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Mountain Biking the Southern Chilcotin Mountains

Squamish-Lillooet A, British Columbia


Added by Jennie Sprigings

One of largest linked networks of alpine/near-alpine singletrack trails in the world. Technical alpine ascents and descents. Leisurely valley-bottom cruises along rivers and through wildflower meadows. Remote area. Well established and maintained trails. Alpine meadows and lakes, wildflowers, mountain views, and wildlife. Luxury cabins or rustic camping. Float-plane fly-in access available.

For those in the know, the alpine trails of the South Chilcotin Mountains are known as Mecca for mountain bikers. These will be, guaranteed, some of the best trails you ride in this lifetime.

To access the Southern Chilcotins, drive 5 hours north of Vancouver to reach Tyax Wilderness Resort and Spa and float plane base, located on Tyaughton Lake, which functions as the hub of the area. While other accommodation is available on the lake and in the surrounding region, as the home of Tyax Adventures and their riding guides, the resort is your best bet. Plan to book some sort of accommodation here before arrival, either at the lakeside campground, or rent a cabin or room at the lodge. The resort has all sorts of activities available to guests, including horse-back riding, paddle-boarding and kayaks. There is an excellent restaurant at the lodge, but no store other than a basic tuck shop, so bring your own snacks and fuel for the ride.

This is a big area and rides tend to be long so planning ahead is key. An excellent map of the area is available at the lodge or at the bookstore in Whistler, so familiarize yourself with the scale and topography of the area before you head out. Other than some of the minor trails around the lodge, you should expect your days in the saddle to be 4 hours or more.

Trails can be accessed directly from Tyaughton Lake, if you want to be human-powered, or via floatplane to one of the many lakes (and several camps) dotting the landscape. There are many trail options for various skill levels, but if you are an experienced rider and looking for an all-day adventure with scenery that will leave you your jaw at the valley bottom, here is a 56 km (34.8 miles) loop that I cannot recommend highly enough:

Starting from the lodge, ride back out the driveway and turn right onto Tyaughton Lake Road, heading uphill to the east. Climb steadily for ~ 9 km (5.6 miles) until you reach a three-way intersection. Take the left-most fork (uphill again) onto Taylor Creek Road, on which you continue 4 km (2.5 miles), with ~500 ft elevation gain, until the road ends in a flat, cleared area. The trailhead is on your left, flagged with pink tape. It is also possible to drive to this point if you have a 4x4 and want to do an out-and-back on the first portion of the ride described below.

This is the Taylor Creek Trailhead, which will bring you at a moderate grade up to the historic Taylor Basin Cabin at ~9 km (5.6 miles). Stop here for some fuel and enjoy a peek into the last remaining cabin from an old mining site.

From here, you will continue on the main double track, which opens up into a stunning valley, and at which point you will continue to climb steadily to the northwest until you reach Eldorado Pass. (On the climb towards the Pass, look for the singletrack contour that takes riders to Camel Pass, for a different option on another day). Descend Eldorado Pass on the babyhead double track before gaining flowy single track through alpine flowers and stunning mountain views.

Shortly after, the trail begins ascending again, and you will reach an obvious and marked intersection which will direct you right (and up) towards Windy Pass. Prepare for a beautiful, but unrelenting climb, which will likely include some bike-pushing sections, depending on the size of your quads. High-five your riding partners and scarf your Snickers Bar once you reach the summit of Windy Pass, because from here you are about to descend on some of the most epic single-track you have ever experienced. The non-stop descent over 700 m (0.4 miles) on beautiful, fast, and flowy trails will have you whooping and hollering the entire way down to Spruce Lake. Stop at the bottom for a celebration dance – yes, it is that awesome.

From here, the trail south to Gun Creek is very well-signed and you will wear nothing but a grin the entire 13 km (8 miles), with gradual elevation loss, as you meander through conifer and aspen forests, stunning meadows, and alpine grasslands. You will also pass over multiple bridges while crossing the raging Gun Creek (which is really more like a river). You will finish by popping out onto Gun Creek Road. To complete the loop back to the lodge, stay on this road until you connect with Tyaughton Lake Road. Take a left turn, and ride another 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to the familiar turnoff into Tyax Lodge.

Now, quickly ditch your bike and take a running leap into that cool, refreshing lake before you grab a very well-deserved beer on the deck and begin confessing to anyone that will listen that that was "hands down the best day you have ever had on the bike." And that is the truth.

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