Honourable Mention Rides

Cycle Touring Vancouver Island

After finishing my 2 main ride sections ('Fav rides for all' & 'Fav backroads rides') I realized I still had a bunch more rides I wanted to bring to attention. Check out the lists and maps following.

Just below here is a summary map, with buttons for all these 'more rides' covered here. This gives you a geographic overview of riding options. Under the map, the rides are listed alphabetically, with links to the summary write-ups further below for each, except for 3 of the links which jump to 'local content' pages: Routes & Trails to South FerriesGetting off the NE Highway and Courtenay south on the Backroads

 

Most of these Honourable Mentions are backroads rides, with Routes & Trails to South Ferries an exception. If the backroads are your thing, and you see a ride of interest, you can email me for the GPX file (for Garmin compatible devices), which can keep you from getting lost.

The very bottom section (way down) outlines a special bunch of rides for people coming from the Vancouver area over to Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast by ferry - who only have time for a 2 day overnight ride (in most cases a weekend). You've got tons of choices! I've even jumped outside Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast just this once to rope in a batch of overnighters north from Horseshoe Bay up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and beyond.

And a hint - if you want to read a little more about some rides, and see more photos, check out the blog section. Most of my posts are related to ongoing rides, only a few of which get written up below, or in the favourite rides pages.

You may notice many other rides in the maps that are not included here or in the Favourites rides. If something catches your interest, email me from the Contact page, and I'll share more info.

 
Route map Honourable Mention Rides | cycle touring Vancouver Island
 
  • Denman & Hornby Islands - FLASH!! - THIS GREAT DENMAN & HORNBY ISLANDS RIDE IS NOW A FULL PAGE FAV RIDE FOR ALL (IT WAS JUST TOO POPULAR). CHECK IT OUT HERE

  • Horne Lake & backroads to Port Alberni - ANOTHER FLASH!! - after some more riding in the backwoods around west Horne Lake, SW to Port Alberni, there's just too much content and  great riding, so I've put together a new full page FAV BACKROADS RIDE - HORNE LAKE PORT ALBERNI WHEEL.  CHECK IT OUT!

  • Nanaimo Lakes > Cowichan Lake Loop -  This is a backroads ride, and you may encounter logging or gates, particularly in season. There are (at least) three "loop" options, all of which would best be done with a GPS track in hand. ~15kms south of Departure Bay ferry terminal, branch inland on Nanaimo River Road. The shortest loop heads south along Green Creek Main a few kms before you reach 4th Lake. Green Creek gets rough (decommissioned bridge with quad workaround) before connecting to Shaw Main network north of NW Cowichan Lake. A longer loop continues west on Nanaimo River Main to climb up over the height of land (~850m, so snowed in half the year) to come down into the Upper Nitinat River Valley, from which you have a number of options (Museum Main, back to Cowichan Lake, etc). There's yet another extreme option, which follows the north shores of Nanaimo River then branches up Rockyrun Creek Main to eventually reach Labour Day Lake & Mount Moriarty, 1,100m up (this is a leg of a Fav Ride).

  • Bamfield Highway - Bamfield is a great west coast destination, and the broad well-maintained (dirt) Bamfield Highway (~95 kms from Port Alberni) is a beautiful ride in stretches, complete with enough nasty hills to make it memorable. That said, I DO NOT recommend it in hot, dry summer as the dust can be incredible. The night before, camp in China Creek campground just south of Port Alberni along the east shores of Alberni Inlet, with a community of RVers who come back every year. Bamfield itself is a cool little place (though  touristy in season), a trailhead for the famous West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park. Camp in gorgeous Pachena Bay just north of town run by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. If you want to get more extreme, head back NE via Nitinat Lake to Cowichan Lake (see fav ride).

  • Courtenay South on Backroads - This is a full page route, showing some options to head south from Courtenay to Horne Lake (and on to Port Alberni if you choose) by a rarely visited backroads hinterland up from the popular east coast, into the slopes of the central Beaufort Range.  This is a different backroads option from the more common route south from Courtenay via Comox Lake (which has been having some issues with logging gates). This route includes lots of climbing, some real rough stretches, grand vistas across the Georgia Strait to the east, and fine riding.

 
 
 
 
Resolution Park Rec Camp | bikepacking Zeballos | bikepacking north Vancouver Island

View north up Zeballos Inlet to the town, from Resolution Park Rec Camp (aka Rhodes Creek). It's a small & basic campground, but a gorgeous setting

 
  • Zeballos & Fair Harbour - This is a specialty ride, for hardcore backroad riders who like to get into remote corners of Vancouver Island (check out the blog post for details & pics). There's rugged beauty among steep rising slopes (including Zeballos Peak - 1,578m) and sharp, tough riding hills, though the route elevation tops out near 400m. It's ~45km into Zeballos (the toughest part of the ride), and a further ~37kms to Fair Harbour. In summer, bring a dust mask if it is hot and dry. Be alert for logging traffic. Both destinations have fine camping options, though my favourite spot is tiny (4 sites) Resolution Park Rec Camp (aka Rhodes Creek), just south of Zeballos, fronting majestic Zeballos Inlet. It's also worth checking out Atluck Lake Rec Camp, ~4 kms off the road. Fair Harbour is not a community - it's more a staging post set up around the docks for people heading off into the incredible islands, remote settlements (mostly 1st Nations) and marine parks along this stretch of the wild west coast. Perfect for kayakers and sport fishers. Getting in to Zeballos and Fair Harbour is straight forward, as there's one main road to follow, with signs. The turnoff west to Zeballos from the north Island Highway is ~22+kms north of Woss, or 42kms south of Port McNeill. Some folks leave their vehicles just off the highway junction: I left mine at Woss. If you're driving in, expect available services to be modest: Zeballos village is struggling after past mill closures; Fair Harbour has a marina 'general store', though outside of summer it is mostly closed. 

    • As the crow flies, it's less than 20kms from Zeballos to Tahsis. I tried to piece together a possible backroads route, but, after  chatting with locals, concluded this is NOT currently possible (bridge gone & completely overgrown). However:

      • I've been told by a few folks that in 2019 there is a commitment with funding to start to build a "groomed trail" between Zeballos and Tahsis​. 

      • If the connection can be made (riding & hauling?), one could ride a fantastic loop: Zeballos to Woss to Gold River (Muchalat Lake) to Tahsis then Zeballos.

  • Richardson Lake - This is a rough road climbing ride up to a remote little lake. You can reach Richardson Lake from the Langdale ferry terminal (south Sunshine Coast) in a hard day's ride. I'd suggest taking several days, though, or doing this as a side trip along the Sunshine Coast Vancouver Island loop. Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, ~4kms east of Sechelt along the Sechelt Inlet, is a fine camping park to start off from, with a small walk-in area where you will often meet other cycle tourists in season. From Porpoise Bay continue riding north along east shores of Sechelt Inlet for 5+ kms, then turn up the sharply rising coastal mountains for 15kms to Richardson Lake, over 800m up. The NW shores of the lake have a number of camping options, though it can get swampy if there have been rains. If you want to get really extreme, head east up into Tetrahedron Provincial Park (which I have not yet tried to do).​

  • Telegraph Cove Bonanza / Nimpkish Lakes Loop - This is a North Island backroads ride, with the unique charms of Telegraph Cove thrown in.  Start at one of the campgrounds beside Telegraph Cove (Alder Bay or Telegraph Cove Resorts), where you can leave your car if needed. Head south into the backroads along Kokish Main. You'll pass a fantastic Rec camp at Ida Lake (honourable mention Favourite), then continue south to long (10kms), Bonanza Lake, with basic camping options along the SW shores. Next follow Old Steele Main SW to the N Island Hwy. If you have time, there are nearby camping options at Anutz or Atluck Lakes on the west side of the highway junction, as well as Huson Lake Caves. Or camp at the Rec site at SE Nimpkish Lake, famous for windsurfing in season. Then ride the (paved!) eastern shores of Nimpkish Lake for 25 kms. A little further north gets to Telegraph Cove junction. My ride was ~140kms, with a few side trips. It's possible as an overnighter, but I'd suggest more time so you can enjoy some fine camping. You could start from nearby Port McNeill (~22kms NW), which would let you rope in visits to incredible Malcolm & Comorant Islands (See Fav ride,& Fav campsite at Bere Point).

 

  • Campbell River West (off Hwy 28): There's already a fine ride (a good option for a first backroads ride) to the countless backroads lakes NW of Campbell River. However, Campbell River's hinterland is more than that. There's NE of Roberts Lake, and the ride west out to Strathcona Park and Gold River. There's also a cluster of backroads, lakes and camping options west from Campbell River, but south of Campbell Lake, east of Upper Campbell Lake. One can head off there along Hwy 28, or follow Elk Main west from town. Check out Echo Lake Rest area (south off highway) or Miller Creek Rec Camp (along south shores of Campbell Lake). Check out Beavertail Lake, and follow Elk Main west to the NW shores of Upper Campbell Lake, and Strathcona Dam Rec Camp - a wonderful camping option (though busy in season). From here, you can branch north to connect with the NW Campbell River Lakes area. Or watch for Argonaut Main Branching SW ~15+kms west of Campbell River. This can take you to Rec Camps at Gooseneck Lake, Wokas Lake, and a favourite camping option (Willington Point) on Upper Quinsam Lake. There's some tough backroads options that will take you west via Berry Creek Main to reconnect with Hwy28 as it heads south along the east shores of Upper Campbell Lake. 

 

  • Poum Lake - This ride climbs over 800m up to Poum Lake, nestled amongst sharply rising mountain shores.  It is reached from the east coast along Buckley Bay Main, which starts from the coastal highway at Buckley Bay, where you catch the ferry to Denman Island. There's a rough, basic little Rec camp at the NE corner of Poum (can get soggy after rains), a 1/2km off a track along the north of the lake out to the marshy west and SW shores, where it seems some camp off the track (though rocky & a little uneven). There's backroad connections to nearby Lunchtime Lake, where you'll be not too far south of Tsable Lake, a Fav campground For alternate routes up to upper Buckley Bay Main, check out the 'Courtenay South on the Backroads' page. On your way home, if you're heading down to Courtenay (my home) from Poum Lake via Idle and Trent Mains, you can be in Courtenay in time for a late morning coffee.

  • Carmanah Walbran - I don't have a specific ride to remote Carmanah Walbran, although its noted as a side trip option in the Cowichan Nitinat Port Alberni backroads ride. I'd best add something here as I think of it as one of the best wilderness destinations around, one of the last true stands of giant old growth forests - like a cathedral. There's a basic camping area (a few sites, so if it gets busy in season, you may need to wild camp nearby). There's spectacular hiking trails nearby, some multi-day. It's accessed via a ~40km road (Rossander Main, though I recall some confusing signage) down the east shores of long, narrow, Nitinat Lake, where you can also check out the favourite campsite at the NW corner. You'll see signs to the park all the way from Cowichan Lake. It's a rougher road, with a notable steep stretch. As you near the coast, you'll be able to look out over the SW seas, where the famous West Coast Trail passes. Well worth a visit.

 
 
 
 
 

Lakeside campsite at Ida Lake Rec Camp, south from Telegraph Cove along Kokish Main. Recommended. although I am told it can be popular in season.

Ida Lake Rec Camp | south of Telegraph Cove | bikepacking north Vancouver Island
 
Check out these overnighters from Vancouver:

Here's a different way to look at a batch of rides.

 

For many years I lived and worked in Vancouver. Regularly, early on Saturday mornings, I'd ride out to Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver) to catch an 8:30 ferry to Nanaimo, or 7:20 ferry to the Sunshine Coast (check out section on Horseshoe Bay). For long rides, I'd drive out for the 6:30 Nanaimo ferry, leaving my car in one of the parking lots. Then I'd ride and camp for the night somewhere. Sunday morning, I'd head back to catch a ferry to Vancouver.  See the map at the very bottom of this long page.

​To get to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal from town centre West Vancouver, you can ride or drive. If you have the time to ride, you can either take big, fast multi-lane, wide shoulder Highway 1, or 'the low road', a 2 lane neighbourhood road, which more closely follows the winding seaside, and so adds 4-5 kms to the distance. In spots there are no shoulders but this is a popular riding route, so traffic is used to watching for cyclists. If you are coming from downtown Vancouver or further afield, you can consider taking the seabus over to North Vancouver rather than one of the big bridges.

I've also included here a bundle of rides up the Sea to Sky Highway along amazing Howe Sound on the mainland, passing by the Horseshoe Bay terminal heading north up to Squamish and beyond.

So - if you're in Vancouver and only have a weekend, here's some great rides that can be done in just 2 days, ferries included! Given where we're starting from, these are mostly paved road rides. Don't forget to check the latest ferry schedules.

North from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island

  • Horne Lake (see also ride above). ~58kms north of Nanaimo along the coastal highway you'll see the turnoff inland. After 17kms you'll reach Horne Lake Regional Park, at the west end of the lake. There are actually 3 side by side camps to choose from. If you get there early, check out the famous caves.

  • Denman Island. ~85 kms north to the small Buckley Bay Terminal over to Denman Island. Plan to stay at excellent Fillongley Provincial Park along the shores of the east coast, ~10kms from the ferry terminal. Hiking trail. Can fill up on summer weekends.

  • Little Qualicum River Falls or Englishman River Falls Provincial Parks, 10-15 kms west from Parksville along highway to Port Alberni. Excellent provincial parks with hiking trails. In rainy times the falls can be impressive.

  • Stamp River Falls & Sproat Lake Provincial Campgrounds, ~100kms from Nanaimo, including 12-15kms west (Sproat lake) or NW (Stamp River Falls) past Port Alberni. Good hard day's ride. Stamp River, in particular, is a favourite campsite of mine (see honourable mentions). Sproat lake has good summer swimming.

  • Pounding the miles option - continue along the coastal highway north of Courtenay for ~25 kms and you'll reach Miracle Beach Provincial Campground along the seaside. For a 310km+ weekend, head all the way up to Elk Falls Provincial Park along the Quinsam River at the north end of Campbell River.

  • Extreme option - Labour Day Lake (fav camp). Turn south from the top of "the Hump", just east of Port Alberni, and climb up the backroads (over 1,000m) to remote Labour Day Lake. Unless it's mid summer, take the early ferry so you'll have time to reach the lake. An option is to branch west off onto Copp Main which will take you by access tracks into tiny, remote camping options on Henry, Kammat and Peak Lakes. All these lakes are high altitude, only accessible ~5 months of the year due to snows.

Camping at Labour Day Lake | bikepacking central Vancouver Island

Camping along high altitude Labour Day Lake at dusk. There are 3-4 tiny camping clearings along 6 km trail around lake.

South from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island

  • 1st Nanaimo Lake - easy practice ride. Windy Point (east end) and Old Mill (west end) Rec campsites. Head south ~15kms from Departure Bay ferry terminal, then west/inland around 21 kms on Nanaimo River Road, which becomes a dirt track. Closed off season, and very popular in season - so make an online booking if you're planning a summer weekend.

  • Cowichan Lake. Lots of choices. My weekend favourites have been Gordon Bay Provincial Park (90+kms), along SW shores, and Stoltz Pool Provincial park along Cowichan River (~65kms). Or maybe Pine Point and Maple Grove Rec sites just west of Youbou (~100kms). If you really want to push it, I've done the loop of the lake on a long 2 days (starting with the early ferry).

  • Ruckle Provincial Park, Saltspring Island. See fav camp and Fav ride. One of my all time favourite overnight trips. Branch SE off the Island Highway at the south end of Ladysmith for a local route to Crofton Ferry. All pavement. Check the timing for your ferry connections.

  • If you want to really stretch out, you can head further south along the Island Highway to Bamberton Provincial Park (~80kms) or Goldstream Provincial Park (~100km). These can both fill up in summer, particularly on weekends, so consider reservations. You'll also likely get more than your fill of riding along the big highway - though there are big wide shoulders. 

Bikepacking south o Cortenay | bikepacking Idle Main

View east from upper Idle Main, part of the 'Courtenay south on the Backroads' off-highway route options. This is also one of the route options up to Poum Lake, an Honourable mention Fav backroads ride (above, on this page). 

Up the Sunshine Coast from Langdale - be prepared to climb a big, long hill up from Langdale ferry terminal to get started.  

  • If you just want to get out for a short training ride and some fresh air, you can camp at Roberts Creek Provincial Park, ~18 km north. This park is several kms along trails from the companion seaside park.

  • ~4kms east from Sechelt, and 30kms north of Langdale terminal, is Porpoise Bay Provincial Park along the SE shores of Sechelt Inlet. In season, you can often meet other cycle tourists here (see fav ride). If you're into a real tough day, continue on a further 20kms (and 800+m climbing) to remote Richardson Lake (see ride above).

  • ~15kms north of Sechelt, or 45 kms from Langdale terminal is Halfmoon Bay. A few kms north, then a few more off the highway, you'll find turnoffs to Smugglers Cove Marine Provincial Park (a fav campsite) and Homesite Creek Rec Camp, a sharp little climb up the slopes. 

  • Halfmoon Bay is also where you can branch east to climb up to Carlson Lake's rugged Rec Camps, or all the way up (1,100m) to Lyons Lake Rec Camp (see fav ride) in stunning Spipyus Provincial Park. This is an extreme ride and a long day - but very doable. If you really want to push the extreme weekend, come back by heading down the rough Hallowell Descent switchback along an abandoned track. 

  • ~64kms north is Garden Bay Road. Take it left for 6+kms to Katherine Lake, a small private campground that's a great place if you want to get in some swimming.

  • Just before you reach Earl's Cove ferry terminal, 85 kms north, there's a turnoff right/east to Egmont and Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. Several kms along, a dirt track branches off on the right/south side to North and Klein Lakes, a further ~3 kms, including several sharp steep little stretches. There's an excellent Rec Camp around Klein Lake. I always found an overnighter up to Klein Lake was a real good workout. It can fill up on holiday long weekends. 

  • If you're really into some mileage, consider doing the Van Isle Sunshine Coast loop There's a description of how to manage the tight ferry connections in the  fav ride page. This is a tough overnighter.  

Fine wetlands trail into Smuggler Cove Provincial Park, north of Halfmoon Bay along the Sunshine Coast

Wetlands trail into Smuggler Cove Provincial Camp, a fav, north of Hafmoon Bay
 

Sea to Sky Highway

I'm straying from my Vancouver Island & Sunshine Coast focus with this little section. That said, I chose some of these rides every year coming from Vancouver, as they were accessible and time efficient (no ferry down time). They are simply a little further along the mainland west coast north from Horseshoe Bay. The highway from West Vancouver to Squamish and beyond to Whistler was upgraded for the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics. It's an incredibly beautiful ride. Traffic can get heavy on weekends (year round!), but there are fine, wide shoulders, lots of fresh sea breezes (sometimes #!% winds) and stunning views. It's also very hilly, so you always get a good workout.  

Distances here are all from Park Royal Mall, town centre West Vancouver. If you park and start from Horseshoe Bay, that would reduce distances by ~18kms.

  • After ~39 kms, you'll see signs for seaside Porteau Cove Provincial Park. This is a great place to camp, with water sports about in season. Divers from Vancouver and beyond come out year round to dive a number of intentionally scuttled wrecks. The railroad is right behind so don't get spooked if you hear a clamour in the middle of the night. About 2kms before, there's a hiking trail heading off to the east where it is possible to wild camp, though there may be trekkers about. 

  • Just before you reach the outdoor recreation centre of Squamish, you'll see giant Stawamus Chief granite face, which attracts climbers from around the world. At the base is a Provincial Campground, after ~60 kms of riding. The sites are basic pads with communal eating areas. Can be great fun in season as the climbers are interesting people. Excellent hiking trails as well.

  • 70kms north, a steady climb past Squamish, will get you to Alice Lake Provincial Park, ~2 kms off the highway. Great hiking here, and excellent summer swimming. Extremely popular, so reservations are in order in busy season. Well worth a visit....Named by Backroads Mapbook as one of Canada's Top 50 Campgrounds

  • The turn-off to Cat Lake Rec Camp is ~4kms north of the turn-off to Alice Lake. It's a further ~2kms up to the east to the lake. Excellent sites around the lake, with some super hikes at hand. Again, can fill up in season. Has a rep for bear encounters, but I've not had any issues.

route map, overnight rides from Vancouver

Overnight rides - reachable from Vancouver on a weekend. Note I've broken with my usual focus on Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast to include a handful of options heading up the Sea to Sky Highway on the BC mainland

Caution - Safety First:

This website does not encourage anyone to undertake activities in the backwoods without considering fully issues of safety, access and readiness. There are no guarantees with any information provided in this website.  Please read  the FAQs, research further as appropriate, and use your judgement at all times