to stay with me even at the top. Sleeping would be unbearable without a tent or net.

    4. I rode with cleats. Probably wouldn’t do that again. Dangerous to wear when crossing the stone floored rivers, And honestly the route is so unpredictable I spent most of day 2 and 3 riding on the flats instead. Next time I would ride platforms.

    Summary
    Day 1 – Pretty high average speed around 15km/h or so. Mainly fire trail type roads.
    Day 2 – Painful, slow and beautiful. Average speed 5km/h. Majority is mud pits, exposed roots and pushing.
    Day 3 – Assuming you do the pass in the morning – crazy steep push over the pass followed by one of best singletrack downhill experiences I have ever had – Truly spectacular. (There are about 8 serious river crossings this day)

    Please don’t let any of this deter you. Was seriously amazing and I would totally do it again

  • Donnieboy

    Sounds like you had some shit weather and a dirt eating grin where you had to dig deep for the rewards; perhaps making it even more memorable. Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing your experience.