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.

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)