Willow River Bikepack

The Willow River Canyon area, just east of Prince George, is a fantastic bikepacking destination, perfect for a weekend adventure. Join us as we ride the Tabor Mt. trails east to the canyon and then down into the Willow River.

The Tabor Mt. Recreation Area is 25 km’s east of Prince George and is bounded by Hwy. 16 to the north, Buckhorn Rd. to the south and the Willow River, to the east. You can access this well maintained trail network at Tabor Mt. Ski Hill. Kyrke and I began our trip at the ski hill access, where we geared up and road up onto the West Touring trail. This trail runs along the toe-slope of Tabor Mt. to the X-Country ski area parking lot. This ATV width trail is characterized by rolling terrain with short uphill sections: perfect for a fatbike with 40 lbs of gear.

Kyrke getting his gear organized.

A typical section of trail.

This area receives lots of  rainwater  runoff and seepage from numerous upslope springs, therefore, it is lush and jungle like. Cow parsnip, black twinberry, raspberry, Goat’s beard and some Devil’s club (watch out) crowd the trail–making the ride an intense visual and olfactory experience. These sections are my favorite.

A meadow with Cow parsnip and Ox-eyed daisy’s.

The West Touring trail runs for 2 km until the x-country ski area parking lot. We continued east along the Hickory Wing Trail then followed the East Touring Trail, over Bowes Creek, then upslope along the Martin Trail.

 Bowes Creek bridge.

The Martin Trail and Willow River Canyon Trail junction.

At this point we had to backtrack because the Willow River Canyon Trail was covered with blown-down timber. We took a side access trail (Martin Trail connector) that ran north to Hwy. 16. We then followed Hwy. 16 east until England Creek Forest Service Road. A couple hundred meters down this road is the England Creek bridge. A single-track trail on the north side of the bridge runs east to the Willow River. At the junction of England Creek and the Willow is a great campsite that gives you access to the shore.

 Looking south down the Willow River Canyon from the England Creek campsite.

A small waterfall on the England.

From here simply rode back to the Hwy. and then east for a few km’s until the Willow North Forest Service road. This road will take you to several access points along the Willow.

This large camping area provides hundred of meters of riverfront access and is suitable for tents and hammocks. There is plenty of dead fall, so firewood is available. One way to reduce weight while bikepacking is to not carry a stove. I cook all my meals over a fire.

Collecting firewood by bike.

There is nothing better than chiliin out with a cold beer in BC’s wilderness!

 

Sunset over the Willow.

 We rode the full 48 km’s back to Prince George. This is a relatively easy ride and the westbound shoulder is wide enough that one feels safe. One interesting stop along the way is the Tabor Mt. Wildlife Viewing platform. This area is on the north side of the road, adjacent the Martin Trail connector. Accessed by a 200 meter single-track trail that runs through a young stand of aspen, spruce and fir, this viewing platform provides some nice visual corridors of Tabor Mt.

 

Looking southwest towards Tabor Mt.

Tabor Mt. and the Willow River Canyon are a great accessible adventure biking area, that are close to town. They are ideal if you just getting into bikepacking or want a  a relatively easy weekend trip. Please note that there are grizzly and black bears in this area as well as cougar and wolves. My best advice would be to make lots of noise and carry bear spray. Also, let people know where you will be going and carry a SPOT GPS device. For more info on this area check out:

Tabor Mt. Recreation Society

Check out some of the other fantastic rivers in this area at my FlightNetwork blog post The 3 Best Rivers in Northern BC to See

Big Wheels-Big Sky: Cariboo-Chilcotin by Fat Bike

Northern BC has great riding, but sometimes you have to head south to ride  dry, dusty trails and experience the wide-open “big sky country” vistas. Last weekend I spent three days exploring the Cariboo-Chilcotin’s trails and back country and I wasn’t disappointed. My riding began in 108 Mile House and ended near Junction Sheep Provincial Park on the Chilcotin Plateau. Check out my ride!

108 Mile House Trail Network

This ominous looking tunnel is the entrance way to  a huge network of single/double track, ATV and road-width trails at the 108 Mile House historic site, on the east side of  Hwy. 97. The trail heads east towards Sucker Lake through rolling grassy meadows, with patches of aspen and Douglas fir. There are some short uphill sections on the east side of the lake and plenty of grassy range land to explore.

Typical single-track and x-country ski trails.

You can spend hours riding and exploring the small ridges that run north-south throughout the range land. I did a 20 km loop around Sucker Lake.

Sucker Lake.

Chasm Provincial Park

If you had shown me this picture two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed that it was in BC! Chasm Provincial Park, south of 100 Mile House, is  a 3000  hectare valley and plateau that was carved out of a massive lava flow, by water,10 million years ago. Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir cover the rocky crags that are home to big horn sheep and mule deer.

An ATV width-trail runs along the south rim of the park then loops around through grassy Douglas fir and ponderosa pine stands. You get a great view of the canyon for almost 5 kms of trail. If you are brave enough to walk to the edge you can see where the sheep walked up the cliff onto the rim. The sheep come to feed on the pinegrass that grows beneath the trees.

 

A partial skull and vertebrae of a Bighorn sheep.

Lots of interesting old buildings and equipment litter the Cariboo landscape.

Bonaparte River Area

The Bonaparte River lies to the north of Chasm and has a fantastic rec site where I spent the night. The beer and spicy-peanut sauce on rice noodles was fantastic.

Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park Area

This park overlooks the junction of the Fraser and Chilcotin river and is only a 35 minute drive from Williams Lake. Bordered by a working cattle ranch, this plateau gently slopes to the south and is covered by lush grasslands and stands of Douglas fir and aspen.

In the background is the road to Bella Coola and in the foreground is a kick ass ridge top single track that runs for kilometers to the valley bottom.

The viewscapes are stunning and non-stop. Looking east.

Looking South.

Looking towards the park. Prickly pear cactus grows along the edge of the trail on south facing slopes–so watch your tires and shoes.

Heart-leaved arnica grows in grassy meadows underneath the fir trees.

If your lucky you may see a mountain bluebird on a high perch!

Allow yourself a full day to ride this area. Also note that the land adjacent to the access road is private and no-go. Riders are not the only users: there was a group pf backcountry horse packers there as well. Interesting comparison between hoof impacts and fat tires….

The scenery, riding, and ecosystems of BC’s Cariboo-Chilcotin area are second to none. At the end of a hard hot day of riding you can also enjoy the sunsets.

Tabor Mountain Recreation Area: Prince George’s Best Kept Mountain Biking Secret

If you like a little more adventure, and are willing to ride trails wider than a breadbox, you will love the Tabor Mt. Recreation area, just 20 minutes East of Prince George. Last week Dean and I planned an epic 30 km ride that began with a 7 km climb to the  old fire lookout. You can see our proposed route below.

Tabor Mt. was the scene of a massive wildfire in 1961 that burned thousands of acres of timber. Subsequent salvage logging and reforestation efforts left a patch work of roads all over the mountain. At one of the mill sites you can still see a massive sawdust pile.

In 1973, this area was designated as a multi-use recreation area. Since then, several user groups have maintained and expanded the trails. These trails are typically one-vehicle or ATV width, with no crowns or side ditching. While there are several culverts on some trails, there is plenty of surface water in the spring. The 5 km uphill to the Beaver Pond Shelter was gut-wrenching, too say the least, however, this scenic shelter and pond made the ride worthwhile. This is an awesome camping spot.

 

 

The mountain had other plans for us:  the next two km’s was a treacherous trail that had turned into a stream covered with 3 feet of snow!

 

It was tough  pushing  fat bikes up snow covered streams/trails. However, the large wheel diameter and width made it much easier than a conventional mountain bike.

When we reached the ridge top, just below the summit, we were greeted by a large beaver pond that cut our trail in two. I was soaked by this point. We carefully crossed the pond along the narrow dam and bushwhacked through the the timber on the other side. Needles to say we did not ride the trail running south around the mountain, but headed down the nearest  trail.

Tabor Mt. has numerous species of wildlife including black and grizzly bears, wolf, and cougar as well as moose. In the past, have found bear, wolf and cougar tracks on the same trail. The black bears were already out of hibernation walking the same trail we were riding (or attempting to ride).

Tabor Mt. and the Buckhorn area to the south has 100s of km’s of ATV tracks and old roads that can be explored for a day or several if you like sleeping in the bush.I think that this trail network is the best multi-use “front-country” recreation area in the region.

For more information check out…

Tabor Mt. Recreation Society

For those of you who work or play in the bush, UNBC Continuing Studies provides a wide range of field based courses from 1 day workshops to three week certificates. To find out more go to….

UNBC Continuing Studies

Exploring Northern BC by Bike

On the long weekend, I spent a couple of days exploring the back roads and trails in the Opatcho Lake area, just south of Prince George. In the early 1960s, a massive fire called the Tsus or Groveburn fire burned thousands of hectares in this area and Northeast to Tabor Mnt. Firefighting, salvage logging and reforestation efforts resulted in a patchwork of openings and roads. In recent years, local hiking, ATV and snowmobile clubs have maintained a network of awesome doubletrack trails and access roads.

While there was little snow on the main access road, Francis Lake was still frozen.

 

My plan was to ride the Francis Lake Trail for 8 km, then find a camp spot along the river, however, the snow was too deep and soft. In this case, I backtracked and rode Buckhorn road to Opatcho road, then up  to the lake.

St. Marys Lake.

I had the campsite at Opatcho Lake all to myself. However, because of a cold wind coming off of the lake, I built my camp a 100 meters away in the timber.

 

After cutting a good supply of firewood, I had a late lunch. There is no shortage of firewood in this area and a camp stove is not necessary–this is a great way to save weight when bike packing. A good handsaw is critical however.

If you ride south along Apatcho road, you can get some great views looking east  towards the Caribou Mnt. range.

That evening I watched the sunset.The temperature dropped rapidly and the overnight lows were around -4 c. The atmosphere was crystal clear and the stars, stunning! Sometime after midnight I was woken by coyote howls, followed by wolves. Great Horned and Screech owls also added to the night time symphony.

Given my research interests in Forest History I had to check out this old mill site were they processed much of the salvaged timber. Given that this site is covered with bits of metal and broken glass, my spidey senses warned me not to ride into into it: I should have listened, by the next morning I had a flat:(

Other than two trucks and an ATV that drove into the campsite, I did not see anyone else in the bush. This is typical of Northern BC. If you would like an opportunity to explore this part of the world check out UNBC’s Educational Adventure programs running this spring and summer: Educational Adventures

Interested in some northern BC adventure? Then book your flights, hotel and rental cars from FlighNetwork.com.

Go to http://www.flightnetwork.com/flights/ for more info.

Introduction to Ride the Wild

In this five-day tour you will ride some of the best downhill and x-country trails in the Prince George, Burns Lake and Smithers area. Full transportation including an on-mountain shuttle will be provided. Riders will also get the opportunity to browse local bike shops and ride with trail experts. Accommodations, breakfasts and lunches will be provided in each community and every evening you will get an opportunity to experience local food and culture. Additionally, there will be several evening seminars by guest speakers on a range of MTB and outdoor adventure related topics. You will be riding in Black and Grizzly bear country, therefore all participants are required to complete UNBC’s online Bear Awareness and Safety course (included ) before attending the tour.

Skill Level: This tour is for intermediate to expert riders only, 19 years of age or older.

Photo: Razorback Trail, Boer Mnt., Burns Lake, BC (Margus Rega 2014)