Author Topic: Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights  (Read 8535 times)

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Offline Luca

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« on: April 12, 2005, 06:24:13 pm »
Hello all. The month of June will find me exploring British Columbia
and advice as to sights and routes is appreciated. I've sectioned the
journey into two tours.
   a) Vancouver and Vancouver Island (lasting approximately a week)
   b) Vancouver to Calgary (which I've yet to map out)

After poring over maps (MapArt's British Columbia Road Atlas with
Back Roads), here's my general plan for the first week or so of my stay
in B.C. The journey will trace a route from Vancouver, through the
Sunshine Coast, Courtenay, and end in Victoria - I think ;-). Please
encourage, criticize and contribute.

   - Monday May 30/Tuesday 31: Deplane in Vancouver. Build up
the bike and spend a couple of days in Vancouver sightseeing. Then
   - Day 1: Up Rte 101 to Powell River. Ferry across the Strait of
Georgia to Comox/Courtenay. Overnight in Courtenay (Shantz Haus
Hostel?) Given the ferry hops and my ignorance of the local roads, is
the intent to cover this distance in a single day overly optimistic?
   - Day 2: Two Options. A) Head inland along Comox Lake Main
Rd/Toma Valley Hwy. to Port Alberni or B) Ride southward along the
coastal highway Rte. 19A to Nanaimo. Overnight in either Nanaimo or
Port Alberni. If in Port Alberni, an extra day is required to ride along
Rte. 4 to Parksville, then southward to Nanaimo. Does a ride to Port
Alberni justify an extra day? Is Rte. 4 bicycle friendly?
   - Day 3: Wind my way down the coast from Nanaimo to Victoria
and overnight there. Or, perhaps, skip Victoria and take the ferry from
Sidney to San Jan Island overnight on the island. Any input?
   - Day 4: Depending where I am, local sightseeing is the order of
the day. I'm curious as to what a local would consider the most
enjoyable: riding around the vicinity of Victoria ((Galloping Goose
Trail), visiting Port Angeles/Olympic National Park, poking about the
San Juan Islands or ???.
   - Day 5, 6 or 7 (Depending on the length of stay in Victoria area
and if I opt for the Port Alberni route), ferry back to Vancouver in
preparation for the ride to Calgary.

Well, the preceding sums up the first week of the trip - sort of
Vancouver and Vancouver Island Lite - the second, which I'll also solicit
advice for, involves riding to Calgary.

If you'd be so kind to help out with the following:
   - A good (bike friendly) hostel in Vancouver. Shipping the bike
ahead of my plane flight is a consideration and I'll have to re-assemble
the bike there and will require a secure area to lock it up overnights.
   - Recommended routes or attractions in the general vicinity of the
journey. Please feel free to criticize proposed routes or destinations -
especially if nearby alternatives offer more.
   - Bear in mind, I want to spend no more than a week on this loop
- I know I'll only be skimming the surface of what the Sunshine Coast
and Vancouver Island has to offer, but time is limited.

Since it will impact your recommendations you should know my
travelling setup. It's meant to be light and quick: I'll be riding a
cyclocross bike equipped with 700x32c tires, a Carradice saddle bag
with a few changes of clothes and essentials and I'll be wearing a small
backpack; I'll be restricted to asphalt, dirt roads and non-technical
trails - North Shore free rides are definitely out! My travelling
philosophy: Enjoying people and places. I aim to avoid heavily motored
routes - I suffer enough of that in Toronto - and excessively touristy
areas (an odd request from a tourist ;-). There will be neither cooking
nor camping; hostels will afford most of the accommodation and from
what I've gleaned on the internet there seems to be no shortage in the

Well that's it for now. Any help is appreciated.


This message was edited by Luca on 4-12-05 @ 2:26 PM

Offline biker_james

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2005, 11:25:08 am »
Sounds Great. I live in Nanaimo, and my wife and I have ridden the Sunshine Coast loop nearly every year at Easter weekend. The one problem I can see with going Vancouver -Powell river-Pomox in one day is the number of ferry crossings. You have aferry from Vancouver to Gibsons (Langdale), a second from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, and then the crossing from Powell River to Comox. Total riding distance is about 120km, and to figure out the ferries you can check the schedules at There are definitely some hills on the route, how big depends on the rider I guess. There is also a hostel (Old Courthouse Inn) in Powell River you may want to consider if you can't make the Comox ferry. Its a nice place run by good people.
The ride along Hwy 19A from Comox to Parksville is great, no real hills, follows along the ocean, quiet roads. The roads not in great shape, and in places there is little or no shoulder, but traffic is light so its no problem.
I haven't ridden the Comox-Port Alberni route, but have heard its a nice ride with decent road. The ride from Port Alberni to Parksville is great. A nice big climb out of Port Alberni, then rolling terrain all the way. Goes thru Cathedral Grove (old growth) and take Hwy 4a into Coombs-touristy but a nice place to grab a snack or treat. From Parksville to Nanaimo you do end up on Hwy 19 for a while, which is busy, but has good shoulders. You can probably get some iinfo on Hwy 19A and other routes at Check out the newsletter, and they also have some map packages.
Going Vancouver to Calgary, I would definitely consider taking Hwy 3 from Hope. This has some definitely big climbs,(leaving Hope, and then leaving Osoyoos, and probably more furhter east) but is scenic and quiet. I haven't ridden it, but what I have driven looked great for cycling if you're in shape. Its pretty popular with cyclists.
Have a great trip

Offline Luca

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2005, 09:35:29 pm »
BJ, thanks for the advice and links. has the last ferry
leaving Powell River for Little River at 8:45 PM; so Vancouver to
Courtenay in one day shouldn't be a problem -- that will definitely be a
full day though. As a contingency, the Courthouse Inn> will do nicely.

There are, what appear to be, many logging roads criss-crossing the
vicinity of Port Alberni; but (from my maps) none offer passage to
Nanaimo or the east coast of Van. Island -- Rte 4 to Coombs is the
only option. So, for now, Rte 4 it is! But experience has taught that
enquiring of the locals yields a wealth of alternatives (and
contradictions!); I'll ask around in Port Alberni. Looking forward to
Cathedral Grove, but your characterization of Coombs as touristy
verifies my impression of the town: it's home to "Vancouver Island
Butterfly World and Gardens" Uh oh ;-) I'll drop in at for more info.

Briefly, about Vancouver to Calgary: James, you're in good company in
recommending the Hwy 3 route to Alberta; you have reaffirmed my
intent to opt for it. Really, the only work to be done - short of actually
pedalling the kilometers - involves logisitics: where to stay; what side
routes or attractions are worth seeing; etc...


Offline biker_james

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2005, 11:30:04 am »
Glad to help out. I musst say that I've not heard of any backroads from Port Alberni to Nanaimo and area. Unless you want to go west first, towards Bamfield, then east to the Cowichan (Duncan) valley area.

Offline ridebc

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2005, 03:07:28 am »
maybe replying a bit late given the dates.  We have
ridden the Sunshine Coast several times and
while the shoulders are narrow you have picked
the right time of year as the traffic will be fairly light.  
I think the road between Comox and Pt. Alberni is a
logging road and may be active.  You may want to
rethink that direction.  The ride along highway 19A
from Comox to Parksville carries you along the
ocean and has relativly little traffic.  Once in
Parksville you can head up Hwy 4 to Cathedral
Grove which is well worth the ride as it contains
some of the last old growth forest that is
accessible to the average person.

I would strongly recommend against the Bamfeild
option to Victoria as this is an active logging road
and is not well suited to cycle touring.

The road from Parksville to Port Alberni continues
on to Uculet and Tofino on the West Coast of
Vancouver Island.  This would be a challenging
ride but it offers amazing coastal scenery once you
are there.   The Pacific Rim National Park is truly
From Parksville you need to travel along Hwy 19
which has wide shoulders and then in to Nanaimo.  
Don't forget to ask for the Bar's.  We have ridden
down Island on backroads which can be both
pastoral and coastal experiences.

You can take the Mill Bay Ferry, which will help you
avoid the ugly climb up the Malahat Highway - a
very busy highway.

We have ridden parts of the Galloping Goose trail
and it is OK following an old railroad grade.  

We lived along the southern route - Highway #3 the
Crossnest - and there are several high mountain
passes you will need to think about.

The Hope Princeton, The Osoyoss Anarchist
Mountain Climb, and the Blueberry Paulson
between Christina Lake and Nancy Greene Lake.

At Castlegar you will have a choice of going up the
Salmo Creston Summit or around via Nelson -
Balfour crossing the ferry to Crawford Bay then to
Creston.  This will add some km but is a great ride
through some unique communities.

From here you should have a decent ride into
Cranbrook and again you can choice between
staying south or heading North to Radium then into
Kootenay National Park and then Banff National
Park.  The southern route through Fernie
Sparwood Pincher Creek offers interesting views
and some strong tail winds.  I have not been down
there for several years but I understand that the
shoulders may have extensive rumble strips that
extend to the edge of the pavement forcing you to
ride on the road.

Good luck and enjoy southern BC

Offline Luca

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2005, 10:52:46 am »
Thank you for the input rbc. You've given me cause to re-examine
some aspects of my route. Please oblige me further with your opinions.

Heading north up the sunshine coast from Vancouver, are there more
appealing alternatives to continuing up Rte. 101 to Powell River: say, if
possible, ferrying to southern Texada Island and riding to Blubber Bay?

Regarding the (Comox Lake Rd./Toma Valley Rd.) inland route from
Courtenay to Port Alberni, I will enquire on the scene whether its
suitable for touring. Thanks for the tip.

I debated cycling to Ucluelet and Tofino, but nixed it on the basis that
it would require at least a day out (from Port Alberni), another for
relaxing sightseeing and a third to return. Investing that much time
would preclude me adequately exploring the  southern tip of
Vancouver Island. You seem more enthusiastic in your description of
Pacific Rim Park than Victoria. This prompts my next question: Given
the choice of one or the other would you recommend riding to Tofino/
Ucluelet over Victoria?

Now pertaining to the ride from Vancouver to Calgary: This itinerary is
also subject to improvisation. I'm considering deviating from the
original plan of following Rte. 3. At Princeton, instead of following
number 3 to Keremeos, Osoyoos, etc..., I'd detour up the Kettle Valley
Railway trail to Summerland/Penticton, continue north up the
Okanagan to Vernon then cycle Rte 6 east to Nakusp and south to
Nelson. RBC, does this bypass have much to recommend it?

That'll do for now ;-)


Offline Pool_Idor

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2005, 11:08:13 am »
I am planning on doing the cross BC ride next year as part of my transcontinental ride.

I would be most interested in having your view on your choice of routes as I am labouring with that one.

I am planning on arriving in Seattle and start the ride there via Olympia Nat park and then V'ver Island
to Calgary and then South through Waterton and Glacier Park.

Good Luck!

Offline Luca

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2005, 08:22:56 pm »
Hello PI. Once returned my impressions of cycling BC will be yours at the
asking. This link (
t=30381) will direct you to another forum thread that may be of interest:
it concerns attractions specific to Banff/Calgary. Note: This forum's
scripts may wrap the included URL so be sure to include every character
within the braces.


Offline ridebc

Req: Advice on British Columbia Routes and Sights
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2005, 05:22:23 am »
Texada Island is only serviced by the ferry in and
out of Powell River. Once on Texada The road from
Blubber Bay is paved to Gilles Bay.  All the other
roads are gravel.  We actually enjoyed the ride out  
of Saltry Bay to Powell River more then the ride up
the Sunshine Coast.  The Climb out of Saltry  Bay
is a bit long but it is great after that.  

Given your description of your bike I would suggest
staying away from the logging roads between
Comox and Port Alberni and stay south HWY 19A
and aim for Victoria.  If you have the time I would
suggest going to MacMillan Park/Cathedral Grove
to see the Old Growth, which would be a bit of a  
side trip .  I agree with the thought on how much
time the ride in and out of  Tofino will take.  A  
couple days plus a day taking in the sites could
easily add 3-4 days.  But if you had the time it is
certainly worth it, but …

Victoria is very scenic and offers some unique
urban experiences.  The Parliament buildings, the
Emprees Hotel, The Wax Museum  etc.   As I stated
before I would recommend staying off the Malahat
highway (which is HWY #1) and ride on the Mill Bay

MapArt publishes a great map book for Vancouver
Island and will give you the detail of the back roads
of Southern Vancouver Island.

You may also want to also consider riding the
route in reverse.  

Your Southern route choice is certainly  a great
idea.  I think the road between Princeton and
Summerland is unpaved, but check into that.  The
rest of it is really great idea.  The Route through the  
Monashees from Vernon to Nakusp would be
pretty quite.  Service will be more stretched out so
you may plan around that.  The major summit is
1200M Monashee Pass.  There is also a summit
between New Denver and Kaslo.  This is a great
area and very scenic.  The Mining industry from the
1800’s and early 1900 made the area rich and
there are lots of museums to see.  The ride along
Kootenay Lake from Kaslo to Balfour will offer a
number of scenic vistas This route will certainly
add kms and time to your journey so you may want
to think about the added days going that way vs.
taking a few more on Vancouver Island.  

The trouble with cycling in BC is there are too many
choices and not enough time.