Beer, Camping & Biking in Winthrop, Washington

All too soon, our trip through North Cascade National Park was over! We had plans to spend a couple days biking and hanging out in Winthrop, Washington before heading to Reardan for our wedding reception in my home town.

Winthrop is a cute little tourist town just on the east side of the Cascades on Highway 20. The downtown is historic, old west style, and it’s a good base camp for families who want to get outside. Our first stop was the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which came highly recommended. Like many places we visited on the #toasterroadtrip, this was high season for Winthrop, and though a weekday, the brewery was packed! While the food and beer at Old Schoolhouse was some of the best we had on the trip, the service left something to be desired, especially at the bar. Like I said, it was super busy so I don’t blame them too much and would still recommend them highly. Just be prepared for it to be busy and potentially pretty slow. Here’s the beer (all descriptions by Old Schoolhouse Brewery)

Old Schoolhouse Brewery // tahoefabulous.com

Epiphany Pale Ale (4.25/5): A medium-bodied pale with moderate bitterness, slight caramel malt flavor, and citrusy hop aroma. This is a good beer to start with when building up the courage for the stronger beers.

Ruud Awakening Douple IPA (4/5): Big, bold American IPA with plenty of piney, citrusy, and floral Pacific Northwest hops that completely overwhelm its medium malt body. This is our signature beer, named after Evan Ruud, the first hop-head in our family.

Renegade IPA (4/5)

Imperial IPA (4.5/5): Our Imperial IPA is bigger and more balanced than its little brother, Ruud Awakening IPA, with a stronger malt presence and increased hopping rate. Mild caramel malt character and plenty of Pacific Northwest hops. The Imperial IPA is part of our Brewer’s Reserve Series.

We camped at Pearrygin Lake State Park, just a little ways out of the town of Winthrop. The campground is huge, and I imagine it can get to be quite the party scene during certain weekends, especially in the motorhome heavy section of the park. However, we were near the lake with mainly other tent campers. Our section was quiet and peaceful, and our lake front neighbors never even showed up. We took advantage of this and used the empty site to access the lake. It seeemed a little pricey, especially for a state park campground, but I think we’d just gotten used to the cheap prices of Canadian Provincial campgrounds. I’d definitely camp there again – check out this sunset!

Pearrgyn Lake State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Unfortunately, smoke from some of the many wildfires last July started blowing in, and we decided to cut our stay to only one night. We woke up in the morning, and headed to a bike shop to ask about local rides. The person working was super friendly and showed us a bunch of options, but they were all long with a ton of climbing, which we weren’t into on a hot and smoky day. We ended up just doing a quick spin to stretch out our legs on an easy trail near Sun Mountain Lodge before packing up camp. We jumped in the lake one more time, and then headed east towards Reardan!

North Cascades National Park

Heading east from Bellingham, we decided to take the scenic route – through North Cascades National Park. Greyson had never been before, and I hadn’t been since right after college, so we were excited about this very scenic drive. We didn’t get to do any hikes, since we were just driving through, but we did lots of stopping and photo taking. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves! (All photos by Greyson)

North Cascades National Park // tahoefabulous.com

North Cascades National Park // tahoefabulous.com

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We’re hoping to do more than just drive through some day, but it’s definitely worth the detour to drive through the park in the summer.

Mountain Biking Galbraith & Kulshan Brewing

After an absolutely amazing time in Canada, it was time to head back the US. Luckily, we couldn’t be too sad, because we were heading to one of my favorite towns, Bellingham, to visit some good friends, Rebecca and Corey. We had a few goals – ride Galbraith, see friends, and drink good beer. We managed to do all of them.

On day one in Bellingham, Greyson went and rode Galbraith with Corey while Rebecca and I hung out with their daughter. After Greyson and Corey got back, we headed to Kulshan Brewing Company. When I lived in Bellingham, there was only one brewery – Boundary Bay. Now there are way more and it seems like new ones pop up every few months! I’ve had Kulshan beer a bunch of times while back visiting the PNW, but this was my first time visiting their brewery location. We went for the very generous six-beer sampler, and here’s what I tried (descriptions by Kulshan):

Kulshan Brewing Company // tahoefabulous.com

Party iN the Woods (4/5)

Pilsner (4.25/5): We raise a glass to the men and women who pioneered this classic session beer in 1842. Crisp and refreshing with clean and balanced bitterness from floral, bright and spicy Noble hops, this lager is our tribute to their hard work, precision and good taste. Prost.

Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale (4.25/5): This beer is your best friend, reliable, refreshing, honest and true. Life is gritty, wash it all away with a Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale, and do it again tomorrow. Enjoy Absolutely.
Bastard Kat IPA (3.5/5): Brewed with passion and precision, Bastard Kat is an American Style West Coast IPA with a prolific full hop flavor and aroma predicated upon the citrus notes of the Cascade Hop. Brewed for your next adventure.

Bull of the Woods Double IPA (3.5/5): Walking down endless rows of a green forest, the onslaught of hop aroma seduces one to a time, a place, a dream, a memory, an ideal ideal. How can I put that in a pint and deliver it unto you? Never limiting, always pursuing, climbing to the top. Allow yourself to be enveloped by this blanket of hops, and dream a little dream, of a forest of green.

Sunnyland IPA (5/5): Crisp, Refreshing, Hoppy, Hoppy punch up front, soft middle, and an evaporating finish.

After only a couple of days in Bellingham, we had to be on the road, but I still hadn’t had a chance to ride at Galbraith this trip. We decided to go on a short ride before we headed east.

Galbraith Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

I’d ridden at Galbraith a few times before, but this time we tackled a different section of the trail network. We parked at the parking area on Samish Way and headed north on Gailbraith Lane. The first real trail we hopped on was Dog Patch, a pretty easy climb. We popped out on a fire road and climbed that for about a third of a mile before getting back on the trail with Three Pigs. We only stayed on Three Pigs for about a half mile before turning right onto Pony Express. Pony Express crosses a fire road, and there we got back on Dog Patch before finishing it out on Last Call.

I’m by no means an expert on Galbraith, but I thought that was a fun short loop – it was under 4 miles with less than 500 feet of climbing. It took us under an hour – and I imagine it would be way shorter if we didn’t have to route check quite so often.

While we were bummed about leaving Bellingham and our friends behind, we were looking forward to our next destination – North Cascades National Park!

Beer and Camping in Whistler/Squamish, BC

So one thing I quickly learned when planning this trip is that, unless you’re staying in the Whistler village or on the mountain, you’re probably hanging out in Squamish, BC. That’s fine, because it turns out that Squamish is an amazing town. It reminded Greyson and me a lot of Truckee, actually.

Squamish Beer and Camping // tahoefabulous.com
Squamish, BC is an outdoorsy town on the northern end of the Howe Sound. It’s in a gorgeous setting, with towering granite cliffs and unbelievably blue water. It’s about 50 minutes from Whistler, and the drive is on the gorgeous but nerve wracking Sea to Sky Highway. In addition to miles of mountain bike trails, it’s also famous for climbing – especially Stawamus Chief. Think of an outdoor activity, and you can probably do it in Squamish – hiking, kayaking, trail running, rafting, etc.

After a full day of downhill mountain biking in Whistler, we were too exhausted to ride the trails of Squamish, which is probably our biggest regret of our whole road trip. Oh, well, we’ll just need to go back! Unsurprisingly, we visited several breweries in the Whistler/Squamish area and I really liked them. We were there in early-July, which is definitely high season in Squamish, so all of these breweries were packed. If you go during a busy time of year, prepare to stand or share a table with friendly locals. I also got to pet a lot of cute dogs at these breweries, too.

Beer
First up was Backcountry Brewing. This brewery has a full kitchen (we had good thin crust pizza) and was super busy. We tried two IPAs, Close Talker (3.5) and Sid Rogers Lil IPA (4.25) that appear to have gone off the menu. I really liked this place and would definitely go back. They also have cider, if you can’t do gluten.

Next was A-FRAME Brewing, which was just down the street. Here we did a four beer tasting flight, and this was my favorite Squamish brewery overall. We sampled (beer descriptions by A-FRAME):
Okanagan Lake Cream Ale (4.5/5): Okanagan Lake Cream Ale is pale gold with a sweet malty flavour, light in hop aroma and a smooth dry finish.

Elfin Lake Belgian Ale (3.5/5)

Shuswap Lake IPA (4/5): Shuswap Lake IPA is a bold, lean and assertive West Coast IPA. Brewed with Galena and Horizon hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops. This hop forward ale has a smooth, crisp, hop forward flavour with Centennial hops providing medium aromas of floral, grapefruit and mild citrus.

Sproat Lake Pale Ale (4.75/5): Sproat Lake Dry-Hopped Pale Ale is a fresh, light and sessionable ale where every new batch is hopped with an entirely different varietal. This batch of Sproat Lake Pale Ale focuses on the juicy side of today’s most popular hops. Brewed with Flaked Oats, Wheat and dry hopped with Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra. Smooth and silky malt body, light orange hues with aromas of citrus, orange zest and tropical fruits.

Finally, we have Coast Mountain Brewing, the only brewery we went to that was in Whistler. Here we tried (again, descriptions by brewery):

Forecast West Coast Pale Ale (3.75/5): Forecast gives us a peak into the future where fairer days breed serious mountain Apres sessions. The incredible Amarillo dry-hops here add tremendous, beautiful fresh-squeezed juice like character.

Day Dreamer NE IPA (3.75/5): Beautiful hazy, juicy goodness with notes of tropical fruits and citrus throughout. Brewed with generous additions of Canadian flaked oats, flaked wheat and tremendous late and dry-hop additions of Citra hops.

Lodging
There are not a ton of camping options in the Whistler/Squamish area, especially for non-private campgrounds. We ended up staying at two private campgrounds and one night in a hotel.

Our first night in the area, we camped at MTN Fun Basecamp in Squamish which I would highly recommend. The sites are spacious, the crowd wasn’t too rowdy and there are bike trails right from the resort. It also looks like a great base camp for rafting and climbing and booking guided trips as well. Post biking, we got a room at the Sea to Sky Hotel. The hotel was fine, the price was decent and the rooms were clean. They had a bike storage room, which was just a conference room, but better than nothing. I wished we could have locked up our bikes while they were in there, though. The best part of Sea to Sky Hotel was the restaurant within walking distance Pepe & Gringo’s (also known as Pepe’s Chophouse). Generally, when a place has a bunch of different cuisines on the menu, none of them are that good. But Pepe’s had Indian, Italian, and Indian and more, and everything we had was delicious. Finally, we stayed at Riverside Resort in Whistler. This is a private campground with walk in-only and drive in camping, motorhome spaces, and rental cabins. This was definitely the worst place we camped – very much a party campground and pretty pricey.

Overall, I’d recommend staying in and exploring Squamish and making the trek to Whistler when needed. If you really want to stay in Whistler, splurge and stay in the village. Overall, Whistler and Squamish are awesome and I can’t wait to go back.

My First Time at Whistler Mountain Bike Park

If you haven’t already seen it, the following video is a hilarious must watch before anyone rides at Whistler for the first time.

I felt like my first time at Whistler and the above video had a lot in common, including difficulty finding parking and being completely overwhelmed by how hard everything was. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast, but struggling on the blue trails was a bit of a knock to my pride. Also, Whistler was the only place I rode on the whole trip that I wished for more suspension – 130 front/115 rear was not enough. Obviously, it worked well enough that I had a fun time. But if you have a shorter travel full suspension bike, Whistler is a place that it’s worth upgrading to a longer-travel rental bike for the day.

Mountain Biking Whistler // tahoefabulous.com

There’s a ton of information about Whistler out on the internet, but I think that much of it is geared to advanced+ riders. Here’s what I wanted to know when I was planning my trip:

Can an intermediate rider have fun at Whistler Mountain Bike Park?
Absolutely! There are tons of trails that were super fun for a non-hardcore/non-DH rider. Just be prepared to ride grades lower than what you normally ride. The nice thing about the bike park is that the trails are so well built that even the green/beginner trails were fun to ride as a more experienced biker. I’d recommend Whistler for mtb newbies as well, but would suggest signing up for a lesson, especially if you are going with people who are going to want to go hardcore all day long.

Another important thing to realize (especially if you’re not used to riding at lift-serviced bike parks) is that even though you’re “just” riding downhill, it is a lot of work and hard on your body. Especially your hands. Even if you are in great shape, be sure to take breaks between runs or your hands will turn into handle-bar shaped claws.

Go on a week day if you can! We went on a Friday in July and it was still pretty busy. It was also very hot. Wear enough protective gear. Even if you’re a beginner who plans to ride easy trails, I’d recommend a full-face helmet (Something like the Bell Super 3R is well ventilated and light), a light, long sleeved jersey, elbow pads (I have these these lightweight ones from G-Form), and knee pads. If I’m at the bike park, I usually wear heavy duty knee pads (similar to these ones from Fox Racing), but we only brought our lightweight SixSixOne Recons and they were fine.

Whistler has a ton of amazing trails – way more than you can ride in a day or a weekend or probably even a week. We stuck to the Fitzsimmons Zone and rode mostly blue trails, with a green or two thrown in as well. We struggled enough on the blue trails that we didn’t even try anything higher. Whistler also splits their trails into categories beyond just difficulty – into “Technical” and “Freeride”. Freeride trails are machine cut and include features like jumps, berms, gaps, bridges, etc. Technical trails tend to be more based on natural terrain and are more likely to feature rock gardens, drops, logs, etc. I liked this classification, because I tend to prefer the “natural” features. I’d rather ride a rock garden than a bridge, even if the bridge is technically easier!

I did have a blast on Whistler’s freeride trails – there’s a reason this bike park is considered the best in the world. Here are some of the trails that I enjoyed the most:

  • B-Line upper and lower: (freeride, intermediate) Generally, I’m not a jump trail person (I don’t like jumping), but B-line was so much fun! All the jumps are rollable (no gaps or doubles), but you might find yourself having so much fun that you do catch air.
  • Ho Chi Min & Karate Monkey: (technical, intermediate) These are two trails on the easier end of the intermediate technical scale. From what I can remember, I could ride basically everything on these two.
  • Del Boca Vista: (technical, beginner) This was a fun beginner trail. Even Greyson, who is a pretty advanced rider had a blast on this one.

Those are just a few of the many amazing trails at Whistler Mountain Bike Park. I hope my tips for intermediate riders were helpful, and I encourage everyone who is the tiniest bit interested in mountain biking to consider a visit. Check back for places to stay, beer to drink, and things to do in the Whistler/Squamish area!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Food, Lodging, and Things To Do at the Sunshine Coast

Things to do on the Sunshine Coast // tahoefabulous.com
I already wrote about the mountain biking and the breweries of the Sunshine Coast, but that’s not all we did while we were there.  The Sunshine Coast is an awesome destination and I highly recommend visiting.

Camping
We camped at two different places on the Sunshine Coast – in both Powell River on the north end and in Roberts Creek towards the south.

In Powell River, we camped at a private campground located right in town – Willingdon Beach Campsite. Often, that combination is a recipe for a loud, un-scenic stay, but that wasn’t the case at Willingdon. The spots were pretty close together and we struggled finding a spot flat enough for our tent. Our neighbors were super friendly and respectful and a beautiful beach was a short walk away. It was also pretty cheap for a private campground, and it had laundry available if you needed it.

In Roberts Creek, which is between Sechelt and Gibsons, we stayed at Roberts Creek Provincial Park. This was a nice campground with spaced out spots in the old growth trees, but even in the height of summer it wasn’t staffed like the other provincial park campgrounds. This was the only campground we stayed at in all of BC where we put money in an envelope!

Other Lodging
We stayed at a couple of non-camping lodgings while we were on the Sunshine Coast. I was worried about finding camping when we took the evening ferry from Vancouver Island to Powell River, so we booked a night at the Island View Lodge for our first night. Now, the Island View Lodge is not the height of luxury, but I thought it was perfectly fine for a hotel on the cheaper end of things. It had recently been remodeled and had a better than average continental breakfast. It’s pretty close to a mill though, and, while we couldn’t smell it in the room, the distinct mill smell was noticeable outside.

If you’re looking for a nice place to stay on the south end of the Sunshine Coast, I highly recommend the Huckleberry Cottage in Roberts Creek. We stayed in the Carriage House, an adorable studio with all the amenities we could want after camping. There was a washer/dryer, a full kitchen, and an amazing soaking tub. The owners were so nice and friendly and had a great spot for locking up bikes.

Restaurants
While we did some camp cooking on the Sunshine Coast, we did eat out more often at this point in the road trip.

Costa Del Sol was an amazing Mexican restaurant in Powell River. It’s more a hipster type of Mexican restaurant, not a hole in the wall and it’s pretty small so you might have to wait for a table. I loved the Costa Cesar, which was made with tequila, and the Yam Tacos.

In Sechelt, we ate at The Lighthouse Pub, which was at the marina. The restaurant is right on the water, and we could watch sea planes take off and land from our table. We even saw a seal pop up its head while we ate! The halibut fish and chips were incredible! Seriously, I’ve eaten a lot of fish and chips in my life and these were #1.

Between Sechelt and Roberts Creek, we stopped at Gourmet Girl, another waterfront restaurant. I had Belgian waffles with local berries, which were delicious, but Greyson’s home fry poutine stole the show. If you’re looking for something quick and easy in the Roberts Creek area, the pizza from Pepper Creek was good, if a little pricey for basic pizza. The staff was also super friendly.

Finally, Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons is in an amazing location, but you’ll definitely pay high food prices for the view! They were also out of the oysters I wanted when we got there, which was a total bummer. The food we got was good, and Greyson found non-seafood things to eat.

Kayaking in Sechelt Inlet

We wanted to do some exploring on the water instead of via mountain bike while we were on the Sunshine Coast, so we booked a guided kayak tour with Pedals & Paddles, who have an incredible spot on Sechelt Inlet, almost at the end of the road. The two hour tour was only $75 per person, which included the boat and life jacket rental, which was a great price. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgable, and the time flew by. The water was so clear that we could see down to the star fish hanging out on the bottom! The sea life highlight was definitely the moon jelly blooms where tens of thousands of translucent jelly fish turned the water a beautiful turquoise color. We also saw a mink playing along the shoreline!

Try This Beer: Sunshine Coast Breweries

The Sunshine Coast has a small population, but it’s big enough to support a few breweries, and I think we were able to try them all. Beer descriptions provided by brewery.

Sunshine Coast Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

Townsite Brewing, Powell River
First up is a brewery in the historic Townsite District in Powell River. Townsite Brewing is in an older, but updated building with fun brewing artifacts on the walls. Townsite Brewing has the only Belgian brewmaster in all of BC, and it showed in their beers. If you love Belgian-style beers, you’ll enjoy Townsite. Obviously, Belgian isn’t my favorite style, but I still enjoyed several of their beers.

Zunga Golden Blonde Ale (3.75/5)
(zung-ga) 1. a word peculiar to Powell River meaning rope swing, esp. over water
2. A delicious golden blonde ale. This golden blonde ale has a light bitterness and a balanced body to create a dry, refreshing finish, with hints of European hops. It is the perfect accompaniment to a hot day up the lake.

Suncoast Pale Ale (3/5)
Suncoast is our draught-only offering and our definition of a session beer. Think smooth, amber and yummy! This is for hanging out with great friends and enjoying lotsa laughs.

Note: You can only get this beer if you visit their Sunshine Coast taproom!

Tinhat IPA (4/5)
DEFINITION:
1. logger slang for hard hat;
2. a peak (elev. 1193m) along the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail;
3. a West Coast IPA
Loads of pungent, piney, citrusey hops give Tin Hat IPA a strong bitterness that is balanced with a malty body. Pair with strong flavours: curry, smoked meat, Gorgonzola cheese.

Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout 3.5/5
1. what happens when the perfect mix of people come together to form a brewery; 2. a delicious oatmeal stout
We’ve got a truly great team here at Townsite and every day we are thankful that we get to work with each other producing some really great beer. As Chloe is often heard to remark, ‘What we have here is a perfect storm: from brewing, to sales, to distribution & marketing.’ To celebrate this serendipity, Cédric has brewed up the perfect storm of a beer: a rich, round, roasty oatmeal stout using flaked oats and roasted barley to add to our house roast malts (Chocolate and Crystal) and hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Golding.

Persephone Brewing Company, Gibsons, BC
Persephone Brewing Company is at an amazing location a little outside of Gibsons, BC on the south end of the Sunshine Coast. It’s on a working farm, complete with gardens and livestock – though the animals can get a little smelly! You can wander around the grounds with your beer, check out the hop yard, grab snacks from a food truck, or just sit outside in their covered courtyard. We enjoyed hanging out there so much that we ended up doing two tasting flights!

Black Lager (4.25/5)
A full bodied dark lager. Roasty, clean and chocolaty with a graham cracker finish.

Goddess Golden Ale (5/5)
Modelled after an English style summer bitter. Crisp, dry and refreshing, with a light biscuity malty character. A delicate, herbal hop aroma, backed with an assertive bitterness.

Persephone Pale Ale (4.5/5)
This medium bodied, light coloured ale is bursting with juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromas from Citra hops. The pleasant citrusy hop flavour and modest bitterness is balanced with a light malt profile. A sessionable beer for the hop lover.

Persephone IPA (3.75/5)
A classic Northwest IPA with big citrus and grapefruit flavours with hints of mango and passionfruit on the nose. Medium bodied, with a light biscuity malt character.

Dry Hopped Cider (3.25/5)
This was a super sour cider! I don’t really like overly sweet ciders, but this went too far in the other direction.

Keller Pilsner (4.25/5)
A crisp refreshing unfiltered lager with a bright, floral hop aroma. Very light in colour and body. The slight bready malt flavour is balanced with a firm bitterness and spicy flavour from a massive amount of Czech Saaz hops.

Multi Grain Saison (2.75/5)
A bright, refreshing farmhouse Saison brewed with barley, wheat, rye, oats, corn and rice. Light in colour and body with notes of peach, clove and black pepper.

Smoked Porter (3.75/5)
Aromas of smoke and roast up front, this strong, dark ale is brewed with a hefty percentage of beechwood smoked barley malt and roasted malts. Rich and roasty with a balancing hop presence, this is a perfect beer to pair with food or to sip on its own on a cold winter’s night.

Gibsons Tapworks, Gibsons, BC
We discovered our final brewery of the Sunshine Coast by accident – Gibsons Tapworks hadn’t shown up in any of my brewery searches! We were killing time, wandering around Gibsons while waiting for our ferry. I spotted a sign that advertised beer tasting, and away we went. The location was cute – lots of light and modern and beach decor. I really loved two of their beers, the Beach It session IPA and the Stormrider IPA. Definitely seek out this taproom while you’re waiting for the ferry.

Sixteen Traditional Ale (3.75/5)

Beach It India Session Ale (4.75/5)

One Sailing Wait IPA (2.75/5)

Stormrider IPA (4.75/5)

Mountain Biking the Sunshine Coast, BC

I left off in Campbell River, BC. We woke up bright at early and headed down the scenic coastal route to the ferry that would take us to the Sunshine Coast (with a quick stop for one more ride in Cumberland).

A huge inspiration for the #toasterroadtrip route was a video made by Bellingham-based mountain bike publication, Freehub Magazine. They made a video that highlighted mountain biking on the Sunshine Coast and the locals that worked hard to turn a depressed logging region into a mountain biking destination. We were sold, and the Sunshine Coast was a major priority destination on our honeymoon.

A quick word of warning – the Sunshine Coast is amazing, and I would highly recommend it as a place to visit. But, I wouldn’t recommend it as a mountain biking destination unless you are an advanced-intermediate rider or above. The trails we rode were really, really difficult (like, we were walking mile+ segments) and we had a hard time finding anything intermediate or below, other than at Sprockids near Gibsons. We did ride some amazing trails, and maybe you’ll have better luck than us, but I wouldn’t recommend the Sunshine Coast to beginner or intermediate riders, unless you do a lot of research. For newer riders, go to Cumberland or Parksville for biking and Sunshine Coast for the scenery.

Mountain Biking Sunshine Coast BC // tahoefabulous.com

The Sunshine Coast is an isolated, but awesome little region, north of Vancouver on the West Coast of British Columbia. It is only accessible by a series of ferries. We started at the north end and drove/ferried south towards the city of Vancouver. I’ll write more about the non-mountain biking parts of the Sunshine Coast in a later post, because there are plenty of non-biking things to do and see.  

Powell River
We continued our non-intentional following of the BC Bike Race route and arrived in Powell River just after the race concluded for the day. The main word I can use to describe biking on the Sunshine Coast (besides gnarly) is isolated. We drove for what seemed like forever on logging roads with no service, not seeing anyone else, before popping out at a surprisingly well maintained parking lot with a detailed trail map sign.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

We decided to take it a little easier on Day One, and rode from the parking area on Duck Lake Rd. We rode the Mud Lake Trail, a pretty easy 4 mile loop with only about 300 feet of climbing. It was pretty muggy, buggy, and mucky with not a lot of views. If you’re looking for an easier trail in this area, it fits the bill, but there was some bushwacking and it wasn’t the most exciting.

 

@tahoefabulous on the bridge of #alohatrail in #powellriverbc #mountainbiking #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

In all of the trail research we’d done, one trail in Powell River kept popping up in the recommendations: Aloha – so we made that our goal for Day Two. We weren’t able to find an open bike shop in Powell River, so our route was cobbled together from internet recommendations and MTB Project tracts.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map and Elevation Profile via Strava

We parked in the parking area on Alaska Pine Road, just off of Halsam Lake Road. We rode up Alaska Pine Road (with a ~0.5 mi detour when we took the wrong spur) for about 0.9 miles before turning right onto Death Rattle. Don’t ride up Death Rattle. This was a mistake and I pushed up the entire way. Death Rattle dead ends on Green Road, an easy trail that is somewhere between a double track and a fire road. After a mile of easy riding, the trailhead for Aloha & Blackwater trails will be on your right.

Aloha is a super fun, flowy trail with bridges and features that I found very rideable (and I’m a total chicken on wooden features). There’s also a Tiki Bar which is a must stop for photos.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com

Aloha and Blackwater cross each other a few times on the descent, and I think we rode a little on both, and you’ll finish out the ride on Blackwater. Despite its black diamond rating, I found it pretty rideable and comparable to Aloha on difficulty. We did find a downed tree, and Greyson was very excited to break out his Silky saw for some freelance trail maintenance.


Aloha was my favorite trail that I rode on the Sunshine Coast, and I’d highly recommend it. I’d actually recommend riding up Aloha and back down, though or find a different route that doesn’t require the ride up Death Rattle.

West Sechelt
West Sechelt was not a very successful day for us. Greyson got in a couple of bad, scary crashes and we ended up walking huge swaths of trail. We stopped by a couple of bike shops to ask about trail recommendations, but getting suggestions was like pulling teeth and we didn’t feel like we ever got a solid lead. A friendly local at the trail head did give us a bunch of suggestions, but his ideas were for a much longer ride than we were interested in that day. We started at the Gowland/Reeves Road parking area and headed up the access road. Next we climbed up Duracell, a rideable trail that gains about 350 feet in a mile before hopping on Shakecutters. Shakecutters dumped us out on an access road which we rode to Beaver Pond. After about ~0.7 miles on Beaver Pond, we turned right onto Baby Beaver.

Mountain Biking West Sechelt // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map and Elevation via Strava

Baby Beaver dead ends at another access road, where we turned right and rode for less than 0.1 mile before hopping on Parbac. We rode Parbac for about 0.3 mi before turning left and getting on VFR, which we’d read good things about. This is where the climbing got impossible for me, and I pushed my bike up about 95% of the 286 foot climb. It was steep. Greyson and I also both got the heebie jeebies on this section of the trail for some unidentified reason. We finally reached the top and got ready to finally descend.

Despite VFR’s blue rating, I found myself walking long sections of the descent. VFR was one of the hardest trails I’ve ever ridden. The trail was narrow and steep, with sections of tight trees, loose rocks, and steep drop offs to the side. Sometimes all three at once. When we were there, the Sunshine Coast was towards the end of an usually long dry spell and the trails were pretty beat up, so I don’t know how much that contributed to the difficulty, but after Greyson’s crashes and my long stretches of walking, we decided to bail on to the access road as soon as we could. Luckily, we were able to easily navigate back to our car.

Sprockids Park/Gibsons
Greyson was still feeling pretty beat up from his crash, and we had to catch our ferry to Vancouver, but we decided to do a little bit of exploring at Sprockids Park. Despite its name, Sprockids is open to everyone. It’s a park made up of a bunch of short mountain bike trails, ranging from easy to advanced, and you can string them together for a longer ride, or just session small sections easily. There’s also a skills development area where you can practice riding wooden features, ramps, and small drops. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but it was a fun stop, especially if you are newer to mountain biking or have kids along.

Next up, places to stay, things to do, and beers to drink on the Sunshine Coast!

BCXC in Campbell River

After a fun couple of days in the Cumberland area, we headed north to Campbell River. Taking the advice of locals, we got off of Hwy 19 and drove up the coast. The drive was gorgeous and worth the slightly longer trip. Considering that it only added about 20 minutes, I would highly recommended the scenic route.

Hazy #mountains from the #beach #vancouverisland #toasterroadtrip

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As I mentioned in my lodging post, we stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park. This was yet another amazing BC Provincial Park with access to a waterfall. A brand new suspension bridge giving new access to amazing views had just been completed so we made sure to check it out.

We had fun exploring Campbell River, which had a more rustic and ocean-y feel than the other spots we’d visited on the island so far. I especially liked driving out to Dick Murphy Park at the very end of a long spit and getting my feet wet in the ocean. Next time we’ll have to go on a whale watching or kayaking trip out of Campbell River. My parents did a multi day kayaking trip off of Quadra Island, which looked amazing!

#seaweed in the waves. #toasterroadtrip #vancouverisland #britishcolumbia

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Of course, we also went biking while we were in Campbell River. I ride a 2016 Transition Smuggler, a shorter travel 29er that was basically designed for the rooty XC trails of Campbell River. I, on the other hand, am not used to that type of riding, and spent a lot of time getting stuck on short, steep, punchy and rooty climbs. I was also surprised by how narrow lots of the trails are up there! The forests of BC have a lot more biomass that the Sierra and we were frequently fighting our way through overgrown trails. Note: ferns are better than blackberries, but will still scratch you up! There were some frustrating moments along the trail and I didn’t feel like I was riding very well.

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com

I did have fun on the trails we rode in the Pumphouse area of Campbell River, especially on the return trip when I finally loosened up. We rode Water Tower , which is a gradually climbing, wide trail (basically a double track) to the Ridge Trail for about a third of a mile before turning onto Dean Martin. Dean Martin had some really steep climbs – I could have used that twelfth gear. We then took Lower Deliverance until we hit the Forest Service road. I decided that with the struggle riding I’d been doing so far that day that I was ready to turn around. We headed back down Lower Deliverance until we came to Connector which took us to Alligator Rock. I enjoyed Alligator Rock much more than Deliverance, so I’m glad we came back that way. Though it was rockier, it was less exposed. After that we were back on Dean Martin and back the way we came.

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

Trail Stats
Location: The Pumphouse, Campbell River, BC
Trails: Water Tower, The Ridge, Dean Martin, Lower Deliverance, Alligator Rock
Mileage: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
See my Strava route here.

Beer, Food, and Lodging on Vancouver Island

I realize I’m jumping around some chronologically, but I wanted to collect my Vancouver Island recommendations in one place.

Beer:
First, and most importantly, the beer.

Vancouver Island Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

White Sails Brewing, Nanaimo, BC
We stopped at White Sail Brewing in Nanaimo on our drive from the ferry to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. The brewery is in an industrial type building, but beachy and full of light on the inside. I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried. Beer descriptions from the breweries, unless obvious. I tried:

Brickyard Beach Red Cream Ale (4.25/5)

Restrained hop bitterness with a balance of light caramel grain and a clean, dry smoothness to finish.

Mount Benson IPA (5/5)
Medium bodied. This beer offers a well balanced clean malty flavour characterized by its distinguished hop bitterness. Delicious aroma of fruit and citrus.

Ridge Ryeder Rye IPA (4/5)
This is a seasonal that’s not always available.

Snake Island Cascadian Dark Ale (3.75/5)
Medium bodied. Full flavoured with hints of chocolate and coffee. A healthy dose of Pacific NW hops to balance the dark malt character. Dark colour profile that drinks like an IPA…. delicious!

Cumberland Brewing Company, Cumberland, BC
Cumberland Brewing Company has a hippie vibe and constantly has lots of high end bikes parked outside. It’s a good fit for the mountain bike focused downtown of Cumberland. We ate there and had a couple of beers. The food was delicious, if a little pricey. I wasn’t super into the the beers they had listed – their beer list leaned towards bitters, wheat beers, sours, etc. The beers we ended up getting were decent, but not on my favorites list. The brewery is definitely worth visiting because the food and atmosphere are great though. I tried Finally IPA (3.75/5) and Tropical Hop ISA (3.75/5.

Beach Fire Brewing, Campbell River, BC
Beach Fire Brewing was my favorite brewery on Vancouver Island. The staff was friendly, the beer was great, and the interior was beautiful. We got there right after it opened on a week day, so it was pretty empty, but it seems like it’s usually a popular place. I am usually an IPA all day person, but at this brewery I noticed the beginning of a trend. I was preferring BC Pale Ales over their IPAs. I tried

Beach Blonde Ale (4.5/5)
Light, refreshing and flavourful. Perfect for a hot day at the beach, or where ever you find yourself soaking up the west coast sun. A clean, light body with a touch of malt sweetness, this balanced brew sports a subtle hop bitterness and flavour. It‘s all yellow polka-dot bikini, without the peroxide.

Ember Red Ale (3.5/5)
A smooth drinking, crimson-coloured Scottish ale. Malt forward with caramel and subtle roasty and chocolate flavours, balanced with mild English hops. It’s perfect for keeping your fire pit glowing.

Hight Tide Pale Ale (5/5)
A hop forward, west coast pale ale with restrained bitterness, but a big hop aroma and flavour. Just as the tides change, hops in this beer may ebb and flow to showcase new and novel varieties. It will always reflect a stoic focus on a new-world hops with rising flavours of citrus, pine and tropical fruits.

Wheelbender Stout (4.25/5)

Gladstone Brewing, Courtenay, BC
We stopped in at Gladstone Brewing to kill time while we waited for our ferry to the Sunshine Coast. We only tried a couple of beers, which were pretty good. The location was really crowded and loud and we were feeling pretty overwhelmed, but would be fun for a rowdy night. I tried

Gladstone IPA (3.5/5)
The Gladstone Straight 6 IPA glints a dark copper, aromas of tropical fruit can be found, but resinous pine is much more prominent. Lightly malted, strong bitterness from West Coast hops is the focus, complimented rather than diffused by bright citrus flavours courtesy of a generous amount of Southern Hemisphere hops. What malt character remains is most apparent after swallowing, where the light sweetness works to hold the bitterness on the tongue.

Gladstone Pilsner (3.5/5)
A bright, clear, golden Lager, the Gladstone Pilsner smells of crisp yeast and lightly spicy hops. Noticeably bitter, the combination of generous hopping and Pilsen malt results in an extremely refreshing brew. A light toasted finish creates a full body that remains dry and does not linger on the tongue.

Lodging
We stayed at three campgrounds and a motel on Vancouver Island. I’d highly recommend the campgrounds we stayed at near Parksville (Hammerfest Trail Network) and Campbell River (trail write up coming soon!). We stayed at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park outside of Parksville and Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River. These parks are quiet, clean, well maintained and CHEAP, especially if you’re used to California State Parks prices.

Camp 8 among the ferns and forest. #toasterroadtrip

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We stayed at a private campground in Cumberland, which was very close to Cumberland Forest, but not the nicest. The campsites were small and close together and it was hard to find a flat place to pitch our tent. There’s not a lot of other camping options around Cumberland, so I’d recommend finding a motel or vacation rental. There’s a mountain bike focused hostel in Cumberland, The Riding Fool, that seems cool, but we didn’t stay there so I can give it a first hand review. Courtenay and Comox are a very reasonable driving distance as well.

Food
We cooked a lot of meals at our camps, but also tried a fair number of restaurants on Vancouver Island. We were more focused on beer and biking than food, but we ate a few places I can recommend. First up, Lefty’s Fresh Food, where I had probably my favorite meal on the island. I had an omelet with smoked salmon, artichokes and gruyere and parmesan cheese. I still think about that omelet. In Cumberland, I loved Rider’s Pizza. I pretty much never say no to pizza, especially after a bike ride. Finally, we hung out at the Broken Spoke in Courtenay for quite awhile. It’s a bike themed coffee shop with delicious and strong coffee, comfy couches, and plenty of magazines to read.

Oh, and Greyson tried his first poutine while we were on Vancouver Island.