Visit the Kootenay Rockies for an epic mountain biking experience
A pack of mountain bikers hurtle down a steep, gnarly decline , leaving dust in their wake. A couple rolls through a forest toward a picturesque alpine meadow; they hop off their bikes and pose for a selfie with the snowcapped mountains as their backdrop. A young family completes its first green trail and celebrates by heading to the hot springs. No matter what kind of mountain biking experience you’re seeking, you’ll find it in British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies.
“British Columbia is a world-renowned mountain biking destination and we are incredibly lucky to have trails and bike parks that visitors from around the world travel for days to get to,” says Destination BC’s Janice Fraser, herself a keen mountain biker. “Whether you’re just introducing yourself to the sport or looking for something more technically challenging, there’s so much to choose from.”
Martin Littlejohn, executive director of the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, says the Kootenay Rockies region is one of his favourite places to ride.
“The mountain towns were created mostly for forestry and mining, but as tourism began to expand and open up new opportunities, they’ve embraced all things related to trails and adventure tourism.”
From the mountain biking capital of Canada to hidden gems off the beaten track, here are five Kootenay regions to explore on two wheels this season.
Rossland is one of the original mountain biking destinations in BC, according to Littlejohn. It’s also the unofficial mountain biking capital of the country. And it’s easy to see why: with more than 200 km of well-maintained trails, there’s excellent diversity, whether you want to sample some “steeps” or just cruise on scenic single tracks. The community is best known for the Seven Summits trail, which holds the EPICS designation from the International Mountain Biking Association, meaning it offers a backcountry riding experience that is technically and physically challenging. “It’s definitely a very ambitious trail and requires a fairly high level of fitness to complete, but, having said that, many people do it at a more leisurely pace,” Littlejohn says, adding that it takes six to eight hours for the average rider to complete the trail, while top riders can finish in it under three hours. Closer to town, novice and intermediates can connect to an extensive network of blue and green trails, including many cross-country options. Littlejohn recommends Drake’s/Doukhobor/Tamarack/Crown Point route. And after a day of shredding, pints at the Rossland Beer Company are a must.
Located in the Selkirk Mountains, this hip heritage town is the perfect place to visit for a cultural and recreational experience. After settling into a B&B, Littlejohn suggests heading straight to Morning Mountain, where you’ll find a nice staging area, some climbing trails and lots of green and blue runs. “It’s very easy to get to, close to town and really popular,” he says. “It’s very friendly for families and beginner to intermediate riders.” For the more adventurous, Littlejohn recommends the Small Wood Creek trail system, which has some longer routes and a backcountry vibe. “Nelson is such a cool little town to begin with and one with quite a bit of history,” says Littlejohn. “They have some other interesting, fun things to do that complement riding in the area.” Take a day off and float down the Slocan River to relax or visit Ainsworth Hot Springs to soak your sore muscles.
This old mining town has been transformed into an outdoor playground best known for its mountain culture. This is the place for fans of fast single track. The main areas of Castle Mountain, Fernie Alpine Resort, Morrissey Ridge, Mount Fernie Provincial Park and Ridgemont are all interconnected, so riders can traverse across the trail systems. With 38 trails, Fernie Alpine Resort also boasts some of the best lift accessed mountain biking in the country. “Because the bike park is there, you can use the lift system to get access to that higher terrain and have an alpine riding experience, which is very special,” Littlejohn says.
Nestled between the Selkirks and Rockies, Golden is a quintessential mountain town. One of the premiere destinations is Kicking Horse, which is part of the Columbia mountain range and boasts trails that look to the Rocky Mountains. “Going up Kicking Horse Mountain is a great opportunity to access some really unique alpine in that zone,” says Littlejohn. “It’s very spectacular, dramatic scenery.” Mount 7 is another popular area, made famous by a now-defunct annual race called the Psychosis. “For those looking for a really ruckus downhill ride, it’s the place to check out.” There are also excellent cross-country areas close to town: the smooth, flowing trails of Moonrakes and the CBT Mainline Network, which features two machine-built jump trails for those craving some airtime.
Perched on the banks of the Columbia River, “Revy” boasts a backyard with two mountain ranges—Monashee and Selkirk. Best known for accessible alpine areas, the region is home to Frisby Ridge, one of the most popular alpine rides in the province, as well as Martha Creek and Keystone. If that’s not enough to get your arms shaking and heart pumping, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing offer an adrenalin-packed heli-biking experience. The crew will take you to the top of Mount Cartier and set you lose on a more than 2,100-metre descent. Need to unwind? The Macpherson trail network offers exceptional cross-country riding.