Best Ride Ever: Tackling the Onion Lake Trail

A great day is getting stuck with your ATVing buddies near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

by Jeff Johnson

ATV sitting on summit of mountain.

About 15 kilometres of the Onion Lake Trail is on the summit of a mountain. — Photo courtesy Gordon Graham

Gordon Graham of the Tumbler Ridge Motorized Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts has plenty of experience off-roading.

The 80-year-old has been riding for all of his life, spending nearly 40 years as part of a motorcycle club in the Northwest Territories. He started with a 1969 Suzuki motorcycle, long before getting on his first quad in 2004.

“I bought a 660 in 2004 and now I got a 2007 Yamaha Grizzly,” Graham said. “I think I got about 15,000 kilometres on it and have been all over the country.”

In all of that time, Graham has ridden on many trails, but none can compare to the Onion Lake Trail in the Wapiti district.

“It’s the most difficult trail in the whole country,” he said, “yet it’s the most beautiful.”


The trail is 26 kilometres (16 miles) in length and tops out at over 731 metres (2,400 feet) in elevation. 

The last time Graham rode to Onion Lake was back in 2014 with eight other riders.

“We got hills there that guys are flipping their machines on, we got a swamp that has no bottom in it, but there’s no place in the world where you can get on top of the mountain and travel for about 15 kilometres (nine miles). You’re up in the clouds,” Graham said. "The difficult part is getting down into Onion lake. That’s when you got to travel through the creeks and the swamps. It’s really difficult, but quite rewarding at the same time.”

Gordon Graham's group at the summit of the Onion Lake Trail.

Gordon Graham's group at the summit of the Onion Lake Trail. — Photo courtesy Gordon Graham


Despite travelling with a large group, Graham ran into no issues on the way up the trail. His experience came in handy for the other riders though.

“A couple of guys in our group, they tipped their machines over. We had to do a lot of winching. I saved the day by having a snatch block with me,” Graham said. “One guy was stuck so bad, we were over an hour and a half getting him out. Thank goodness he got stuck close to a tree. We had to lift him up—we couldn’t pull.”

Graham's group even came across another group of riders when they reached the trail's peak.

“We left at 9 a.m. and we didn’t get back until 9:30 p.m. It was a 12-hour trip.”

The view at Onion Lake.

The view at Onion Lake. — Photo courtesy Gordon Graham


While Gordan Graham is 80 years old, that hasn’t stopped him from getting out on trails near and far.

“I’ve got to go see a tree, I’ve got to get out into the bush and smell the country. The trees, the mountains, the birds, the streams, everything outdoors,” Graham said.

The Tumbler Ridge man says there’s no better way to get access to the outdoors than an ATV.

“My 2007 Yamaha Grizzly is open, so you cannot only see the country, you can smell it too,” Graham said. “Anything that has to do with off-road, that’s what I was into.”

Graham’s love of the outdoors is infectious and something he feels should be shared with everyone.

“Both my daughters are into motorcycles,” Graham said. “You have just got to do it. Don’t go buy a truck or a car, get a quad or a motorcycle.”

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