5 Whistler Biking Must-Do’s: Beyond the Bike Park
With Crankworx Whistler coming up now seems the perfect time to drop the next installment of mountain bike wizard Seb Kemp’s “Five Must-Do’s” list for biking in Whistler. With solid advice for riders of all skill levels, Seb outlined his top Must-do’s for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park last week and this time around he’s taking his wisdom beyond the park and out into the Whistler valley. Pump up your tires and grab some water – let’s do this.
1. Lost Lake Trails
Just five minutes of gentle pedaling from Whistler Village lies the tranquil recreation wonderland of Lost Lake Park. A dense network of trails weaves through the forest with lots of options for beginner to intermediate riders. Any rider who wishes to explore Whistler’s 250km of singletrack owes it to themselves to start in Lost Lake and get a feeling for the type of terrain, features, and style of cross-country riding that characterizes the Whistler area.
After an exhilarating loop (try Tin Pants, Fountain of Love, Pinocchio’s Furniture, Jelly Gum Drop Roll, Central Scrutinizer, Grand Wazoo) finish at Lost Lake itself for a refreshing swim and a cold drink from the kiosk. Despite the name, Lost Lake feels more like a paradise found.
Located in Whistler’s West Side trail system this classic piece of singletrack is definitely worth the adventure of getting there. These days Danimal is split into three pieces (imaginatively called North, Middle and South) but it’s best to start with Danimal-Middle or Danimal- North at first. Riders looking to gain elevation quickly can climb on the sealed Stonebridge road keeping an eye out for the marble plinths that mark the trails. Another option is to start on Alta Lake Road above the Nita Lake Lodge and climb up Lower Sproat trail until you see the Danimal crossing (use the Piece Of Cake and A La Mode ride-arounds, you’ll be thankful). At the crossing, take the right turn for Middle and North-Danimal, or go for the more challenging but shorter Danimal-South trail on your left.
The cross-country trails in Whistler are a maze. It’s best to just hit a local bike shop, find the most up-to-date map you can, ask for a good starting point and go exploring. Whistler.com also has a smartphone-friendly database that includes many of the area’s trails. Local ratings err a bit on the difficult side so be prepared – some blues will feel black and Whistler’s black diamond trails really are quiet challenging.
3. Cheakamus Lake and Riverside Trails
Part of the allure of mountain biking is being able to cover a lot of ground quickly in order to access remote areas. Often overlooked, even by local mountain bikers, the Cheakamus Lake Trail leads to some of Whistler’s finest views.
Starting at Cheakamus Crossing (approximately 8 KM south of Whistler) ride east on the Riverside trails as far as the suspension bridge. Ensure you’re on the north side of the river (cross it if you need to) and continue to climb the logging road to reach the Cheakamus lake car park (Note- riders squeezed for time can cheat and drive to this point too).
Find the trailhead and cruise through the old-growth forest on well-maintained, easy-to-moderate singletrack trails that parallel the lake. Eventually the trails come to a dead end which gives riders the perfect opportunity to stretch out on the lake’s edge and admire the view. Bring your own lunch or try your luck with a spot of fishing (licenses are required).
Trail maps available at all local bike shops. Pack plenty of water and supplies as this mini-adventure can take anywhere between 2-6 hours. Be aware that this trail is shared with hikers so stay alert.
4. No Flow Zone
The trails in the Emerald Zone (not to be confused with Emerald Forest) are some of Whistler’s hardest and most challenging. They are rocky, awkward, technical and very physical. Neither uphill nor downhill, trails in the Emerald Zone trails are everything at once.
Many locals swear off this area and refer to it as the ‘No Flow Zone’ but spend enough time in there and the testing trails become a delicious adventure. To ‘clean’ (that is to not put a foot down while riding) on these trails is a huge achievement. If you really want to challenge yourself then this is the place to go.
5. Comfortably Numb
Comfortably Numb is on the IMBA Epic Rides list. The 24 KM point-to-point, entirely singletrack trail might not seem like much but riders should ensure they pack extra water and food because it takes a lot longer to complete than most people bargain for. And once you’re on it there are only two ways out: forwards or backwards.
The trail is best ridden from north to south so it requires a lengthy road ride to get to the northern end but then you finish right in the Lost Lake trail network just minutes from the Village. The trail itself is rough and rooty with not a single metre of easily achieved elevation gain. Comfortably Numb winds through magnificent old-growth forest and crosses several stunning gorges that will have you marveling at the madness of the trail’s builder, Chris Markle, a local legend.
The trail takes between 3-7 hours to complete and you’ll likely feel like you’ve ridden three times the 25 KM distance. Must-haves for this one include extra water, food, and emergency supplies for medical or bicycle. Cell coverage is almost non-existent once you are on the trail. Which only adds to the adventure right? Have fun.
6. Bonus: Sproatt Alpine Trail and Lord of the Squirrels
Set to officially open in summer of 2017, the Sproatt Alpine Trail is a new, epic, big day out kind of ride with a long alpine ascent followed by a the 8 km blue, flowy descent trail known as Lord of the Squirrels. Like Comfortably Numb, this is a big ride requiring decent levels of both fitness and bike handling skills, so work up to it. Check out the sneak preview video of the trail here and stay tuned for the official opening party.
Whistler.com has a pretty epic Online Trails Database as well as some smokin’ deals on stay-and-ride packages. It might also be a good idea to take a look at this trail map to get a better view of what is where.