Photo Epic: The Road to Haida Gwaii - Roadtripping in British Columbia

Nov 28, 2018
by Hailey Elise  

It’s incredible where you can end up by just driving. An hour or twenty, and before your very eyes the mountains can split to expose valleys and the continent can give way to the ocean; an infinite playground of sorts arises around every bend. Road trips embody the saying, it’s not about the destination but rather the journey. And with bikes in tow, it becomes not if you can get somewhere but are you willing?

We opened eyes and laid sights on a route that took us from Whistler to Farwell Canyon, to Smithers, to Terrace and finally to Haida Gwaii. Over the course of two weeks, we lived off the road while exploring new trails of all varieties. 4x4ing, mountain passes, and beach drives linked where we stopped to mountain bike and the result was an unforgettable adventure.

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The landscape changes drastically on the drive from Whistler to the Cariboo and again even more so as you enter Farwell Canyon.

Farwell Canyon's terrain is intimidating. But once you drop in, that all fades away.

Chilcotin River hits.

We opted to take the Telkwa Pass to get to Smithers.

Telkwa Pass travelers should be equipt and ready for anything should things go pear-shaped!

The epitome of a washroom with a view.

Smithers put on its Sunday best for us. The colors were out of this world... and so was the riding.

Seeing trains 200 cars deep are the norm in Northern BC. En route to Terrace.

With a BC Backroads Map, every camp spot is a micro adventure.

From Terrace, it was on to Prince Rupert where we hopped on an 8-hour ferry destined for Haida Gwaii.

8 hours might seem like a long ferry ride but with views like this, it flew by.


The biking on Haida Gwaii is cross-country and road riding. In addition, it's all about the camping and exploring.

The Pesuta. A must see on the drive from North to South beach.

Morning camp vibes.

As we left, the view reminded us of the of all the beauty we encountered while on the road.

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  • 65 12
 Lots of trucks, lots of Tepui tents, not a lot of bikes. Pristine wilderness, and I mean absolutely stunning, can be enjoyed with minimal impact.

The question should be asked: What if everyone drove their 4x4's all over the beach like that? How long before it becomes exactly the type of place we are trying to get away from?
  • 10 11
 And if everybody rode mountain bikes, we wouldn't like it as much... At least for that kind of traveling no massive amounts of infrastructure is being built, which is a bigger problem than some tracks. You have to stay responsible though and local administration should surely regulate that efficiently...
  • 7 1
 In Naikoon Provincial Park no less (Pestuta Shipwreck)...unless there is an alternate route in. Quite a departure from how most take in Haida Gwaii.

It's a stunning place. The scenery, historical archaeology (everywhere you turn), amazing locals. It's a 'bucket list' even for near locals/
  • 29 5
 Thanks for bringing this into the limelight. You are correct that excessive travel will spoil the pristine wilderness. The challenges of getting to these locations as well as the skill required to drive a stretch of beach timed with the tides deter high levels of traffic. Additionally, I would like to note that this is a permitted drive. Both Parks Canada and the CHN were contacted and confirmed that it is acceptable. Furthermore, there are best practices in place to prevent the negative effects of travel in the area such as only driving in certain areas. It was very, very important to us to make sure that we were traveling in a respectful nature both to the land and the people of the area.
  • 27 14
 @Haileyelisee: I was born and raised in Kitimat. I spent many Summers with family camping in Haida Gwaii. It is an essential part of who I am and, frankly, I don't care what Parks Canada or anyone permits. To walk softly on this earth, respecting nature, and not blasting around on 4x4's on some of the most pristine wilderness that we have left, is a set of rules that I think we can all agree on, No?

And, to my other point, less product promo and 4x4'ing, and more biking. The shoot was beautiful, by the way, I just fear it will promote more of the kind of activity that I think ruins those places for future generations.
  • 5 6
 @j-son1971: Well said.
  • 6 1
 I lived up there until 3 years ago. The “highway of tears” is the “highway of overlanding city folk in toyotas” around august.

Thing is, with our governments destroying every resource industry they can, the north has taken a real hit. Tourism dollars, although quite few currently, will be welcome. The distances are too far and time commitment too much for it to ever get to busy up there.
  • 2 0
 Fair enough, thanks for the reply!@Haileyelisee:
  • 16 5
 @j-son1971: If you spent so much time on Haida Gwaii, you would know that the north beach-east beach-Tlell drive is done by many of the locals, probably every weekend. Leaving tire tracks on the ground is not destroying anything. Most of the garbage washed up on the beach has Chinese or Japanese writing on it after floating across the Pacific. You think driving on sand is worse than paving a highway? City people are so ridiculous. Obviously it would be a different story if this was near Vancouver or something and thousands of people were doing it, but the couple hundred a year that this beach sees does absolutely nothing to impact nature in any way. Every one of the people that drive on that beach do it because they love it, and never leave anything more than tire tracks and a camp fire ring of rocks that's washed away at the next high tide. And lets be honest, no amount of videos is going to send flocks of people there. The barrier to entry is too high; not only do you have to have a vehicle good enough to do it, and the knowledge of how to work with tides and drive very far distances with no communication or way out, but also drive all the way to Prince Rupert, and take a very long, very expensive ferry from there to HG. I'm just sick of people who like to think they're better than everybody because they "know what's best for the environment" say dumb stuff as they live in their city's of cement that are built on top of what used to be "pristine wilderness". What a joke.
  • 9 0
 @redridesrule: I was curious, so I looked it up. Its about a 16 hour drive from Vancouver, then $200 ferry each way assuming driver and 1 passenger per vehicle. Add in fuel, and you're already at 4 days and $500/person, and all you've done is get onto the island.

Even if more people already had the equipment and knowledge to do it, a place that remote and costly to access is just not going to ever see the impacts of a place like Whistler. People should chill.
  • 45 7
 nice Toyota advertisement . . .
  • 18 5
 exactly, more car than bike pics
  • 14 4
 I can't say I'm upset about it ha
  • 12 12
 I think @Haileyelisee should disclose how much she was paid by the different companies for this "article".

Also, Pinkbike needs to step up and start being more clear about paid content. As I've said before, at least put a disclaimer as to who is contributing financially.
  • 10 0
 @Powderface: to be so naive...
Every article or piece of free content is backed by someone.
  • 5 3
 @KLandry: actually, it's not. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I've had 2 articles on the frontpage in the past month or 2 and I have a fulltime job not doing anything with bikes...
  • 5 0
 @projectnortheast: you set me up for a super obvious burn that i’ll leave alone.
Don’t you have a blog and YouTube channel you’re trying to build engagement with? Your comment lacks a bit of self awareness no?
  • 19 1
 The biggest takeaway is that I really miss my Tacoma.
  • 15 5
 Beautiful spot, hopefully the vehicle didn't drive through any fish habitat. Maybe I'm seeing it wrong but the stream (estuary?) at around 5 minutes mark doesn't look to me like a place that an off road vehicle like this belongs. People driving off road need to be aware of where and what they're churning up. Our destruction of fish habitat is getting out of hand.
  • 19 6
 All the water travel is in designated crossing areas, where driving is permitted or road wash out where no alternative route was permissible. Additionally, Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation were contacted to determine what routes were in fact permitted and if there were any best practices that ensured the respect of the land and culture.
  • 2 2
 @Haileyelisee: Glad to hear it.
  • 8 1
 Beyond stunning photos and video. One of the most amazing destinations on this planet!
  • 12 1
 Amazing! I just moved to BC from Ontario and every day is like a staycation. Haida Gwaii on the list.
  • 2 0
 Agreed, i usually say the same thing about the photo segments on this website, but i think these pics take the cake
  • 7 0
 Spectacular photos!
  • 7 2
 Still half asleep when I read the title this morning. Was like how the hell are they road tripping from BC to Hawaii?
  • 5 0
 Beautiful!!!!! Thanks for sharing. I wish I had friends like yours Smile
  • 7 2
 I have a frontier.. can I still go adventurerering?
  • 10 0
 only if you have friends with Toyotas to tow you out
  • 1 0
 @dfinn: try checking out topgear and drive it as a boat across the channel Smile
  • 4 0
 Haidi Gwaii is amazing, what a roadtrip!!
  • 4 0
 Now on the list of places to explore
  • 3 0
 I would love to do a trip like this. Minus the 8hr ferry ride.
  • 3 0
 well done. Though crowd...
  • 4 3
 #exploring VOY! pure porn, just more shots on 4x4s than on bikes, but OK, so raw! love it!
  • 2 0
 Just Wow - rugged and raw. Loved it.
  • 4 2
 great; another commercial for products disguised as a bike video
  • 4 3
 Seems great, but the cost of entry here is out or reach for most
  • 8 2
 Granted living here is an advantage, but don't be duped by the product and self-marketing. It's just driving, riding a bike that you probably own (if you even want to take a bike with you), drinking beer, sleeping and repeating for as many days as you can take off work while respecting the unceded territory that you are on and no abusing it (it's not a playground.....they are communities that you are privileged enough to visit and you are largely tolerated). I've done waaaay longer trips in a $1000 minivan and it just cost me the price of gas, beer and the bulk chili that I made before the trip and chucked in a cooler. Farwell Canyon is 10 mins off the highway (just watching for logging trucks) and there is a road to Smithers.....
  • 5 0
 Not at all, life is about experience and not stuff. You just have to make them your priorities and make it happen. Nobody says you have to go 4x4ing and break all your stuff.
  • 2 0
 @wallheater: well put, also the article is a tad misleading, the off road part is from just south of smithers to terrace.
  • 4 1
 @brownstone: @wallheater I understand that for alot of us, doing vacation roadtrips to play on bikes is common , but I know alot of people who are struggling to put food on the table, let alone take time off of work , drive a fancy truck , ride a fancy bike , and buy a $2500 tent for said truck. Living in BC (ok maybe nother bc is one of the few affordable places in that province left ) means dealing with the housing crisis front and centre. The cost of living in bc is no joke. And most larger cities in this country are already unaffordable.
  • 2 0
 @DGWW: totally agree with you. I lived in Victoria for a quite a while which has a stellar tourism point of view. And yet i knew allot of people making very low income who are well educated.
  • 1 0
 @DGWW: @gunners1. You make some good points. I lived up there for awhile, it was the only place for a relativley uneducated guy to make some serious coin. I hate to get political, but this opportunity, if it still is available, will not be for long, thanks to our provincial and federal governments. With immigration increases (1% the population per year soon) driving wages down, and decimation of industries, educated or not, its looking very bleak. I find it hard to beleive thats not exactly what they want... Frown . Roadtrip wise, if trying to attempt this on the cheap, there are some gems. You can camp at kagar lake outside of burns lake for free, just below some great trails, and local volunteers stock firewood at the campsites for free! There are some great provincial campsites along the way too, lac la hache, beaumont at fort fraser, and tyee lake by telkwa come to mind. I would skip haida gwaii and come back via valemont, youd save thousands and get to ride the rockies. I think they have invested in some proffesional trails there, and of course kamloops on the way back. Of course distances are long, more time needed off work, if you have a family, the driving is painful, etc, and, if you can even swing such a trip, the kootenays are 100x better bang for the buck...
  • 2 1
 @bctrailcruiser: I'm pretty sure Canada promotes immigration because currently the birthrate death rate and Canada would prefer not to have their population decline.
  • 2 0
 @LaXcarp: exactly, we are a country of immigrants + some original folks who we mostly treat like shit.
  • 7 3
 @bctrailcruiser: then get s fking education and do better. I’m sick of this entitled whining that’s infecting Canada, especially from those who by plain dumb luck were born here. I didn’t have a pot to piss in growing up because my family immigrated from Northern England and my father had little education. I swore that’d I do better for my future family and busted my ass first by getting an education then taking a trade. I do well and enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Get up. Get out. And get something. The world won’t stop and all the whiny political tribalism won’t fix that.
  • 1 2
 Wow, sorry didnt mean to upset anyone. Just comiserating on the lack of opportunities. I am old have a trade and did great. I am sad those opportunities are so hard to fiind these days is all, making these roadtrips so unattainable for many.
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty conflicted when it comes to opportunities. If you are white and living in the Lower Mainland then sure you are in a position to potentially change yourself if you are in the right mental space and have support for example. If you are First Nation and living in Northern BC, then good luck with the 'Get up. Get out' strategy. No decent education opportunities and simply no logistics to 'get out'. Even doing the shopping or getting medical help is a struggle. Which is why I am torn on the likes of oil and logging jobs. I'm not a fan of the coal industry either but communities were devastated in the UK in the 80's when it got largely closed down before other opportunities were put into place. Unfortunately these arguments are never simplistic. But going back on-topic, this sums up why I dislike these areas being described as 'playgrounds' by extremely privileged people.
  • 3 2
 @mungbean: The middle class is disappearing , unions are losing power , housing is becoming unaffordable nation wide. "Just get an education and make something happen " isn't possible for alot of people. It was possible for you and I but not everyone is as lucky . I don't think it's entitled whining , this is not the same economy that our parents came up in. Do you have friends or family who are struggling ?
  • 2 0
 @DGWW: I'm still of the belief that you make your own destiny. Life can and will kick you in the nuts but you have to be prepared and recover. Having a victim mentality is simply just self defeating. Every generation after the boomers has had it worse. Big deal. Life is competition and the best or better succeed usually through hard work. When I graduated (mid 90's with a B.Sc) there was pretty much SFA for jobs to be had. I had to move and bust my ass to get ahead, I lived in some pretty crappy places and went years with no real vacations to speak of. The world wont be yours in a day, but if you're diligent and focused after a decade or two of hard work you can get ahead. I live in a ski town in the east Kootenays now and I love it. I see young people here going out and getting educated and moving ahead and having a good life.
  • 2 0
 @brownstone: I find it hard to believe that you live in a ski town in the Kootenays and you don't see poverty, or people struggling. I'm still unsure of where you are getting this 'victim mentality' stuff from. I'm citing real facts here. I'm not speaking for myself in my comments, but for those less fortunate. What separates me from them, in many cases is pure luck.
  • 2 1
 The Toyota with the shipwreck was the best, IMO.
  • 1 0
 please dont show these roadtrips, hahaha!
  • 1 0
 It's a shame the Kiidk'yaas no longer exists. Would be great to see it.
  • 1 0
 Whats that bag hanging out the back of the truck?
  • 1 0
 That’s a Trasharoo, great for all times of stuff to keep it out the bed.

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