Top places to ride in British Columbia

These 5 locations are begging to be explored: Revelstoke, Central Cariboo, Valemount, Golden and Vancouver Island

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Dirtbikers enjoy the view above Paint Lake with Arrow Lake in the background.

At the top, dirt bikers can enjoy a view of Paint Lake as well as Arrow Lake. — Photo courtesy Steve Shannon

British Columbia has a varied landscape, much of which can be accessed only via off-road vehicles. With all of this beauty to explore, what’s an ATVer to do? Explore! Follow this primer to make the best use of your time as you make your way across this mountainous province.


Revelstoke

Revelstoke is a hotspot for adventure in British Columbia. Thanks to an abundance of mountains, an active logging industry and a rich mining history, motorized access into the mountains has never been better.

South of Revelstoke, past the Shelter Bay Ferry, lies a long-forgotten area that holds a hidden gem for the off-roading enthusiast—Paint Lake.

Paint Lake is a small alpine lake on Mount Symons near the Monashee Provincial Park. Access is via a network of logging roads from Shelter Bay, which eventually deteriorate into an overgrown and washed out mining trail before conditions improve in the alpine.

To get there: Follow Highway 23 south to Shelter Bay, then continue south on the Shelter Bay Forest Service Road to the Limekiln Forest Service Road. Once on Limekiln, the route finding is difficult, but in general, stay left at the intersections until the road becomes overgrown. Spring rains and snowmelt have taken their toll on the road, which has become very rutted. Follow this road up through the alders until it breaks into beautiful subalpine forest. The road becomes quite rocky, but most riders should make it without too much difficulty.

Eventually, the road breaks into the alpine where views of the Monashee Mountains and Arrow Lake make it difficult to concentrate on the trails. Please stay on designated trails in the alpine to preserve this fragile environment for all to enjoy.

At Paint Lake, there are plenty of options to explore on foot, including an old mine site up the valley to the north. From the mine site, a short hike brings you to the ridgeline and an overlook of Monashee Provincial Park.

A few kilometres before reaching Paint Lake, there is a trail that branches to the north and climbs up the ridgeline over rock slabs littered in loose rock, making for a challenging ride. The climb is worth the effort, as the views of the Gold Range are stunning.

Retracing the route to the bottom brings riders back to the Limekiln Forest Service Road, where riders can continue back to Shelter Bay, explore Hall Mountain farther to the north or head south towards Fosthall and eventually reach the Arrow Park ferry.


Central Cariboo (Quesnel Lake and Houston)

The Central Cariboo is a vast area of the province that spans several lakes and boasts a variety of wildlife.

A good starting point for ATVing is Barney’s Lakeside Resort at Puntzi Lake. This is a full-service resort, offering cabins, campsites with hookups, propane, fishing, guided tours and ATV access. From here you can ATV as far as your supply of fuel lasts. It will offer some great wildlife experiences, and you can see everything from bears to pelicans.

Laura Rasmussen spent part of her summer exploring the Cariboo Chilcotin region of B.C. on her Can-Am Maverick 1000.

Laura Rasmussen recommends riding into the Taseko Lake area between Williams Lake and Bella Coola. “Oh my God, it was the most epic ride I’ve ever been on in my life,” said Rasmussen. “We were one mountain range away from Gold Bridge near Pemberton, and the lake we went to was white because it has a lot of granite silt in it.” — Photo courtesy Geoff Moore

Farther west, just before you get to the community of Nimpo Lake, is Pine Point Resort. It is a full-service resort, offering cabins, a campsite with hookups, plane tours, guided tours, fishing and a variety of other activities for your enjoyment. From here you can explore the foothill of the coast mountain range and see the immense mountains standing in a row to protect this area from the wet coastal weather. Your fuel is the only thing limiting your experience.

You can ride the rough trails used by local ranchers to move their cattle between meadows or choose to ride snowmobile trails, ATV trails, abandoned roads and well-maintained British Columbia Forest Service mainlines. There is a trail for every user group, which adds to the experience.


Valemount

Much of the riding around Valemount is centred around Kinbasket Lake. Here, there is a seemingly endless supply of forest service roads and old resource roads, as well as four designated campgrounds. Using the campgrounds as a home base, riders can gain access to higher alpine areas, such as the Ptarmigan Valley and the Hugh Allen drainage. Both options begin with a scenic road ride along the east side of Kinbasket Lake before they wind their way into the backcountry.

Another great ride to try is West Side Road to Saddle Lakes. This route takes riders along the west shoreline of Kinbasket Lake to the Saddle Lakes where those with a fishing rod can try catching one of the lively little rainbow trout that occupy these waters.

ATVers ride a trail amidst trees.

The ATVing options around Valemount, B.C., range from rugged mountain trails to forest service roads and old resource roads. — Photo courtesy VARDA

Fishing, boating or a bit of both

Avid anglers can try their luck on Kinbasket Lake. The lake is home to many species of fish—including bull trout, Dolly Varden and ling cod. But fishing is not all it’s good for.

Kinbasket is well suited for boating and swimming as well.

While cruising along the shores, visitors are encouraged to watch for waterfalls along the shoreline. A boat launch, docks and campsites can be found at the Valemount Marina.

More ATV opportunities

ATVers can try the Sea to Sky Trail up Canoe Mountain. A 30-kilometre ride, this trail follows an old road system, taking riders to an elevation of 2,621 metres (8,600 feet). According to Tara Boyda, who is an ATV guide in Valemount, the view from the top is awe-inspiring.

“If the conditions are clear, one can even see Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3,964 metres (13,000 feet),” said Boyda.

So whether you are a fisher, water lover or an off-road enthusiast looking to reconnect with nature, Valemount is the place you’ll want to check out this summer.


Golden

With three mountain ranges, Golden is a mecca for outdoor recreation. From downhill mountain biking at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to ATVing, the town has something for everyone.

A route that travels through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, taking in three of Canada’s major national parks, is the Golden Triangle Circle Tour. A 320-kilometre (200-mile) ride, the Golden Triangle can easily be completed in one day, but with so much to see and do along the way, you’ll want to take an extra day or two.

Motorcyclists ride down a road through the mountains.

The Golden Triangle takes motorcyclists through three of Canada’s major national parks. — Photo courtesy Allan Orr


Vancouver Island

Imagine spending your entire summer vacation on an ATV, exploring sandy beaches, coastal inlets and the temperate rainforest of northern Vancouver Island. Riding from town to town, you see abundant wildlife, meet new people and learn about the fascinating culture of this remote region.

The Campbell River ATV Club has a 400-kilometre (250-mile) circle tour that is bringing in more ORV visitors to northern Vancouver Island. Riders can travel from Campbell River to Gold River and then go north to Sayward and back to Campbell River.

An ATV sits on the crest of a cliff overlooking a lake.

With miles upon miles of Crown land, the northern region of Vancouver Island is ideal for off-road riders. — Photo courtesy Mike Coulter

The circle tour follows forest service roads and existing trails. With designated access in Tahsis and Gold River and off-road vehicle operating permits available in Sayward, ATVers can ride into town on specific routes to access fuel, food and lodging. Campbell River also granted support to let riders stage from the Shell gas station on Willis Road—which has specified access to the Forestry Service Campground network.

So, what’s your favourite riding area in British Columbia? Was it one of the five destinations mentioned here or did we miss it? Let us know where you love to ride the most!


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