A First Time Visitors' Guide to Mountain Biking BC's Sea-to-Sky Corridor

Nov 22, 2018 at 10:50
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 what to do, 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.

In the first installment of MTBBC’s Sea-to-Sky Trip Set we took a float plane and spent 3 days camping and exploring the trails of the South Chilcotin Mountains. This trip was a wicked adventure, and one every self-respecting mountain biker should add to their bucket list, but we also understand that it is a tall order on your legs, lungs and wallet. This second installment, the First Time Visitor, is more attainable for the masses. This itinerary is for you if you are planning your maiden trip to the Sea-to-Sky, something you have been dreaming about for the last few years, but you are overwhelmed with the Pinkbike photos, rad videos, and the sheer volume of trails on Trailforks to choose where you want to go and what you want to ride. This guide is designed to help you focus your energy on some classic rides, with a mix of our local favourites.

Other locals may think we have missed some ‘obvious choices’ but we feel the trails selected give you a good balance of what is on offer between Vancouver and Whistler. Think we totally botched it? Let us have it in the comments below! We likely won’t read them, but you might as well complain if it makes you feel better. If you do have a legitimate question, we will try to answer it, we aren’t totally unreasonable.

We highly recommend that a first time visitor plan their trip on the edges of the shoulder seasons as this will help ensure trail conditions are at their best, give you a break from peak season pricing and, avoid the smokey summers.

HOT TIP: Avoid opening and closing weekend of the Whistler bike park as the lines are often out of control, unless of course you are into mountain biking for the lift line fashion show, rather than actual biking. There are also great deals on food and lodging during the early and late riding seasons. More on this below.

Trail Karma

Before you arrive, it would be pretty cool to pick up trail passes, or full blown memberships, to NSMBA, SORCA and WORCA. These trail organizations are instrumental in the fundraising, permitting, construction and maintenance of the trails you are going to ride on your trip. Without them, these networks would not be as great as they are.




Day 0


If you arrive in Vancouver before 2pm, don’t waste a minute, get your butt over to Mt Seymour and start riding! Bridge traffic from Vancouver to the North Shore can start piling up as early as 2:30pm and last until 6/7pm, best to cross early to beat the congestion. Save any bike building faff you may have to do for the parking lot on the north side. The usual staging area is the Old Buck parking lot, but this is often rammed with cyclists, dog walkers and hikers. To avoid some headache you can park at Parkgate Village, where you can also find all the necessary pre and post-ride amenities.

At this first location, on the historic North Shore mountains, we direct you towards some modernized shore trails, rather than the traditional “North Shore Jank”. Google search “A message to Cam McRae and Pete Roggeman” for one American visitor’s outlook on the jank trails of the North Shore. Hopefully after reading this you will laugh, and understand why we chose the trails we chose. Check out the Trailforks route for our suggested Seymour ride. Shoutout to the one of the biggest Seymour locals, taylsdee, for his trail input.



It is highly likely that you will be very hungry after this ride, as moments into your ride you likely discovered that climbing on the shore is steep! Check out our Google maps route for some suggestions on post-ride beer and food that are enroute to Squamish, where we suggest you stay the night. Our personal go-to is a spicy tuna donburi from Sushi Town on Marine Drive which is often good for a meal and a snack, the damn thing must weigh 3 lbs. Grab some grub and some beers, and make your way to the Alice Lake Campground. Be sure to book your site, for two nights, ahead of time as this area can fill up quickly.


Day 1

Wake up at Alice Lake Campground and pack up your bikes and gear before heading into town for a proper coffee at Counterpart, they are a killer local roaster with great single origin coffees. You receive a free espresso or americano if you buy beans, but be sure to get it “for here” so you get a little sweet treat on the side. Counterpart has graciously extended a discount to all readers of this itinerary. Full details in the food and drink section. Follow up your coffee with a true lumberjack breakfast at Big D’s in the old downtown of Squamish.


After breakfast, it’s time to hit the trails. Do one last check of your kit list and ensure you have everything. If something is missing, or you flatted yesterday, check out Corsa Cycles just down the street from Big D’s. They might be the best stocked shop in the corridor, they also do suspension service, and bike rentals if you are feeling undergunned. Once you are kitted up, make your way to the Lower Legacy trailhead, where you will start your first Squamish ride. Full ride details for the morning are outlined in the Trailforks route below.





Post ride, roll down to the Locavore food truck for some fresh grub to refuel before heading back to Alice Lake for your second ride of the day. This ride is world class, and includes two of our favourite feel good trails. With some of the best berms in Squamish and some fairly higher speed tech sections to keep even more advanced riders on their toes, Man Boobs and Credit Line are not to be missed. Shoutout to Dakota and Andrew for rebuilding these trails back in 2016. You may remember hearing of Credit Line as it is featured in the Pinkbike Hot Lap series. Watch local hotshot Remi Gauvin lay down a heater here:


Credit Line runs through a section of forest that is absolutely covered in lush, green moss

Again full details in the Trailforks map below.


After your second ride of the day you are liable to be pretty hungry, so bomb down to Backcountry Brewing for pizza and beer. Don’t forget to fill a growler or grab some beers on your way out to drink around the campfire later.

Tonight you are going to stay at the Alice Lake Campground again, provided you remembered to book two nights in advance. This campsite is nicer, and more affordable, than what’s on offer in Whistler.

Day 2

This is the day you have been waiting for since you first matured into a keen mountain biker, this is your first day riding the Whistler Bike Park.

Wake up around 7, if you even managed to sleep, and either cook breakfast at camp, or just smash coffees, pack up and pile into your car bound for Whistler. The drive from Alice Lake to the Riverside Campsite in Whistler takes ~40 minutes, and the chair starts spinning at 10am, so if you want to set up at Riverside before you ride while still catching first chair, best make haste. If you opt out of cooking breakfast, your first stop in Whistler should be Mount Currie Coffee for a quick breakfast sandwich or burrito, and maybe another coffee.

Ideally you roll straight to Riverside as opposed to jamming your car into one of the day lots, don’t worry Riverside is just a short ride to the bottom of the chairlift. This move could also save you some coin as lots 4 and 5 have transitioned to pay parking between June 15-September 15, if your trip falls within those dates.


Believe the signs: Pre-ride, re-ride, freeride is a real thing. Although the trails in the bikepark are expertly constructed, the style and sheer speed involved does take a few laps to wrap your brain around. Take it slow and don’t be that guy/girl who gets carted off the mountain on their first lap.

This is the madness you won't have to deal with in the offseason in the bike park

The Trailforks map below highlights what we would ride as our first two warm-up laps.


Don’t miss Creekside! The Grandest of Openings of the Creekside Zone happened in the spring of 2018, with 5 new trails, 644m of vertical and its own gondola. Creekside is a great way to maximize your riding and beat the lines of the village, just don’t miss the last upload or you are facing a crummy road ride back to the village.

Once your hands resemble claws and you cannot comprehend riding anymore, a beer is pretty nice. Skip the expensive pints of Kokanee Gold in the Whistler Village and head to Handlebar in Blackcomb Village. They have an ever-changing selection of BC Craft Beers and a menu of German inspired street food to snack on. Cash only so prepare accordingly, but if you forget there is a free ATM inside. Their first happy hour runs from 5-6pm and the second is 10-11pm.

Some people need more than the German street food and beers after a day of riding the bike park. If you are one of those people, and you do manage to be traveling during the shoulder season, there are tons of killer fixed-price meal deals run by all the local restaurants in the village. Our favourite is Quattro as it provides a mean post ride 3-course, Italian feed.

Day 3

You managed to escape the bike park unscathed, congrats! It’s likely a safe guess that you are pretty wiped from doing 15 laps on A-Line yesterday, but it’s time to dig deep for this last ride.

Whistler’s Westside is traditionally known for its technical trails, however Lord Of the Squirrels provides riders with some of the best flow outside the bikepark. Completed in 2016 by WORCA, LOTS became an instant classic thanks to its incredible views of the Whistler Valley and awesome 25+ minute descent. You will be disappointed if you miss this one.

All this being said, there are several things that should be considered prior to embarking on this ride.

1. Is the trail open? Be sure to check with WORCA or Trailforks to know if LOTS is open for business before embarking on your ride. The trail can be closed during the early/late season rains, or due to wildlife activity. Don’t be a dick, respect all trail closures.

2. Are you fit enough? This ride can take anywhere from 3-8 hours depending on your level of fitness, the return trip is ~30km in length and ~1800m of climbing, depending on your route up to Into the Mystic. More details can be found in the Trailforks description below. If you are reading this and thinking to yourself that the stats are easily within your realm of abilities, and you might even need another ride to satiate your appetite, perhaps you should challenge yourself and try to beat our buddy Braedyn Kozman’s LOTS record, 2:20 return from the bottom of Stonebridge.

3. Am I prepared? This ride is the longest of your trip, with several hours spent above the tree line, exposed and at the mercy of rapidly changing alpine weather. Be sure to pack accordingly; jacket, spare parts and extra food/water are all recommended.


There are a few spots to fill bottles along the way and providing it's that time of year and the bears didn't beat you to it, lots of berries to be found

The ride is easily completed from town, although the ride back to the village can be shattering at the end of a long weekend. If you are going to be in a jam to get home at the end of this day, park at Rainbow Park off of Alta Lake Road to save yourself a bit of time and riding.




Bike selection and Setup

Full disclosure, we are sponsored by Specialized, so our bike selection remains limited to their offerings. For this trip Mark and I chose to ride different bikes, which goes to show the diversity of the trails in this region, but it also means that with a few small adjustments, or parts swap if you are die hard, many bikes can be adapted to be ideal for the Sea to Sky.

If you are graced with multiple bikes, we would suggest a mid-to-long travel (140-160mm) unit for this trip. The descents in this region, especially in Whistler have sustained steep, technical and rocky sections that will put your body and suspension to the task. A heavier duty shock, either an air with a piggy back or a coil is highly recommended, but not necessary. The terrain in this itinerary, especially on the North Shore, is rocky, so best to tension your wheels and make some adjustments to mitigate flat tires. Heavier duty, chunky tires, or a tire insert, or both if you really smash, would be good things to consider. Last thing you want to do is spend your holiday changing flats or buying tires. Special Note: Bike Park pressures are a thing, especially in the early season when the dirt is velcro-esque, so add a few extra PSI when riding in the park to help avoid flats and keep your tires on your rims because you will be hitting corners like Dave McMillan in no time.


Mark rode his Enduro 29 (160mm front and rear with a 65.5 degree head angle in the low position). Running 29x2.6 Butchers with Grid casing (~900g) front and rear, a CushCore insert in his rear wheel and tire pressures sitting around 26F/28R for trail rides and 30F/34R in the bike park. Despite his proclivity for a good party, Mark is pretty fit, so lugging this longer travel sled on the ups is worth it for him on the downs. Plus, the added wheelbase length of the Enduro over the Stumpy provides welcome stability at bike park pace.
Will chose to ride his Stumpy for this Sea to Sky weekend (140mm rear and 150mm front travel with a 66.5 degree head angle in the low position). He swapped the stock Fox DPX rear shock for the new Ohlins TTX Air, as the more robust air spring and higher volume air chamber of the Ohlins give it a bit more resilience on the smashy descents. His svelte figure allows him to get away with lower tire pressures than Mark, with 22PSI in his 29x2.6 Grid casing Butcher and 24PSI in a 29x2.6 BLCK DMND casing Butcher, and no CushCore required with this heavy duty rear tire. For bike park laps. he ups his tire pressures to 28 PSI in the front and 30 PSI out back. Will prefers the playfulness of the smaller bike in the bike park as he is trying to graduate from a turn bar to a half decent whip.

Kit Essentials

Unlike our first backcountry itinerary, you are in civilization for the duration of your trip, so there is little you won’t be able to find if needed. If you are thinking you might need heavier duty tires, or a CushCore insert, hit up one of the MANY local bike shops in the corridor. As mentioned before, we would suggest Corsa in Squamish as they have one of the more extensive spare part inventories in the area.

One thing you won’t want to forget is your full face helmet and goggles, you are riding bike park on Day 2 after all.

We always carry a first aid kit on our rides, no matter how short, as you never know when your 2 hour ride will turn into a 5 hour ride. Our daily kit includes: InReach or SPOT emergency tracker device, tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, occlusive bandage, tape, epipen, painkillers, water purifying tablets, diarrhea medication, antihistamines, sunscreen and bug repellent.

It was already mentioned, but Lord of the Squirrels can be a long ride, with riders spending a long time exposed to the elements in the alpine. Bringing a light shell and some extra food, and if you are the kind of person who brings absolutely nothing on rides and just mooches off your friends, don’t do that this time. Pack some basics so you can still have fun if you do have a minor mechanical.

Corsa has everything you need, great staff and shop pups


Food and Drink

Y’all are in for a treat this round. Several of our favourite local establishments in Squamish graciously arranged some meal deals specifically for MTBBC readers. Full details for each location below.

Counterpart Coffee

They are offering 15% off on all purchases over $15 just by mentioning MTBBC and the Free Radicals so be sure to stock up on all your coffee necessities.

Locavore

The Locavore is offering a pretty killer deal for your post Diamondhead ride lunch. Again please mention MTBBC and be prepared to show them the article on your phone.

Banh Mi Sandwich with side of Roasted Garlic Potato Wedges for 13.50$ plus tax
No substitutions
No combining with any other offer
Up charge to make gluten free ($1.50)
Up charge for any additional add-ons (ex. bacon/avocado/cheese $1.50-$2.00)


Accommodations

Both Alice Lake and Riveside are popular destinations, even during shoulder season. Best book in advance to secure your spot. Booking for each can be done by clicking the links you just read. Before setting a campfire, be sure to check what the fire-ban status is in your area. Fire-bans are set at the municipal level, so they can be different in Whistler and Squamish. Even if it has just rained, there can still be a fire-ban.

If you don’t like camping, the local tourism boards have good information on local accommodations that fit most needs and budgets. If you happen to have convinced someone who doesn’t mountain bike to travel with you while you attempt to complete these itineraries, these websites also have some pertinent information that will help keep them entertained while you are shredding.

Vancouver North Shore, Tourism Squamish and Tourism Whistler


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.

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...

Frequent Visitor or Resident
You come to the sea-to-sky regularly to ride, maybe once of 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 Sea To Sky Biking



MENTIONS: @MountainBikingBC



46 Comments

  • + 7
 If you like to pedal, honestly skip the bike park. Yeah I know, it's awesome and the best in the world, but it's really busy and if it has been dry the brake bumps will rattle you to pieces. A Line and Crank it Up can be tough to enjoy sometimes when the conditions dry out. There's SO much riding outside of the bike park in the corridor that doesn't get destroyed by traffic. But if you must ride the park, the Garbonzo zone and the lesser-known tech trails off the Fitz usually hold their conditions better and are more fun when the flow trails are destroying forearms.
  • + 2
 But what about ALINE?!

This was designed to be a ‘shoulder season’ trip itinerary, so hopefully the bike park won’t be too punched. But I couldn’t agree with you more.
  • + 1
 Good call, missed the part about the shoulder season. So that makes sense.
  • + 6
 "Think we totally botched it? Let us have it in the comments below! We likely won’t read them, but you might as well complain if it makes you feel better. "

OK then Wink

Seriously, the first Squamish loop was a pleasant surprise with some less obvious but fun trails like Mcloud thrown in.
But why go to the Alice Lake area and completely miss the style of trails that it's famous for? And sooooo much access road bashing. Could keep things tight and warm up on LOA, then lap around to Rupert, then finally Entrails to a multitude of options from easy to potential death back to parking.
  • + 6
 Shhhh
  • + 5
 I love this article, so good. But Rupert not being mentioned should result in a lifetime pinkbike ban.
  • + 1
 This was designed to be the 2nd ride of one’s day and provide people a quick view of the two main networks in Squamish. I agree there is LOTS more to see/ride, but we can’t all ride 70km a day, and even that isn’t enough to cover all the goods. The trail selection was a thing of personal preference and an opportunity for us to show off the great work that Andrew and Dakota did on the credit line rebuild a few years ago.

I don’t much like LOA or Ruperts as I find they don’t roll as well at higher speeds, when compared to Man Boobs or CL.

Also no need to ride endtrails out if you are parking/staging out of Alice lake, which did factor into our decision of not including any of the ‘iconic’ slab trails. If you were riding from Perth road it is a great way to end your day.
  • + 1
 @FreeRadicals: No explanation was needed, we're just busting balls for no reason because this is the Pinkbike comments section. It's all good! Honestly the article was one of my favourite things I've read on here in a while. Credit Line is a classic, for sure. I'd take a visitor down Rupert all day vs Man Boobs, but to each their own. I am a BC local and learned a thing or two. Def going to pick up a pizza/beer combo when I visit Squamish next.
  • + 10
 It's a terrible corridor. Don't bother coming.
  • + 2
 ...and it’s in Northern Russia, not BC where everyone thinks it is - visitors arrive in BC and are totally disappointed every time because this is not where the trails are. This is a fake news article. You’ve been warned,
  • + 5
 Alice Lake is basically impossible to stay at if your trip is going to overlap with a weekend anytime between May and September. My personal fave is MTN Basecamp campground, which is very poorly advertised but an awesome place to stay. It's cheap, has a cool vibe, has hot showers, clean water for your hydration pack, and power hookups if you need that. Plenty of space to park extra vehicles and that sort of thing. It's not right at the trails though like Alice Lake is, so you'll have to urban pedal or drive a short distance to get to the shredding.
  • + 4
 Tip from a local on the north shore:

Join "Trail Shredders - A vancouver mountain bike club" on facebook and you likely can find people to shuttle Seymour with most days of the week to save you a painful climb.
  • + 2
 I'd also suggest altering the Seymour lap as per your taste/skill level following John Deer. If John Deer was a cake walk and you want some more variety, skip Asian Adonis. It's a good enough trail but too similar if you are a confident rider, ride dales-Forever after, or if feeling really solid ride Boogie man/Boogie nights for the second lap. Ride the bottom or all of severed for the third lap depending on how you feel and are doing for time.

But, if you are more intermediate and John Deer was more at the top of your comfort zone, stick to Asian Adonis and then finish on the lower half of severed (the first 75m of which you might end up walking, then it's fine).
  • + 1
 Great suggestion Kenny!
  • + 2
 I stayed at the Sandman late October last fall.It was a unplanned and impromptu getaway for last minute nice weather enjoyment, Backcountry brewing is right across a dirt lot from there. I rode Diamond head and Alice lake, they are a must ride in Squamish.
  • + 1
 Solid guide dudes. Would add a couple things:

1) Try the Widowmaker IPA at Backcountry if you like IPA's... probably my fave going these days, NE style hazy IPA.

2) Four Lakes trail is closed to bikes from mid May to mid September, I wouldn't advise people to be riding it especially on weekends you will piss off hikers/walkers, dunno if BC Parks patrols it or not.

3) As others have said, gotta ride Rupert and at least Entrails/Room with a View for some slabby goodness! I do give you props for not doing the obvious Half Nelson/Pseudo (amazing trails for sure but the bike park covers flow).

4) LOTS usually is not open until mid July at the earliest, but the guide says plan your trips spring/fall... plenty to ride in the spring just not alpine stuff. September is probably the best riding month for balance of weather (not too hot), trail conditions and less crowds.
  • + 1
 Lord of the Squirrels was the most epic ride ive ever done. Had me blowing out my arse with the climbing and the July heat but ill definitely be doing it again in a few or more years.
  • + 1
 Notbjust ahead of time... waaaaay ahead as Alice lake around 6 months in advance...it’s a bit of a zoo, although fantastic jumping off point for the trails if you can get in.

Otherwise all amazing advice!
  • + 1
 That’s the part where I stapled reading this when it said to simply wake up at Alice lake. More like wake up at the overflow parking lot.
  • + 1
 Yeah I was curious so looked at summer reservations and July is pretty much full, August isn't available yet
  • + 5
 Pemby?
  • + 2
 I appreciate the celebration of truly good single track, not just youtube worthy downhills, but mtb at it's most elemental. Well done guys!
  • + 1
 @FreeRadicals - What would you guys recommend, the In-Reach or Spot? Have read many a complaint about the Spot and the subscription service tainting an otherwise good product.
  • + 3
 Both are subscription based?
  • + 1
 Neither...go ACR ResQLink. No subscription and better satellite system that works worldwide (COSPAS-SARSAT ) Push button to avoid death.
  • + 1
 I’ve used the Spot for 4 years from The Chilean Andes and NZ jungle to the middle of nowhere BC/OR/CO and have always been impressed with the accuracy of the GPS. Thankfully we haven’t had to use the SOS feature just yet, and like Cooper mentioned both Inreach and spot are subscription based. I don’t need to send text messages when I’m out in the woods, so the Basic spot device and subscription work just fine for me thanks.

Don’t know about this ACR device, maybe it’s the new hot fire. But for now I’m going to stick with the spot.
  • + 1
 @cooperquinn-wy: correct. but I've heard more complaints about the Spot service specifically
  • + 4
 Will save the link if i turn in a millionaire shortly.. epic rides
  • + 2
 The shore is awful, don't bother... Squamish is worst, don't even get me started on Whistler and Pemberton...
  • + 2
 I feel like a trip to up the sea to sky is never complete without stopping at Mag’s 99 for a giant burrito and beer.
  • + 3
 Backcountry Brewing Wake-N-Bacon pizza... So good.
  • + 3
 deer turds, berries, or junior mints? thats a dangerous game....
  • + 0
 Almost shit myself when i saw $19 for a pizza and beer. Thank god for exchange rates. Still miss the $5 2 slice, garlic knot and a soda mid-street ride sesh. Shout out Canyon pizza.
  • + 1
 Yeah, it's expensive for a special for sure. If you're ever in North Van, in Edgemont, during happy hour you can get a margherita pizza and beer for $15 at Nicli Antica which is probably the best pizza in southwest B.C.
  • + 1
 looking to make a group trip this year. anyone recommend any good guiding services for a multi day trip?!
  • + 1
 It would be worth talking to Ridehub in Squamish and Bearback in Whistler for a start
  • + 1
 James at RIDE BC I’m Squamish is dialled. Give him a call first, after that Tyler Lilly works guiding in whistler and will give you east coast hospitality only possible from a PEI native.
  • + 2
 Squamish on Saturday! Stöked. Thanks for the advice!
  • + 0
 Great reference for first-timers. Wish this stuff existed back in the day. Although I would have thrown Half Nelson in here. It's the only good trail in Squamish.
  • + 1
 Buzzing. Pretty much described my first Whistler trip last year. Makes sense why I enjoyed it so much
  • + 2
 Very neat article boys. I will be sure to reference this over the summer.
  • + 1
 will the snow please hurry and melt already!!!!! Ready to go back and shred the best trails on earth!!!!
  • + 1
 are any of those trails (in that area) ridable with a hardtail
  • + 0
 I am planning a trip currently for 2020 and could use some local knowledge... PM sent
  • + 1
 Prognarcore

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