11-day trip in BC and Alberta

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by dpwell, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. dpwell

    dpwell Adventurer

    Jul 17, 2009
    hi all

    I thought I'd write up a bit of an account of my recent September trip. It was nothing epic but a good trip nonetheless, especially the 2nd half.

    I set out from Vancouver BC with the intention of getting to Montana and riding the Going to the Sun Road again this year, as I had done last year.

    I left on Labour Day. It was very hot. There were wildfires burning all over southern BC at the time and the skies were quite smoky. I took the slab out to Hope and then switched to the slightly quieter highway 3, the so-called Crow's Nest. Got as far as Keremeos that night. Not many people going out of town, but hoardes of people coming back towards Vancouver. I was happy to be going the other way.

    Next day I rode from Keremeos to Cranbrook. It wasn't a terribly eventful day. Again it was hot and very smoky, so the scenery was very much diminished.

    Day 3, I rode from Cranbrook out to Fernie. Stopped for a coffee in Jaffrey at the excellent First Perk
    Coffee shop:


    At the public library in Fernie I found out that Waterton Lakes, where I had intended to stay, was under threat of evacuation, and that the GTTS Road was closed. (I recommend the Bear Mountain Hotel in Waterton - I think, apart from the campground, it's the cheapest stay in town and the staff are nice). So with some disappointment I bailed on Plan A. I didn't really have a Plan B, so just rode back to Cranbrook and then up to Radium.


    Radium is a nice place with a great pub called the Horsethief, and of course the famous hot springs. I stayed at a nearby campground called Dry Gulch. Despite the unappealing name, it's a lovely campground, and conveniently close to town.

    Day 4 I decided to ride up to Jasper and camp there at the Whistlers campground. The ride from Radium up to Lake Louise was pleasant but still a bit smokey. Seemed even worse on the Banff/Jasper Parkway. A few mountains peeered out of the gloom but it was disappointingly mirky, and the traffic, being early September, was still heavy.

    On day 5 there was rain in the forecast so I bought myself a new rainsuit at the local bike shop (Jasper Motorcycle Tours) prior to leaving. I asked the staff for recommended small road side trips, and they said to go up the road to Mt. Edith Cavell just south of Jasper, which I did. It's a short but twisty ride and definitely worth the detour. Many decades earlier my great aunt had climbed this impressive peak for her Alpine Club of Canada mountaineering 'exam', an exploit I'd read about in her journal, so it was cool to see it:


    The rest of the day was fairly blah. I rode west back in the general direction of Vancouver and it began to rain. I wasn't sure where I should go for the remainder of my trip. I was considering riding over to Prince Rupert on the west coast but it looked rainy all the way there and I strongly prefer dry weather riding, so I headed south to Clearwater. The day's highlight was an excellent sandwich in Valemount at the cosy Gathering Tree Eatery. The owner of my Clearwater hotel had this cool 'motorbike':


    Day 6 began rainy so I hunkered down in my hotel till around noon. I decided to head over to 100 Mile House on highway 24, despite a partial closure due to fire, and a forecast of rain. I just wanted to get off the big highways and away from the tailgaters and have the road to myself. The ride from Clearwater to 100 Mile was excellent. Hardly any traffic, no smoke and - luckily - no rain. Had a tea at the Rise & Grind Coffee House. From 100 Mile I rode south on highway 97 to the junction of the 99.
    Snapped this pic in Clinton:


    then rode towards Lillooet and grabbed a campsite at the popular Marble Canyon campground:


    There was a boil water advisory at the campground's single water source, but I'd made friends with the occupants of the site next to mine, a Dutch couple driving for a month through BC in a rented camper, and they kindly gave me a bottle of water, a glass of wine, and, the following morning, a cup of coffee as I was packing up. Always lovely to make new friends on the road.

    Day 7: Had a fabulous early Sunday morning ride from Marble Canyon to Lillooet


    where I stopped for breakfast at the Rugged Bean Cafe. The smoke and rain of the previous days had gone. The scenery around there is just amazing. I think it's one of my favourite places to ride, in some ways even more impressive than the Rockies. The very fun Duffey Lake Road to Pemberton was up after breakfast. I'd ridden this road a few times in the off season on weekdays but on this day, a Sunday, it was crowded, with everything from sportbikes to campers. Made it to Pemberton then went for a ride up a road I'd never been on, to the community of D'Arcy. It's not as long or as fun as the Duffey Lake, and the surface is uneven in places, but it's a nice ride anyway and was definitely worth going up there. Camped at Nairn Falls campground that night.

    One day 8 I was nearly back in Vancouver but not ready to end my trip, so I took the ferry over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, then up the coast on the 19A to Campbell River and got a campsite. It was rainy again, but only briefly. Camped at Elk Falls provincial campground.

    Day 9 was the best day of the trip. The sun was back. I rode up from Campbell River to Gold River on highway 28, a road I had heard friends talk about for a long time.


    The road goes through Strathcona Provincial Park and past Strathcona Lodge on Buttle Lake,


    where I'd spent a week in outdoor school when I was in grade 10. The lodge didn't seem to have changed much. The Gold River ride was excellent - lovely weather, little traffic and a twisty road. I went a short distance down the gravel road towards the village of Tahsis, a further 40 km or so away, but my bike is not really set up for off-pavement riding so I didn't go far. I am VERY interested in getting off pavement in future though! Camped in Campbell river again that night.

    I headed right out to the west coast of the Island on Day 10, to Ucluelet. On the way there I stopped at Sproat Lake campground in Port Alberni where I intended to stay that night. To my surprise there was only one spot left so I bagged it, set up my tent, then set out on the rest of my ride. This is another excellent run. The road is rough in places, but otherwise it's terrific. Sat on the lovely Wickaninnish beach for a while, feeling very out of place in my bike gear, before returning.


    My final day was from Port Alberni (where I had a fine breakfast at the Boomerangs Cafe) around the so-called Marine Circle route to Victoria and the ferry back to Vancouver. There was a long and dull stretch of slab for about an hour till I got south of Nanaimo, but things got much better once I started heading west towards Cowichan Lake and Port Renfrew. Botanical Beach is a great side trip but a bit of a walk from the parking lot in bike gear (I didn't go this time but had already been in the past). The ride along the southern edge of the Island, from Port Renfrew to Victoria, is mostly lovely, with beautiful views across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

    Even Madder Matt likes this.
  2. gunnerbuck

    gunnerbuck Island Hopper

    Nov 19, 2005
    N.V.I, B.C.
    Looks like you had a good trip, you would have been OK to continue on the Tahsis road, it has lots of narrow paved sections for most of the way..
  3. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Nov 27, 2009
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Great stuff! We had a marvelous September around here for weather. You hit many great roads.

    OBX-RIDER Long timer

    Dec 20, 2006
    OBX, NC -11 corners in 318 miles
    Nice ride and good report. I'm needing to get in another ride before Winter ...
  5. ToothDocJay

    ToothDocJay Been here awhile

    Feb 18, 2015
    Cobble Hill, Vancouver island, BC ("wet coast")
    So many rider come up to BC and miss riding the Island, so it's good that a "local" made the effort!