Alpine mountain biking is a unique, usually unforgettable experience. It combines many of the best parts of our sport. The adventure of a big ride in a new location, an immersive experience in nature complete with scenic summit vistas, and the thrill of a never-ending descent back down through the woods.
The best part is you don’t need to be a pro-level expert rider to get up into an alpine adventure. New intermediate-level mountain top trails are popping up every year, providing better access than ever for high-elevation exploration by bike. From Revelstoke to Whistler and Whitehorse, there’s never been more options for big mountain days in the saddle.
Summit season is short for mountain bikers, however. Only a brief two month window – at best – exists to get really high up in the mountains. That limited access adds an element of anticipation to these adventures, with riders waiting all year for the next opportunity to ride these dream trails.
Check out our list of six top alpine adventures, then make your plans to get out there!
1) Lord of the Squirrels / Into the Mystic – Whistler
Whistler may be known for its groundbreaking bike park, but Lord of the Squirrels is quickly becoming a destination trail in its own right. You have to put the work in, there’s no chairlift or access road for this one. But the reward is worth it. Stunning 360-degree views into the coastal mountains and across the valley where Whistler, Blackcomb, Black Tusk and other peaks can all be spotted from the top.
Then there’s the descent back down. A flowing, fun intermediate trail carries you back down to the valley below. If you want more of a challenge, there’s options part way to split off onto Whistler’s gnarlier Westside trails. While access is relatively easy, the full loop pushes up to 20 km with around 1,400 m of elevation gain. LOTS may be close to Whistler’s luxury accommodations but, with no support once you start climbing, this is a properly backcounty ride.
To get into the alpine with a little less leg work, Whistler Bike Park’s Top of the World trail lets you cut out the climbing with a chairlift access to the summit, and a leg busting descent back down through the bike park.
2) Frisby Ridge – Revelstoke
This small mountain town wedged into the meeting point of the Selkirk, Monashee and Kootenay Rockies, has unmatched access to the alpine for mountain bikers. In addition to Frisby Ridge, Revelstoke is the launch point for Mt. Cartier (usually accessed by a heli drop, but it can be hiked as well), Keystone Standard Basin and, most recently, Revelstoke Mountain Resorts 13 km flow trail descent, 5620 trail.
Frisby Ridge stands out among Revy’s many options for its length, intermediate level difficulty, and time spent in the alpine. The original is 12 km, one way, making for a 24 km out-and-back ride. Revelstoke Cycling Association recently added Frisby Vistas, a 6 km extension, cut in by trail builders who camped on the ridge for seven weeks building trail. If that 36 km out-and-back ride isn’t enough you can ride The Whole Teriyaki, which ups the difficulty by adding the UFC and Frisby DH trails on at the end.
If you’re thinking of making the trip, be aware that Frisby Ridge doesn’t open until July 15 for a caribou closure.
3) Seven Summits – Rossland
A B.C. classic, and one of the first trails to earn IMBA Epic status. Rossland’s Seven Summits has been carrying mountain bikers above the tree line since Kootenay Columbia Trails Society (KCTS) finished it in 2004. At 30 km (36 km by the time you’re off the Dewdney extension trail), and well over 1,000m of elevation gain, Seven Summits is a properly epic undertaking.
4) Chilcotins – B.C.
Mountain bikers have been exploring the South Chilcotin mountains for decades, but the distinctively coloured peaks have attracted more attention in the last five to 10 years. The areas remoteness is likely the only reason it took so long for the region to attract attention beyond the hardcore B.C. crowd. Sitting several hours north of Pemberton, the trails are not quick to get to and, once you’re out there, there’s little to no outside support beyond a few, spread out back country huts. The isolation is part of the attraction, though. You can go the entire day without seeing another group of riders, hikers or horseback riders in the more remote areas of the park. Ride in, or contact Tyax Adventures for a float plane ride to bump your group up to a lake side start.
5) Carcross and Grey Mountain – Yukon
Hiding way up north near Whitehorse are two incredible, and much less frequented networks of alpine trails. Grey Mountain, near Whitehorse offers the closest access to the alpine. An hours drive south gets you to Carcross and the Montana Mountain trails, on the Carcross/Tagish First Nation lands. There, IMBA Epic trail Mountain Hero will carry you through alpine meadows before dropping you to the valley blow.
6) T4 – Golden
T4 Ridge, high above Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, is one of the more challenging trails on this list. The difficulty isn’t due to physical effort, though there are several mandatory hike-a-bike sections between leaving the gondola and where the descent starts. Those sections on foot are the best time to enjoy the incredible Rocky Mountain views. One the riding starts, the double black-rated T4 is much more technically challenging than the rest of the list, leaving you focused on the trail in front of you instead of the scenery surrounding you. For those seeking a thrill along with the views, this is a fantastic adventure. If you’re not comfortable with exposed, technically challenging lines, however, you may want to leave T4 for another day.
Did we miss your favourite alpine trail? Let us know in the comments below. We’ve heard rumors of new high-mountain access in Alberta and other parts of B.C. that could challenge these established routes …