Texada Island Rough

A favourite backroads ride

Known to many as 'The Rock', Texada is the largest of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. It's 50kms long and 10kms wide. For cyclists, it's accessible via a 20 minute ferry hop from Powell River to Blubber Bay at the north tip. 

I've enjoyed riding this Island so much, that I've spun off favourite ride reports for both this rougher 'backroads' ride, as well as a companion ride just on the better (mostly paved) roads of the north Island (Texada Island North).

MAY 2018 UPDATE: I just added a companion backroads ride on Texada - Texada's Hidden NE Bays. Check it out for some fabulous remote camping options along the backroads on NE Texada. You may want to combine parts of the new ride with this one.

Gillies Bay, NE Texada Island | Shelter Point Regional Campground | cycle touring Texada Island

Taking a break at Gillies Bay, on the way to Shelter Point Regional Campground (in Shelter Bay Regional Park). We're looking west here, across to the mountains of the Beaufort Range on Vancouver Island.

Some highlights:

  • Great beaches and oceanside camping. Along my ride, this included Shelter Point Regional Park, Shingle Beach Rec Camp and Anderson Bay Provincial Park

  • Some tough climbing, up over 650m, to ride the rugged interior spine of Texada down to the south. Coming back up from Anderson Bay at the south is one of the toughest climbs around. 

  • Island vibe. Texada has had a colourful past that gives it personality to this day

  • With a population of over 1,000, and 3 ferry connections to get there from Vancouver, there's no bustle. Traffic is limited ... in other words, perfect for cycle tourists.

Up on the interior spine of the Island, heading south from Bob's Lake rec Camp. Elevation here is ~600m. Several years past, I tried this ride in April and had to turn back due to deep snows.

near Bob's Lake Rec Camp | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

Texada Island is part of traditional Tla'amin First Nation land. They call the island Say yeh yeen.

 

History has been colourful, with an outsized cast of characters. Starting in the latter 1800s, mining was a cornerstone of Texada. First iron ore, then copper and gold (!), then marble. Today, there are 3 active limestone quarries. As these mines carve out hillsides and are near the north ferry terminal, they can give new arrivals an industrial first impression. But Texada is big, and once you start south, the natural charms take over. 

 

Around 1898, the town of Van Anda was a boomtown, boasting the only opera house north of San Francisco, and three hotels with saloons, a hospital, and more. During US prohibition, Texada had a reputation for illegal distilleries.

More recently, Texada has shared in the the Gulf Island trend of new residents showing up, many of them artisans or seeking an alternate lifestyle. 

 

Early homesteaders carved farms out of the rough land, some still active today. There are 2 modest villages - Van Anda and Gillies Bay (Blubber Bay, the former whaling station, doesn't quite qualify).

Blubber Bay BC ferry terminal | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

Blubber Bay BC ferry terminal at the north tip of Texada island. In behind, see one of the remaining Island limestone mines. Coming off the ferry, be ready for a good little climb to get  you off and running

Days for Ride:  

This ride starts and finishes at the BC Ferries terminal at Blubber Bay on the north tip of Texada. That means that one needs to get to Powell River for the connecting ferry to start with. Coming from Comox (Little River Terminal), I took the early 630 ferry to Powell River in time for a relaxed 830 connection on to Texada. I was riding by just after 9am.

My overall ride was over 150kms, which included a number of 'there & back' sections where I had to backtrack along the same stretch I rode out (more on that below).

My ride was 3 days and 2 nights, camping at Anderson Bay and Shingle Beach. I had a schedule to get back, or I would have kicked back for an extra day at Shingle Beach, where I enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and great beach (and met some cool folks). If you like to have lakes to yourself, it would be worthwhile to camp at Bob's Lake Rec Camp or nearby Angel Lake, which has an informal pullout camp. The ride south down to Anderson Bay was only 60kms, but I felt I'd done a hard ride.

Even if you only have time for an overnighter, it's worth the trip over to Texada: you could camp at Shingle Beach or head south to Bob's Lake or right down (then back) to Anderson Bay if you're ambitious.

Heading south to Anderson Bay Provincial Park. If you look carefully at the middle gap, you'll see the rising mountains of the mainland Sunshine Coast in the distance.

Anderson Bay Provincial Park | bikepacking south Texada Island | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

Difficulty:  

Advanced.  The reason for this high rating is the steep 600m climb back up from Anderson Bay at the south (see pic above) . There's a series of steep sections with inclines of 16-18 degrees, and lots of loose stone. I had to push my bike a number of times. It's also remote, and the route gets a little ambiguous in a few spots (though you can generally discern the main track south). I saw just one vehicle south from Bob's Lake (might be busier on a weekend). 

Both the interior road south, as well as the 12km dirt track out to Shingle Beach, had a fair amount of bothersome washboard surface.

Bob's Lake Rec Camp | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands

Given it was high summer, I was surprised to find no one at Bob's Lake Rec Camp. Perhaps on weekends?

There are camping sites at the NW (tiny, limited facilities) as well as the SE corner (the main Rec Campsite) - reachable by turning right after passing the lake along the north, then following signs ~1km further.

Here's some nearby side trip options to consider: 

  • Coming from Powell River means you'll be starting and finishing this ride on the north Sunshine Coast. Check out the favourite ride for the Malaspina Peninsula, as well as the backroads ride into the incredible hinterland NE of Powell River.

  • MAY 2018 UPDATE: I just added a companion backroads ride on Texada - Texada's Hidden NE Bays. Check it out for some fabulous remote camping options along the backroads on NE Texada. You may want to combine parts of the new ride with this one.

My camp at Anderson Bay, at dusk. Just behind my tent is the one picnic table, which made things real comfortable. Fine views looking south out the bay. It's not a swimming shoreline, though it looks like people swim off the steeper shores further out. 

Anderson Bay Provincial Park Campground | bikepacking south Texada Island

Here's the elevation / distance view:

On the map below, you'll see I rode a loop from Van Anda SE along unpaved Central High Road out to Bell Road to head south on mny way out, but headed back to Van Anda along the more SE paved route via Shelter Point, Harwood Point then Gillies Bay Roads. 

A characteristic of this trip is the 'there & back' segments, where I rode the same stretches both ways:

  • from Blubber Bay to Van Anda (9 km each way)

  • south down the Island spine from Bell Road Junction with Central High Road, past Bob's Lake to Anderson Bay (~32 km each way)

  • from Shelter Point south to Shingle Beach (12 km each way)

You can see in the chart below that the main feature is the climb up to ~670m at the area near Bob's Lake along the central spine of the Island - along with the wild descent down to (make sure you have good brake pads), then nasty climb back up from, Anderson Bay. On the way south via Central High Road, you can see the elevation climbed to near 250m before the turnoff south onto Bell Road. 

Although things only get up to near 150m, you can see the rest of the ride is also hilly, ups and downs, paved roads and all, right from the start once you get off the ferry at Blubber Bay. Distances out to Shelter Point and Shingle Beach are not long.

Shingle Beach Rec Camp | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands

The fabulous beach at Shingle Beach Rec Camp. It's big (~30 sites) and has a fine alternate vibe. Nightly fees are $5, based on an honour system. There's a clear stream about 1/3km down the beach where you can water up. They have a July music festival.

Here's the distance & direction guide. Unless you're planning a ride, you'll likely want to skip this section. As noted in the elevation guide above, a characteristic of this trip is the 'there & back' segments, where one rides the same stretches both ways:

  • from Blubber Bay to Van Anda (9 km each way)

  • south down the Island spine from Bell Road Junction with Central High Road, past Bob's Lake to Anderson Bay (~32 km each way)

  • from Shelter Point south to Shingle Beach (12 km each way)

The ride starts and finishes at Blubber Bay in the north. Coming off the ferry just follow the road (Blubber Creek Road) for ~9kms to the junction where you'll turn left into Van Anda on Gillies Bay Road (or turn right for direct paved route to Gillies Bay & Shelter Point). As you can see in the map below, from Van Anda, I rode a loop out to then back from Shelter Point. Once down in Van Anda, follow Midas Road east (up & down) for 1/2kms+ to where it turns into Wall Street at the edge of town. Wall Street shortly turns into a hard pack dirt road, and a while later morphs into Central High Road: follow it E/SE for 15 rolling kms to the 3 way intersection with Bell Road and Shelter Point Road (paved). Take the left onto Bell Road heading east. You'll climb steadily for the next 12kms to Bob's Lake. There are several Y junctions along the way: just follow the signs for Bob's Lake and/or Anderson Bay. 

Bob's Lake has a 2 part Rec Camp: a mini camp with very little facilities at the NW corner, and the main Rec Camp at the SE corner. You follow along the north past the lake for 1+kms, then see a junction to the right, which you'll take to go to the main Rec Camp at the SE end of the lake (follow signs). That said, to get south to Anderson Bay, keep left (don't take turnoff right to main Rec Camp). 

It's another 20kms south to Anderson Bay. Stay on the main 'most travelled' road, which was pretty straight forward on my ride (though things can change). You'll pass a Pipeline Valve Station about a km before the bay. Although there's a small creek at the bay, I watered up ~4kms before at a bigger creek. You'll ride down some real steep hill stretches, covered in loose stone. Something to look forward to when you head back out.

Continued after pic below ...

Arriving at Shelter Point Regional Campground. A big, full facility park, with some excellent hiking trails. Showers, power, even a canteen in season. Lots of fine pebbled beach.

Shelter Point Regional Camp | NW Texada Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands

Distance / direction guide, continued ...

Once you're back to the 3 way junction of Bell, Central High & Shelter Point roads, this time you'll head south on paved Shelter Point for a sweet 4km descent to the junction heading left onto unpaved Mouat Bay Road out to Shingle Beach Rec Camp further down the west coast. If you had kept bombing down Shelter Point Road, you'd have shortly reached the junction NW with Harwood Point Road up to Gillies Bay, and the boundary as you head into Shelter Bay Regional Park (and Shelter Point Regional Campground).

Follow Mouat Bay Road for nearly 1.5kms to a signed junction where you'll branch left inland. Then just stay on this road for another 11kms out to Shingle Beach. You'll see the occasional sign up to the final access track down into the site. Lots of washboard surface on this stretch.

Ok - now assume we're back to the junction of Shelter Point and Harwood Point Roads, heading NW up the coast. Follow Harwood Point along the coast for nearly 4kms to Gilles Bay where the road bends left just before you'll take a right turn north onto Gillies Bay Road. Keep on Gillies Bay Road up and down for 11+kms to the junction just before Van Anda where you'll turn left back onto Blubber Creek Road. Then make your way back to Blubber Bay.

Route Map:  Texada Island Rough

This ride starts from the Blubber Bay Ferry Terminal at the north tip of Texada Island. There are regular ferries to and from Westview terminal in Powell River.

Fav ride route map | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands
Gillies Bay Road to Van Anda | bikepacking Texada Island | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

A little more Island character, along Gillies Bay Road. Perhaps there's some sort of message here ....

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