It’s now summer time and if you want to go to any Island you’ll need to make reservations ahead of time to guarantee that you’ll be able to board a ferry (costs $17 extra for that reservation though). Having an open weekend in the summer is like winning a Golden ticket to tour the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory and I wanted an adventure that was of that caliber too. For the oddest reason, Hornby Island was the place that I wanted to go – I’ve never seen riding pics or vids from there, just heard positive things over the years and that’s all I needed to convince myself to hit the road or should I say ferries. My partner in crime and I made reservations about 3 days ahead of time for 2:30pm on Friday (that was also the only time left for the Friday or there were 2 openings on Saturday that weren’t full yet – yikes!).
The Matrix got loaded up and the pick up got left behind (Thanks Dre for letting me park on your street) as we began that journey to Hornby. Ferry number one takes you from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. From here you will drive up Island towards Courtenay / Comox until you see the Denman Island exit / ferry terminal. Ferry number 2 runs from Vancouver Island to Denman Island and is a really short float. At this point you drive across Denman Island (follow the Hornby Island Ferry signs) and towards ferry number 3 for the day. Yep 3 ferries and you will be on Hornby Island – takes the better part of the day, so do your best to leave on Friday if you get the chance to come over here to recreate.
Mmm ice cream!
Ok now we’re here, what do we do? This is actually the thought process because besides reserving the Nanaimo sailing and asking a few friends about what they thought of the island, we really had no idea what to expect. Find a campsite and then go check out the lay of the land – Hornby is a small island and you can drive all its roads in a matter of hours (Thankfully the bike trails will take you a few days!). Brad’s Dad’s Land was the first campsite we found and the one that came with the highest praise from any of the folks we knew. Rules like no amplified noise (radios, stereos, tvs etc.) and whispers only after 11PM seemed harsh at first, but really we were there to ride, not party, so we signed on the dotted line for 2 nights in lot 2C. Oh ya don’t expect to find $15-20/night camping sites on the island, $72.45 was the tab for 2 nights here, but that is the going rate on Hornby, so just be prepared for the shock.
Off to bed relatively early as the weekend was about bike riding. My friends Pete and Darcy told me that I had to stop in and say hi to Jeremy at the local shop as he was the guy to ask about trails – thankfully they also sell trail maps for $5 here. If you go to Hornby, get a map! The $5 goes to the trail crew and that map will make your life a lot easier until you get the lay of the land and the vast trail network. Jeremy runs a tight repair shop on the island and does rentals for the tourists looking to explore parts of the island. If you want the local knowledge – stop here!
We parked the car at the cemetery parking lot around noon (ok we played tourist a bit in the morning) and hit the trails. The map was amazing! It laid out the mountain and all the trails in a manner in which it made it so easy for us to find our way around. All trails are marked in regards to rider skill level similar to what you see at a resort with chair lifts, only here it’s all XC / AM style trails – DON’T BRING YOUR BIG BIKES. Because the island itself is only about 300 meters high, you will love how friendly the climbing is. Don't let 300 meters scare you away from thinking the descents will be short though as they really utilize the terrain and they are SO WORTH each little up you do. Just like anywhere with a good trail network, you get fun trail names so that you can remember the ones that stuck out in your mind.
All of my friends told me that I had to ride the section called No Horses, so that was a to do for the weekend. It was nice, but also the most "constructed" on the island from what we got to ride. I came to Hornby to ride their epic buff single track and found so much of it. My favorite loop was Summit Trail up and then Devil's Kitchen to 4 Dead Aliens to Northwind to Jessie's Trail for a full loop with a lot of variety. But really you could do loops all day and each would be a different mixture. The lookouts from various climbs are worth the effort too!
Two days of single track riding may not be the BC Bike race, but damn it made me feel good! We spent 5 hours on the trails on Saturday and 2.5 on Sunday (had to catch the ferry early'ish) and it was nothing short of amazing terrain and fun times. Jeremy was saying that in the winter, all the locals just get out and maintain the trails, hence they are in such buff shape. We even built a little up and over at one log with a lot of chainring marks in it (I may have added a few trying it as well). Besides a few roots and friendly rocks, the majority of the trail network is amazingly buff! I swear that Jeremy almost doesn't need to sell tubes at his shop!
Dinner each night was spent at Pizza Galore - mmm PIZZA! It was close to our camping and open until 830-900 PM each night so that was perfect for riding, relaxing and eating!
Spacious dining room
And yes besides riding bikes there are great hikes, arts and crafts to see, beaches to chill on, kayak rentals, all that good Island life things, but I was there to ride my two wheeler.
Crazy rocks at Ford Cove
Funky Tree on Cliff Trail
Sunset for anyone into that.
The return trip to Chilliwack was long - oddly only about 200kms by car, but took over 12 hours due to ferry line ups. Next time we'll be sure to make reservations on return sailings as well. That $17 extra sure seemed worth it after sitting in Nanaimo for 4 hours on Sunday night. I rolled up to Dre's house and was stoked to see the truck was still there. A quick drive home and in bed by 2AM, ah love it!
Norco Bike's own Darcy Turenne just returned from Hornby and here is her video from the trip there: