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Backcountry Adventure in the South Chilcotins - Mountain Biking BC Sea-to-Sky Trip Set

Sep 15, 2018
by The Free Radicals  

Too busy working, fixing your bike, and looking after the kids all week to plan your riding getaway this weekend? This article series does all that work for you. We give you 4 different trip itineraries, each one showcasing a unique riding experience in the Sea to Sky. Every itinerary is designed for a different type of rider and a distinct experience, they are curated around a 3.5 day get-away and are designed to be “grab and go”. We aren’t taking bribes or getting paid by businesses to tell you where to go, we just live here, like these spots, and think you will too.

If you are already a “local” these might still be worth checking out, we could have some refreshing ideas for: rides, coffee, beers and apres eats. Or just skip to the comments below and tell us what a S*** job we did.

First up, the backcountry adventure. If you are an experienced to expert level rider looking for an adventure, aren’t scared of long 6-8+ hour rides, logistics and being self-sufficient, this trip is for you. Overnight camping skills are essential. Wilderness and backcountry experience is highly recommended.


The first installment of the MTBBC Sea-to-Sky Trip Set takes us to the South Chilcotin Mountains. This area is the sky frontier of the Sea-to-Sky and the corridor’s premier wilderness destination. Access to this region is seasonally restricted by snow, with trails typically being clear and dry by late June/early July and remaining free from snow until early-mid September. Be sure to check Trailforks for up-to-date trail beta.

If you are a regular reader of Pinkbike, you are no stranger to the adventures of the South Chilcotins, the photos and stories from this site were the motivating factor behind our excursion. With this itinerary, we are not trying to reinvent the wheel or claim what we are doing has never been done before, but we do feel there is an absence of detailed, clear, written information on how to pull off an affordable trip in this stunning area. So here is our best shot.


As recently as 2011, mountain biking was nearly banned from the South Chilcotin Provincial Park, due to concerns of excessive trail erosion and potential conflicts between hiking, biking and equestrian user groups. It is a privilege to have mountain bike access to these trails, so don’t be a dickhead. Please pay your dues before heading into the park. A Trail Karma donation to the Bridge River Valley Community Association does make its way back to trail maintenance.


Backcountry Trail Etiquette

• Stay on trail: Avoid cutting corners or leaving the marked trail, you are riding in a provincial park after all. The park has a strong conservation mandate within their Management Plan and creating trail braids or riding shale lines is a departure from this and could lead to limited mountain bike access in the future.

• Ride to the trail’s condition: Avoid skidding, roosting, riding the trails when they are very wet, or causing any unnecessary damage. These remote backcountry trails do not receive the regular maintenance that A-Line does, so please ride, don’t slide.

• Be prepared: Don’t be that person who needs to “borrow” a tube, or half of someone’s snacks. Be self-sufficient and bring the proper gear or you might end up being that person in the news who called Search and Rescue for a dumb reason. There is no cell service, so be sure to inform others of your route before you leave and have an appropriate emergency response device.

• Be Bear Aware: You are in Grizzly country, these aren’t your Whistler Garbage Bears, so refresh yourself on how to behave around these animals. Oh yeah, there are wolves and cougars too.

• Don’t be a litterbug: Pack out what you bring in and use pit toilets when available, but in an emergency be sure to bury your poop.

Remember, you aren’t in the bike park this weekend. You are several hours away from your car so come prepared.


Day 0

Leave Vancouver for Tyaughton Lake; the drive takes roughly 6 hours without stops or traffic, so prep those playlists and pack some snacks. Best to pre-portion and package your food for every day before you leave. Bulk Barn and Persia Foods in North Vancouver both offer great selection and value.

Check out the Google map below for full driving directions, and some good pit stop suggestions.

Before passing through Squamish be sure to review your bike kit list. If you have forgotten something, stop in at CORSA Cycles, they are a well-stocked shop just off the highway. If you don’t remember to do this until you are past Squamish or even Whistler, your last chance for bike parts is at Bike Co in Pemberton.

Lillooet is your last chance for food, beer, and gas. Totem Chinese is our choice for dinner. A classic Canadian Chinese Cafe with generous portions and an all you can eat buffet.

There are a number of free forestry campsites near Tyaughton. Friburg Rec Site is the closest to the lake, but also the smallest and generally busy on weekends, so try to arrive early. Don’t worry if there is no room when you arrive at Friburg, there are three other campsites at Mowson Pond, just a few kilometers back towards Carpenter Lake.


Day 1

You can access the trails in the South Chilcotins via shuttle then a pedal, but we really feel that the floatplane experience is worth the spend. Our flight from Tyaughton to Lorna lake was $1298 CAD, or $325 CAD per person for the four of us. It is a bit cheaper if you fly on a weekday, and if you pack lightly you could maybe squeeze in a 5th person and bring down the cost per head. If you are planning on going over a weekend, book your flight at least a few weeks in advance as the earlier morning flights seem to book quickly.

Check out the Trailforks route for trail directions and your day one Campsite at Hummingbird Lake. Pit toilets, a food cache, and great swimming await.



Day 2



Day 3

The final day of your ride starts with a push into the alpine, up High Trail to Windy Pass where you are treated to some stunning views. We highly recommend you get up early to try and catch sunrise on the west side of Windy Pass.



Bike Selection and Setup

Full disclosure, we ride for Specialized, so our bicycle selection is limited to their offerings.

• If you have options, a shorter travel (100-140mm) 29er is ideal for this terrain. It is largely wide open and fast, with some punchy climbs and only a few technical descent sections.

• We chose to ride our 2019 Specialized Stumpy 29er with a chunky Butcher up front and a fast rolling Purgatory out back. We ran our tyre pressure a bit higher than normal to improve rolling speed, 28psi up front and 30psi in the rear.

• Remember you are going to be carrying a bit more kit on your back than normal, you will want to adjust your sag settings accordingly before you go. After resetting your sag, we opted to run slightly softer compression settings as some of the meadow bombing is rough on the hands. Avoid putting your shock in full lockout to help fight off fatigue on the rougher traversing trail segments.

• SWAT box storage lets you keep a light shell, base layer and some extra snacks available for quick and easy access and helps keep your pack weight down. If you don’t have a SWAT box, sorry not sorry.

Kit Essentials

Bike: Spoke tool, tire plugs, tubes, and a patch kit as there are lots of sharp rocks/shale on the alpine trail segments, spare derailleur cable, quick link, small bottle of lube; you will be crossing lots of creeks, 1 spare set of brake pads, shock pump, quick ties and tape.

Clothing: Puffy jacket, light shell, merino cycling jersey, 2x chamois, cycling shorts, tuque, long john bottoms, warm socks, neck buff, sunglasses, bug net, 18-22L backpack.

Camping: Tarp (2m x 3m; 4 people can squeeze under it), groundsheet, rope and 6 tent pegs, sleeping bag (or not if you’re Mark Taylor), stove, 4 utensils, 4 cups, bear spray, South Chilcotins Provincial Park Trail map.

First Aid: InReach or SPOT emergency tracker device, tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, occlusive bandage, foil blanket, tape, epipen, painkillers, water purifying tablets, diarrhea medication.

Food and Drink

When multi-day bikepacking, you want to minimize the stuff you have to carry, to maximize your enjoyment riding, within reason. An easy way to reduce your pack weight every day is to coordinate a food drop with your air-taxi provider. Having your food dropped along your route does cost a bit extra, ~$150 CAD, but can easily give you more than $150 in added fun. Plus, if wildlife breaks into your food cache on night number one, you will be pretty hungry and grumpy for the rest of your trip. Having some of your food waiting in animal-proof containers later in the trip gives you the peace of mind that it will be there when you want it.

What you really want versus what you actually have


Fuel up the morning before your drop, this is going to be your last chance for an elaborate meal for a few days, so make it count. BELT (bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato) sandwiches are usually a fan favourite. Add some fried onions and potatoes if you are feeling really hungry.

For breakfast in the backcountry, keep it simple stupid. Eating the same thing every day makes mornings move more quickly. Oh and so does instant coffee, leave the aero-press and grounds at home for the weekend, this cuts down on your waste, clean up time, and gets everyone caffeinated quickly.

Hearty AF Porridge

1.5 cups quick cook oats
1 cup hemp hearts
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Boil 2 cups of water, add quick cook oats and let simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until cooked.
2. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl or ziploc bag.
3. Add to cooked oats, stir to combine.
4. Eat.



It is super easy to forget to eat when you are busy taking in the endless vistas and blasting alpine singletrack, we totally forgot to on day one. Don’t do that, you might bonk. We budgeted 5 Clif Bars and 5 Clif Shot Bloks per person per day, which is roughly 2250 calories.



Outdoor supply stores like MEC, Escape Route and REI have lots of freeze dried backpackers meal options if you are feeling lazy. We would recommend MEC in North Vancouver for their extensive selection, but those meals are spendy and kinda suck, especially by day three. So here are three quick and easy dinner meals you can prepare in the backcountry. Each meal is designed to feed four.

Dinner 1 - Couscous with Smoked Salmon a la Nate Hills

A few years ago, our buddy Nate Hills spent 9 days bike-packing in the Bolivian Andes with some crazy friends of his. Before going on our trip, we asked him what we should eat and he sent me a list of food items, we took some creative liberties and turned it into this recipe.

2 cups couscous
½ cup freeze-dried vegetables
1 400g package Smoked Salmon
½ cup olive oil*
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped ahead of time
*Nate says, don’t skimp on the olive oil, it is super calorie dense.

1. Boil 2 cups of water, then add to couscous and cover for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork.
2. Boil another 1.5 cups of water and add freeze dried vegetables, simmer until rehydrated.
3. Combine couscous, vegetables, dill, smoked salmon, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl or big Ziploc bag.
4. Eat.
Dinner 2 - Tuna Peas and Rice

1 cup of quick cook rice
1 cup freeze dried peas
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 tins of solid tuna in oil (~600g of tuna), use the oil

1. Boil 2 cups of water with vegetable bouillon then add rice and simmer for 2 minutes or until cooked.
2. Boil another 1.5 cups of water and add freeze-dried peas, simmer until rehydrated.
3. Combine rice, peas, tuna, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl or big Ziploc bag.
4. Eat.
Remember to wash and scrub out your tuna cans really well to help keep the bears at bay.


If you thought this article was half decent, and maybe even learned something, check back in a few weeks for the next installment of MTBBC’s Sea-to-Sky Trip Set where we will give you some intel on our favourite Frontcountry Adventure rides in the corridor. Not so keen on these longer rides we have been showcasing and looking for something with less of a time commitment? These are coming with the First Time Visitor and Frequent Visitor/Resident trip sets.

This article series will provide you with the knowledge to complete a host of different trip types all within the Sea-to-Sky corridor where the ultimate bike trip is mapped in single track.

Coming Soon...

The First Time Visitor
This is your maiden trip the Sea-to-Sky, you have been dreaming of this get-away for the last few years and it is finally being realized! But, you are overwhelmed; there are too many rad photos, Internet videos and trails on Trailforks, for you to choose where you want to go and what you should ride. This guide is designed to help focus your energy on some classic rides with a mix of our local favourites.

Frequent Visitor or Resident
You come to the Sea-to-Sky regularly to ride, maybe once or twice a year, for the last few years, or you live here and are stuck in your bubble. You have hit most of the classics, ridden the bike park and are looking for something fresh. We live here, and we get it, check out this article if you need to spice up your life.

Frontcountry Adventure Seeker
You are an experienced to expert level rider looking for an adventure and longer some rides. You may live in the Greater Vancouver area and are looking for a new experience in your backyard. Advanced logistical planning, and trail self-sufficiency are required. Backcountry experience is recommended.

Huge thanks to Martin Littlejohn and Mountain Biking BC for making this possible
Special Thanks to www.seatoskybiking.com
Massive high fives to John Entwistle for making us look good
Big ups to Dave Kenworthy for slogging it out

MENTIONS: @MountainBikingBC

Author Info:
FreeRadicals avatar

Member since Mar 3, 2016
24 articles

  • 8 0
 Will et al. Thank you for putting the information in about etiquette Seatoskybiking.com Url is misspelled fyi The Totem in Lillooet is an acquired taste. Bring your cast iron gut
  • 3 0
 But the bread and jam at Lightfoot gas are THE BEST.

Speaking of, if anyone is coming down through Lillooet anytime soon.... I'm out of pepper jelly. Can you grab some at the gas station?
  • 1 0
 @cooperquinn-wy: why dont we just go
  • 1 0
 @b-rat: I don't think I have any free weekends between now and late October. Frown
  • 5 0
 Good article I particularly like the emphasis on etiquette and trail use!
As a guide for Tyax Adventures I would add to "Bike": derailleur hanger per bike and at least one good mini pump per group.
A decent maintenance session before coming on this sort of trip would also not be amiss. If you have any doubts about any part on your bike get it checked and either fixed or replaced.
  • 2 0
 Also just on the bike maintenance end

- lube
- one derailleur per group

and put your QR in the forks and secure it tightly when in the plane unless you want to fish it out of the lake (true story)
  • 4 1
 Good call on the tire choice. A dually 120 mm trail bike is ideal. First time over Deer Pass from Spruce Lake and back, took us 11 hours through multiple thigh deep creek crossings and 90+ min hike a bike up to Deer Pass, and back along Gun. Big days and truly epic views.

A reminder that you're literally in the middle of nowhere in the Chilcotins. Get hurt and it's up to your buds for triage and first aid for the next 12 to 24 hours until you can get your own ass back to a large lake enough for float plane access out just to Tyax lodge, and then many hours by car to an emerg clinic. Don't underestimate it.
  • 2 0
 Epic. Can't wait for the next one. I will be doing to first time visitor.

Request on the first time visitor. I don't often go on trips where everyone participating is at an equal level of riding. Any chance you will highlight yhr trails that can be fun for an extremely wide variety of skill sets?

Great article.
  • 1 0
 @dwmetalfab The trails are rideable by a fit intermediate rider but the days just get longer. There are ways to make this achievable by using the other huts such as Trigger Camp. For example; Bear Paw via Deer Pass to Trigger Camp is a far more achievable day (5 hrs with less fit intermediates) than Bear Paw via Deer Pass to Spruce Camp (9-11 hours with less fit intermediates).

The multiple hard long days also wear on the less experienced, less fit and less skilled rider. If you think of the three elements as part of a capability triangle if one aspect is lacking the other two work harder. It is also hard to enjoy oneself if one is right on the edge (capability, concentration or endurance) all the time.

I led a group this summer that took six days (five nights) to cover what we cover in four days (three nights) with an advanced group and it meant that they could all enjoy it and it was far more achievable. They arrived back at Tyax Lodge pleasantly challenged rather than totally cooked.

Message me if you have any specific questions.
  • 1 0
 @andrewbikeguide: that's awesome! Thanks for the info. It's always been hard to plan trips for a variety of fitness and skill level. That's why places like post canyon and Galbraith mt are great choices. Super small loops that all come back back to the same place. What is the average cost of being guided out there for some back country stuff?
  • 2 0
 This was a real kick in the pants after 2 failed attempts to go this summer! So much fun out there. not sure about the totem buffet before a trip like that, playing with fire haha
  • 3 0
 Who carried the cast iron pan? Or did you just leave it for next year... Wink
  • 1 0
 Just got back from four days in theSouth Chilcotins last week, was the most epic thing I have ever done on my bike and can't wait to go back.
  • 2 0
 Such an honour joining you boys on this one - My legs got tired again just reading the itinerary...
  • 2 0
 Excellent article! I am now equipped with the knowledge and the sexy photos.
  • 2 0
 I didn't see any bike packing gear in the photos? How did you carry it all?
  • 3 0
 Excellent article. Big Grin
  • 3 1
 Excellent article ????????
  • 3 0
  • 1 0
 Good stuff. Mountains. Biking. Adventure. Friends. What more could you ask for?!
  • 1 0
 Cut your drive time by more than half by taking the Hurley FSR from Pemberton to Gold Bridge, not that its not a nice drive.
  • 2 0
 Only with a properly equipped truck IMO... and check conditions first and be prepared for flats. Not a friendly road for a rental sedan.
  • 2 0
 @gramboh: THIS. The Hurley is closed all winter and is maintained as such. Leave the Civic at home. Bring the CR-V/RAV4 or bigger. Tiny donut spare tires will not survive.
  • 3 0
 The Hurley is great, if you're prepared for it.

Don't go without real tires, and full size spare(s).
  • 1 0
 That was a great read. Thanks for sharing this adventure. I need to get out there too. Cheers.
  • 1 0
 Nice work boys! The world, and Pinkbike especially, could use some more articles like this.
  • 2 0
 Great read!
  • 2 0
 Yah boys!
  • 1 0
 Super dream ride in manificent country guys ! Thanks for all the details.
  • 1 0
 More please!

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