Lyon Lake - Mt Hallowell Descent
A favourite backroads ride
This ride starts & finishes at Halfmoon Bay. I expect folks trying it out will begin their day's ride from Earl's Cove to the north, Sechelt not far to the south, or taking the early ferry over from Vancouver to Langdale. In the past I've managed the tough ride up to Lyon Lake in one day from all of these starting points.
I also call this the Hallowell Descent, as the rough and wild switchback descent starts near Mt Hallowell (the nearby mountain of note).
This ride is possible ~4-5 months a year as it's high elevation, snowbound at other times.
A mean SOB of a climb 1,000+m up to Lyons Lake in Spipyus Provincial Park (rough, but - last I saw - 4x4 accessible) then a rough, steep switchback descent (mostly not rideable) back down to the highway
Ran into elk three times on this trip (see pic above)
Beautiful riding along the height of land north behind Lyons Lake in Spipyus Park, with grand views over Georgia Straight to the west & Sechelt Inlet to the east
Days for Ride: The basic ride is an overnighter. Recommended - up to Lyons Lake to camp for the night, then back down the descent the next day. It sounds anti-climatic, but the actual ride (from Halfmoon Bay) is only 33 kms. But this does not include getting to Halfmoon Bay (or back after), or side trips. And the rough 1,000m climb takes a while.
Difficulty: Advanced. The climb up to Lyon Lake is tough. The lake itself is over 1,000m, and if you head up in behind to poke around (which I did) things get higher still. The road up (mostly Halfmoon Carlson Main) seems to occasionally be maintained in the upper parts, but I've always had to push the bike in steep, rocky stretches. It's possible you could meet logging along Halfmoon Carlson, most likely in the lower stretches, but this has not been my experience. Heading NE along the high slopes in Spipyus Park gets into extremely remote terrain, and most of the actual switchback descent is more like a trail than a track, with considerable walking of the bike. I once met hikers trying to reach the top of Mt Hallowell .
There are some interesting side trip options.
Check out some of the local lakes, accessible off Halfmoon Carlson, the FSR up to Lyon Lake. Carlson Lake has 2 small informal campsites (see pic down below), along pretty rough, hard to figure out access roads (flooded if it's been raining hard). You can also loop south to camp at Crowston Lake
Nearby, north off the highway, you can see Homesite Creek Rec Camp, a sharp little climb up east from the highway, and and a decent option to camp, usually with space, even in season. The interesting thing is a real rugged track that goes north from the Rec site before connecting to W Carlson Main and a sweet ride SE to Upper Halfmoon Carlson Main (see pic below with hunting blind). See blue track on map below.
I've tried in the past to do a 'loop' that appears to go behind Lyons Lake. But I took my bike loaded, and just couldn't manage when things got rough (I was time constrained). Check the blue track on map below. This would be a nice loop to make it around.
There are stretches of the ride down to Halfmoon Bay where one can ride a rough track under the powerline clearing, some kms up from the highway. In many places this track is also part of (or paralleling) the Suncoaster Trail. Once again, you can see blue tracks on the map below where I've ridden parts of this trail.
For a couple of brilliant sidetrips, check out summer 2017 blog posts on Skookumchuck Narrows (near Earl's Cove terminal) and Smuggler Cove Provincial Park (also a Fav Campground - see pic at bottom of page).
See the photo below from Lyon Lake. I've had wonderful nights camping here, high altitude and far from anywhere. Although the site you see below can get marshy after heavy rains, it's been my favourite spot to camp (no amenities beyond the clearing). At least until my last visit, when, as you see, some quad folks had chewed the flat tent spot up, and left their garbage gear behind. Most of my experience with the quad community has been positive, but this was a black mark.
Here's the elevation / distance view. Unless you're planning a ride, you'll likely want to skip this section.
The left side elevation scale is up over 1,000m and it's a tough climb on a road that gets rough near the top. Then the sweet ride (~10kms) NE along the height of land through Spipyus Provincial Park. And the switchback descent, with long stretches I had to walk the bike (but no bad blockages this last trip). Finally, the ride south back to Halfmoon Bay along Hwy 101, the Sunshine Coast highway. The vertical marker shows where the ride rejoins the highway below Malaspina sub-station.
Here's the distance & direction guide.
Halfmoon Bay (start & finish point) is about 14 kms north of Sechelt, and roughly halfway along the 84km southern Sunshine Coast, between Langdale and Earl's Cove ferry terminals.
It's ~16km up to Lyon Lake (~1/2km access track in) along Halfmoon Carlson FSR from the highway at Halfmoon Bay. You'll reach the boundary with Spipyus Provincial Park ~1km+ before the lake.
To get to the Mt Hallowell descent, backtrack to the intersection with a backroad coming from the north, which you'll reach just before leaving the park. Take this right. Then there's a fairly flat stretch (~10kms) of very sweet riding, with some views out over the coast, before starting the switchback descent on what is (in stretches) more a trail than a road, at least to start. You'll have ignored several tracks coming in from the NE. Just before reaching what I think of as the "descent" you'll go down a steep little hill with a little stream to ford (you can just ride through) at the bottom. You'll see a track coming in from the right here that I believe is the way up to Mt Hallowell (I once met some hikers). Your road ahead may have undergrowth starting to clutter the roadside.
As noted, your track will switchback down. As you (finally) come out from under the tree canopy (see photo above), you should be on a decent backroad above Malaspina Sub-Station, up behind Sakinaw Lake. You'll have to continue riding a few kms south until a junction of Old Mine & Hallowell Mains, which you'll reach just after having crossed the Suncoaster Trail. I believe either direction from this junction will eventually get you back on the highway, but I took the right/north to skirt along Malaspina sub-station. From where you rejoin the highway, it's 26kms south back to Halfmoon Bay. If you're heading north, it's 11 kms up to Earl's Cove terminal.
You could reverse the direction one rides this route. But it would be nearly impossible to ride the rougher stretches of the Hallowell descent.
A nearby camping option: This pic shows one of the pocket coves at Smuggler Cove Provincial Park, just north of Halfmoon Bay. Reached by a brilliant 4 kms trail through the wetlands (well groomed & accessible to all touring bikes). See Fav Campground report for more.