Access: Start in Calgary / End in Calgary
Total Durationt: 10 days
Total Distance: 962km
Pressed between the Rockies and the Purcell Mountain ranges lies a string of incredible mountain towns that host some of BC’s very best mountain biking. Roughly speaking, the north-south corridor carved by the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench (with a quick detour to the east into the Elk River drainage for Fernie) provides everything a mountain biker is looking for: endless singletrack options, developed bike parks, wilderness trails, adventure opportunities and the necessary infrastructure for all types of groups.
The circuitous route that we’ve described offers incredible and varied riding experiences for all levels of riders, unsurpassed scenic landscapes in some of the world’s most stunning parks, and thermal therapy at several of the hot springs in the Columbia Valley. Starting and finishing in Calgary (international connections and vehicle rental opportunities abound), this ten day route can be extended or compressed depending on your tastes or fancies.
Day 1 Calgary to Golden
- Arrive at Calgary International Airport
- Pick up rental vehicle (regular vehicles and RVs are available)
- Drive to Golden, perhaps stop off at Canmore or Banff enroute to admire the Banff National Park.
- Stay in Golden
At the north of our route sits Golden at the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers. There’s a good variety of riding, from wild downhills with enormous vertical decents (Mount 7), XC (Mount Shadows and Moonrakers), gondola laps in BCs biggest vertical drop bike park (Kicking Horse Mountain Resort) and far out adventures for experienced bikers (T4 to LSD).
Day 2-3 Golden
Ride 1: The Moonrakers. We recommend a quick loop from Cedar Lake Rec Site, Tonight Tequila>Moonraker>Devil’s Slide>Arrowhead. Generally pretty gentle, fun, flowing XC style trails but with interesting (non-technical) features and landscapes.
Ride 2: Kicking Horse Bike Park has the largest vertical drop of any bike park in British Columbia. It has a variety of riding from groomed flow trails to alpine singletrack. T4 trail can be accessed from the bike park, which when linked with LSD, Canyon Creek and Mainline trails creates a 6000ft descent right back into town. A must do for experienced and skilled bikers (warning: includes some hikeabike sections at the start and many steep, rocky, exposed portions of trail. Be prepared for mountain weather and bring snacks).
Ride 3: Mount 7 (shuttles offered by Columbia Eco Tracs Adventures) allow easier access to one of BC’s more legendary riding areas. The trails are big, long, challenging, fast and require a high level of skill to enjoy. The riding is suited to upper intermediate to advanced level riders.
Do: Visit Boo the bear at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge, the largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat in the world.
Eat: Eat out at The Island Restaurant for a good meal, Bacchus Books for truly healthy eats, snacks, good coffee and cultural immersion (it’s located on first floor of a great little books store), and for a bistro feel with exceptional service we recommend WhiteTooth Bistro. Eleven22 is a real goodies delight. A hidden gem far from the world of metropolitan chic that you’d usually expect to find such a restaurant, but while also being extremely warm, welcoming and homey.
Bike Service: For bike service and sales then you must stop off at Derailed Sports. They can also help direct you to the trails and provide information on what’s running well.
Following the Columbia River south leads into Invermere where there’s several well developed riding areas in the valley around town that offer a variety of riding styles and grades of trail, a very well developed bike park (Panorama Mountain Resort) that also boasts of unsurpassed alpine adventure access, and a vibrant town on the shores of Windermere Lake, perfect for cooling off in the summer heat or watersports.
Day 4 Golden to Invermere via Radium Hot Springs
- Stop off in Spillimacheen on Highway 95 at Beeland. Grab a drink and a snack and admire the view of the Bugaboos from the patio.
- Need some thermal therapy? Make a stop at Radium Hot Springs (only $6.30 for a session, busy and pool-style hot springs but worth a stop)
- Need food? In Radium, Cittadella has a good menu and Leo Burrito is quick and easy.
Ride 1: Ride Mt. Swansea climbing trail (warning: it starts mellow then really gets punchy towards the top) then descend Steeps>Hula Girl>Gravy Train>Meat Grinder. Trails are dry, rocky and fast.
Ride 2: Lillian Lake is great for a fast lap and a dip in the lake on a hot day. The Johnson is a great mixed loop with great flow and views above the canyon.
Eat: Hungry? The Station Neighbour Pub has a homely menu and a patio overlooking the lake.
Caffeine: Kicking Horse Coffee is just out of town and has some of the better baristas.
Service: Bicycle Works in downtown Invermere is a great spot to get a tune up, buy spares or get the local knowledge on the trails.
Day 5 Panorama Mountain Resort
Panorama Mountain Resort is a hidden gem that has undergone some really great trail development in recent years. The bike park trails now offer good progression for first timers or advanced riders. It’s also a great place to take a group or family for an extended stay. It’s a mini-retreat in the mountains that offers all the amenities you’ll need.
Ride: Above the resort but still inbounds lies one of BC’s best singletrack trails. The Hopeful Creek Trail is an old horse pack trail that, for the biker, starts at the Summit Lodge, crosses scree fields with exceptional alpine vistas of Mt. Nelson and Monument Peak, then descends from an old cabin into the Hopeful creek drainage where it twists and turns with sublime poetry, before exiting back into the bike park. Do not miss the opportunity to ride this trail.
Do: In the resort there’s an outdoor spa and pool, lots of family friendly fun and games, as well as a lots of amenities to make an extended stay possible.
Kimberley is a cute little community that offers a nice slow pace of life and riding, perfect for this stage of your trip. Relax on the river, take in the Nature Park trails and then stroll downtown to the Pedal and Tap for an evening meal.
Day 6 Panorama to Kimberley via Lussier hot springs
En Route: Need a break and rest? Then stop at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for a fully pampered experience. But if you wish for a more natural hot spring experience then turn off highway 95 just after Canal Flats and drive the 18km on the Whiteswan lake Forest Road (gravel road) to Lussier Hot Springs.
Eat: Eat out at the Pedal And Tap for great brew and food.
Do: Kimberley is a cute little town that is slowly shedding its corny Bavarian-theme town past and now has lots of cool eateries and things to do, like the climbing gym downtown.
Ride: Ride the Kimberley Nature Park. Descending Upper Thunder Turkey into Shapeshifter is highly recommended.
Fernie is perhaps the most underrated mountain town in all of BC. The downtown core has heritage and history that’s often missing from towns across Canada, as well as some of the best eating and shopping anywhere outside of a main metropolitan city. The town is circled by towering Rocky Mountains, including offering a sneak peak of the ferocious looking mountains that are home to Fernie Alpine resort (one of BC’s largest ski resorts). Best of all, the riding is accessible from downtown so it’s not always necessary to drive to the trailheads. The riding network is immense and has a wide variety of styles and levels of trails. Again, it’s a riding paradise nestled deep in the mountains that’s worth travelling to.
Day 7-9 Fernie
Ride 1: Project 9 has a grunty little climb to get to the top but the descent is a classic. Fun and fast it rips across old landslide paths, through old forests and among old cedar stumps. Ideal for intermediate to advanced riders.
Ride 2: Hyperventilation climbs up and up, providing a great view of the valley, then weaves back down all the way to town (follow Hyperextension). Great for novice to advanced riders.
Ride 3: There’s an enormous and grueling climb (Lactic Ridge to Stupid Traverse) up to Slunt but the descent is more than enough reward. Suited for advanced riders only.
Ride 4: Lazy Lizard is perhaps the best green trail on the face of the earth. Suitable for young children and adults alike, this two-way 9km trail (keep eyes up for oncoming riders) connects downtown Fernie to the stunningly located Island Lake Lodge. Do not overlook this trail, even if you’re an advanced rider because it’s a total hoot and lunch at the lodge and a dip in the lake is worth it alone.
Ride 5: Fernie Alpine Resort sports two chairs (please note, the longer, Timber Express chairlift is only open at the weekends and some holidays) and accesses some of the most loamy bike park trails in the province.
Stay: For budget accommodation and on-mountain access to Fernie Alpine Resort then the Slopeside Lodge is a great choice. There’s a host of hotels and motels in downtown Fernie. For camping there’s the BC Provincial Park campground, an RV camp and lots of scenic freedom camping opportunities.
Service: For bike repairs and sales then Straight Line Bicycle and Ski has a superb selection of parts and some of the most skilled and caring mechanics in the province.
Day 10 Calgary
- Drive over the Crowsnest Pass and up the scenic Highway 22 back to Calgary.
- Get home and brag to everyone about the fun you had in the East Kootenays.