Words by Harlan Price. Photos by Dave Silver.
“It’s a funny thing … often we live in a place and don’t always see it for what it is or take advantage of the opportunities it provides.” – Leanne Neighbor, winner of the 7 Day Giveaway Contest
Mountain Biking BC’s 7 Day Giveaway contest sent a winner and one friend on an amazing seven day trip, guided by Endless Biking and supported by BC Bike Ride, through the interior of British Columbia. School teacher Leanne Neighbor of Kamloops BC convinced the judges in 500 words that she should be the one chosen from ten finalists who were randomly selected from over 3000 entries. Leanne called up her buddy Andre, and they met the team in North Vancouver to start a tour that would take us on an epic trip that included nine trail systems, tubing down the Slocan River, swimming in alpine lakes, a freak loss of fingernails, and some stellar hosting from each region.
The places and trails we visited:
- Penticton: 3 Blind Mice Trail System
- Rossland: Seven Summits Trail
- Nelson: Powerslave
- Revelstoke: Frisby Ridge
- Shuswap: Rubberhead MTB Trail System
- Salmon Arm: West Reinecker Creek Trail
- Vernon: Kalamalka Lake Trails (Cosens Creek)
- Kamloops: Kamloops Bike Ranch
- Whistler Bike Park: Top Of The World Trail
Trying to squeeze the nine areas into seven days made our pace quick, but what we discovered was the sheer volume of trail waiting in the interior of British Columbia. The variety of trails our tires touched was mind-boggling, but trying to wrap our heads around the amount of singletrack we didn’t experience was just a huge tease. The trail hosts from each area seemed to be sharing the same joke about “how much we weren’t seeing.”
In the interior, diversity was the name of the game. We travelled through rocks of smooth granite and sharp shale, powdered each other in dust, tossed loam into the air, splashed through alpine snow patches, dropped off wooden features, launched into the air, and slayed corners everywhere we went. As an East Coast ‘merikan’ I had plenty of new trail experiences, but also the pleasure of finding tight wooded trails in Salmon Arm that were similar to home. Some trails like Frisby Ridge were flowtastic out and back alpine adventures while others were shuttle drops that had us driving up long dirt roads for quicker access. We all rode 5-6” trail bikes and they easily dispatched the buffet of trails we fed from.
Even though Leanne is a resident of the interior she hadn’t ridden in most of the places being content with her corner in Kamloops.
“Though at some point over the course of my life I have been to each of the towns or cities we visited on this trip through BC, there are many that I didn’t really know much about or were just a passing point on a road trip to another destination. Of the places we traveled to, I have only ever ridden in Salmon Arm and Kamloops (of course). I only passed through Revelstoke, though I’ve heard lots of good things about the riding there. I haven’t been to Rossland in 20 years. Nelson is another great place I keep talking about getting back to for a visit but haven’t had the chance. It was great to see a taste of what the North Shore in Vancouver has to offer besides a ferry terminal for crossing to the Island. This really is a diverse and spectacular province and I am so grateful to have been re-introduced to the wonders it has to offer.”
As a road trip it was easy to cover the 1,500km and not get bored. Roadside fruit stands, lakes with beaches and an ever changing landscape provided plenty of excuses for taking breaks. Check out the pictures from Dave Silver to increase your itch for planning an epic mountain bike trip. Take heed though. Some trails like The Seven Summits and Frisby Ridge are seasonal and you need to plan around the snow.
Penticton/Naramata - Three Blind Mice Trail System
Our first official day of the trip started in Penticton. We left Vancouver and caravanned into Penticton on the Okanagan Lake to meet up with our local guide and legend, Johnny Smoke.
Smoke’n the Naramata Trails above Penticton. If you’re looking for good company and trails, Johnny’s Bush Pilot Guides will take care of you.
We’re pretty sure Leanne never dropped off anything like this before the trip. Having Endless Biking owners Darren Butler and Kelli Sherbinin along to provide instruction had it’s value.
“As a teacher myself, I can appreciate quality instruction when I see it. I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced 8 days immersed in such a supportive teaching environment. It has benefitted my riding immensely.”
Not only does Okanagan Lake look good, but you can swim in that sucker too.
Penticton is Wine country and if you roll through without stopping for a glass or two then you got bigger problems than we can help you with. Unless you don’t drink, then at least stop and eat something amazing.
Rossland - Seven Summits Trail
After two days and a night in Penticton, we jumped back into the wagons for a four-hour ride to Rossland and the famous IMBA epic, The Seven Summits Trail.
The initial climb is big, but once you’re on top, it’s a series of shorter summits. It’s worth taking a break and preparing for the longest part of your ride. Can you figure out which summits in the background are part of the trail?
After that initial climb, these moments come often. Don’t let the IMBA Epic designation fool you, these trails are not buffed to a polished sleigh ride. I was pleasantly surprised by the technical challenges. Leanne had stitches by the end of the day, and I had four flats from rolling at reckless speeds into chunky rock gardens. I don’t flat often, but I learned a few things about equipment in the interior. It pays to have some thicker rubber under you than normal.
To give you an idea of the diversity of the trail, these two images are the bookends of the ride. On the right is the early climb to the top. On the left is Seven Summits creator and trail master, Stewart Spooner, enjoying the fruits of his labour on the later sections of the trail.
Nelson - Powerslave
Any road trip is going to involve some direction giving and getting. Nelson was a short day. Only four of us choose to ride while the others enjoyed the unique vibe of Nelson and getting caffeinated at Oso Negro Cafe. This photo was from the top of Powerslave. One of my personal favourites of the whole trip. Loam, loam, loam.
After dropping off the mountain we found ourselves tubing on the Slocan River to decompress from all the travelling. It was a welcome break, and a chance to let the inner Kootenay kid out.
Revelstoke - Frisby Ridge
“A definite highlight had to be Frisby Ridge in Revelstoke – the grade of the climbing was comfortable, the scent of the wildflowers was intoxicating in places and the scenery was beyond compare. The mountain views in the distance juxtaposed with the soft meadows in full alpine bloom were extraordinary.” Leanne
We took a swim in this jewel of a lake at 7,000ft. The Frisby Ridge trail is an 11.5km out and back ride. This lake was waiting for us at the turnaround point. Unfortunately, the number of biting bugs who had already staked claim to the lake was a little overwhelming. Be sure to bring some repellant when you go.
There were a couple of good views.
Our local guide Sutra levitating.
The return trip was a moving rave in the woods. The other face of that sweet climb was a descent that made you dance on the pedals and want to punch the sky a few times when done. After losing the two nails the day before, I switched both brakes to the right hand, and held tight to keep the fingers from shaking, praying the whole time I didn’t have a run-in with something tougher than a couple ferns. Thanks to the Nelson ER and modern pharmaceuticals for keeping me going.
Shuswap - Rubberhead MTB Trail System
Kelli Sherbinin always rides with style.
The Rubberhead Trails in Shuswap were a return to a different world from the Frisby Ridge fairyland. In the woods, with lots of loam, and steeps, the trails reminded us to hold on and let the bike roll. The Shuswap Trail Alliance played host and made us feel at home, showing us their developing trail system.
Most bikes were in the 5-6” range. My week old Santa Cruz Tallboy LT felt right at home in BC where I know the 26er has traditionally been king. Besides the three Rocky Mountain Element 26er’s, Darren had his Rocky Mountain Element RSL 29er with a 120mm fork and Mountain Bike BC director Martin Littlejohn had a Transition Bandit 29er. All bikes had a dropper post. These felt like the perfect bikes for the mix of terrain we explored.
Many days ended like this. A good shuttle driver keeps a cooler stocked at all times and we had some of the best!
Salmon Arm - West Reinecker Creek Trail
Bringing houseboats and bikes together has a hint of the brilliance made by other classic combinations. Think chili and chocolate, kites and surfboards, or snakes and planes. The Shuswap Trail Alliance had a boat ready for us to motor out the next morning for the Reinecker Creek Trail. I slept on the top deck under the stars and woke up in the morning with a bird on my head.
The houseboat was a great way to access trails and spend more relaxing time on the water. Even though you can drive to these trails, Shuswap Lake is large and getting there would require a long drive. Get a houseboat because it’s basically a portable water park.
The Reinecker Creek trail was the most “East Coast” trail we rode. Heavily wooded with about a 10” off-camber tread, I felt comfortable but you could tell it threw off riders who were more at home on a wider track. This was the least aggressive trail we rode the whole trip, but I was excited to add it to the list of variety you can find in the interior.
My favourite post-ride bath. A water slide and a huge lake.
Vernon - Kalamalka Lake (Cosens Creek) MTB Area
After a chill day cruising the Shuswap Trails we ventured to Vernon where the word was that the trails were flowy and not too technical. They turned out to be about as opposite of what we rode the day before as you could get. Above is what we found. You could ride around any of the features, but why pass up an opportunity like this? Two-finger braking was getting easier.
Loam, wooden features, steeps, and rock drops. Out here in the North Okanagan, the locals eat bowls of bark for breakfast. Get specific when you need to know what a trail is like. Their green trails might require a few ego checks to be cashed by the end of the day. Vernon was challenging but rewarding from top to bottom. As with any of the places we visited, there were other areas in Vernon that had easier trails, but like any proud trail steward would do, we were taken to some of their personal favourites.
Trails were well marked and it was easy to find a map and your way around. Many places I’ve been to over the years could have used a few of these posts. If you need maps, check out the North Okanagan Cycling Society.
Kamloops - Kamloops Bike Ranch
When I first signed on for this trip I expected to be in an arid desert for most of the trip. It wasn’t until Kamloops that the environment met my expectations. There are an amazing number of trails surrounding Kamloops and the freeride attitude runs deep. After a stop at the Bicycle Cafe shop and breakfast at Hello Toast, we hit the local bike park. To say it was hot and dusty would be an understatement. We had a good time, checking out their large bike park with a wide variety of progressive features. We couldn’t stay long since we had to get to Whistler that evening to see the Slopestyle finals at Crankworks, but I wish we had more time to explore this legendary riding area.
Kamloops had a fine dust that made simple riding look ridiculously dramatic.
Even though Leanne lived about a mile away she had rarely ridden the park. After almost a week on the trip, she felt more confident and adventurous riding there.
Whistler - Top Of The World Trail
Whistler recently opened the Top of the World Trail to the general public. In 2003 a few friends and I wanted to go to the top but we needed a guide. Somehow it never worked out on that trip, but when I heard we were going to be able to finally do the trail I’d been waiting 9 years for, I gave myself a high five. After the initial gondola ride, one more chair takes you up the extra 1,091ft to the top. This was Kelli’s first time to the top too.
This is the scene at the entrance to Whistler’s Top of the World Alpine Trail. It seems stark and had less fanfare than I expected. That being said, as you drop in don’t get distracted by ‘The Tusk’ in the background because you’ll need to keep your eyes on the job at hand. It’s a steep entrance.
The TOTW trail starts steep, rocky and technical. You won’t drop in at high speed unless you want a quick trip to the valley floor. From steep and technical the trail transitions to loamy alpine corners. The further down the mountain you go the more it starts to open up as you enter the fray of traditional bike park action.
One last ride for the group. It was a long but incredible week. Thanks to everyone involved!
“I,…loved Whistler. Again, the scenery was amazing – but it was more than that. It was the atmosphere of being in the Village, the excitement of Crankworx, not to mention the 5000 vertical feet of descent! It was the final ride of an incredible week with new friends. It was the culmination of all the new skills I’d been working on and the confidence I’d gained as a rider.” Leanne
Leanne on her final ride of the trip.