Where to mountain bike on Vancouver Island

Jul 21, 2016
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You’ll be hitting the dirt hard when you ride these 6 epic Vancouver Island mountain bike trail systems

Vancouver Island is a mecca for mountain bikers. With an ancient rainforest, rocky peaks, a mild climate, and thriving communities, it’s the place to be when looking for two-wheeled adventure.

On Vancouver Island, there’s a variety of mountain biking trails for everyone from the beginner to the expert. Our area is known for its vast network of accessible trails in places like Cumberland, Courtenay, and Campbell River. Plus, there’s sweet riding on Quadra Island, Hornby Island, and even down south in Duncan and Victoria.

It’s really tough to choose where to ride every time we head out, but here are a few of our favourite mountain bike trail systems…

Six awesome places to mountain bike on Vancouver Island

six mountain biking areas on vancouver island

Cumberland mountain biking

With a diverse selection of trails built and maintained by the local mountain bike community, the Village of Cumberland is a premier destination for mountain bikers. Trail building here dates back to the 1980s, when a freewheeling group of tree planters and mountain bikers began carving lines around the local garbage dump and christening them with names like Subhuman, Bear Highway, and Stinky Pigeon.

In the 1990s, those builders shifted their attention to the gnarly, forested hills south of the village. Between Cajun Tuna Melts at the Small Affair Café, where they’d leave a freshly rolled joint as a “Chef’s tip,” they began creating a vast network of trails that now comprises nearly 80 kilometres of Vancouver Island’s most legendary singletrack suitable for intermediate to expert riders. Cumberland offers unparalleled riding options and is the unofficial epicentre of mountain biking on Vancouver Island.

You can read more about Cumberland’s legendary mountain biking trails here.

 

Forbidden Plateau mountain biking

Often overlooked with all the hype around the trails of Cumberland, there’s some really great riding for intermediate to advanced riders elsewhere in the Comox Valley at Forbidden Plateau. Located just 10km from Cumberland, Forbidden Plateau is home to some of the best singletrack descents in British Columbia, as well as unbelievable scenery. From Forbidden Plateau’s trails you can see Comox Lake, Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox, and both Denman and Hornby Islands. On a good day, you can even glimpse the mainland with its vast expanse of coastal mountains.

Forbidden Plateau is steeped in rich history and local folklore, as well as being the epicentre for the largest earthquake in Canadian history back in 1946, measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale. These fantastic trails are mainly downhill, and vary from technical steep lines to fast and flowing rips with short climbs. You’ll never get tired of the views though. When riding Forbidden, be sure to check out some of Jeff’s favourites like Punisher, Iron Horse, Dust Witch, and Rebel.

 

Campbell River & Quadra Island mountain biking

Campbell River is home to a variety of trail systems that are bound to keep you on the edge of your seat. Here, you can embrace a casual day of riding with the family in the Beaver Lodge Lands, or you can muster up some courage and hit Vlad the Impaler in the Snowden Demonstration Forest. The Snowden network encompasses more than 100km of singletrack, including some highly technical routes, plus an assortment of painless and delightfully scenic loops with varied terrain that are perfect for inexperienced riders.

While mountain biking in Campbell River is popular, you shouldn’t overlook Quadra Island.

A 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River, you’ll find an enthusiastic riding culture and dedicated trail builders that have constructed and connected many kilometres of excellent single-track cross country trails. You will also find some wicked downhill riding and even a jump park at the Quadra Community Centre.

 

Hornby Island mountain biking

Adrift in the Salish Sea, Hornby Island boasts stunning vistas, hot sandy beaches, cool forests, and some sweet buttery smooth singletrack. Mild winters and good drainage allow Hornby’s trails to remain open all year long.

Spring and early summer offer lush forest and tacky dirt, almost abandoned trails, and a sea of fern. As the heat of the summer drives people to the beaches, the trails open up to quiet morning rides and moonlight night rides. The trails soak up the first fall rains, but the air remains warm and sweet with the scent of ripening fruit. A whole new playground opens as winter storms and accompanying downpours arrive, but the trails remain mild and even tempered for those hardy enough to gear up and head out.

 

Parksville mountain biking

The HammerFest network of trails near Englishman River Falls Provincial Park are not to be missed. These 54 peddle-up trails offer a selection of downhill and cross-country routes for all levels. With trail names like Dead Horse, Barf Bag, and Dem Bones, you’re sure to have some epic rides. Feel like racing? This area is also host to the HammerFest XC, Enduro and Marathon races.

You can also check out Top Bridge Bike Park a few kilometres southeast of Parksville. Built by the Arrowsmith Mountain Bike Club, it offers eight intermediate loops and a dual slalom course with jumps and steeper sections.

 

Duncan & Victoria mountain biking

Hitting trails on the southern tip of Vancouver Island? When in Duncan, head out for some sweet gravity-fueled adventures on Mt. Prevost, the well-established flowy trail network of Mt. Tzouhalem, or Maple Mountain. Near Victoria you have your pick of the litter at Broom Hill, Harbour View, Hartland, and Partridge Hills.

Wherever you’re headed out to ride on Vancouver Island, you will find many kilometers of sweet, loamy singletrack, sure to have you going back for more. Over here, we proudly boast enthusiastic and friendly biking communities.

Adventures are waiting – see you on the trails!


About the Author

Ryan Parton

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