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Local Maps & Off-Highway Route Options

Like many cycle tourists. I sometimes like to get off the highways, even though it means routes are generally a little longer, and maybe hillier. But you can get a different vibe, and see local life at a slower pace.

There are some excellent cycling groups on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, along with some communities that give priority to alternate transportation options like cycling. These groups have put together cycling routes and maps, many of which are online.

This section has 8 local area pages, linked off this intro page. I've pulled together some of the useful cycling maps I could find. I've added a few maps of my own creation with some off-highway route options (usually paved).  I've called out some helpful links. I'd welcome hearing from groups or cyclists if they have suggestions for added maps or alternate off-highway touring routes.

The main focus here is on paved off-highway route options. This section does not include rougher backroads riding options (there's lots of those in the Fav backroads rides), though there are a few trail sections here suitable for all cycling tourists, like the amazing Cowichan Valley Trail

Cycling path Courtenay estuary | cycle touring Courtenay

Along the excellent estuary trail, entering Courtenay from the south, just east off the old Island Highway. A much nicer option than riding through all the malls. Courtenay, my home town, has some excellent riding networks, and a mountain biking hinterland up behind adjoining Cumberland.

Most of the maps focus on cycling around and within local areas, rather than passing through on the way to the next place (there's a few exceptions, like the 'Rotary Route' from Victoria ferry terminal in Swartz Bay to the Nanaimo terminal at Departure Bay). So cycle tourists will need to plan their way along, bringing ideas together from multiple maps. It's common that some options will only take you some kms beyond communities before rejoining a highway - but that's still a nice option to have.

I've noted in the intro sections that I am, for the most part, no longer updating this site (though I am keeping up on correspondence). This section on community off-highway route options (and local maps!) may be getting out of date, as many Van Isle communities are hard at work improving cycling networks. So - you may want to check for updates.

A safety caution: off major routes, you may find yourself on roads with no riding shoulders. Traffic will be less, and slower, but be sure to stay attentive at all times.

Following the pic collage below, you'll find an overall area map where you can see the different area pages available to check out for local maps and off-highway routes. Below that, is a list box of thumbnails & short descriptions, linking to the more detailed pages for the different maps or routes. 

Lochside Regional Cycling Trail | cycling Victoria to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal | cycling Saanich Peninsula

These pics are from the wonderful Lochside Regional Trail, which runs along trails, dedicated shoulders and some limited use back routes from Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to Victoria. Victoria has excellent cycling routes linking off the Lochside Trail, such as the Galloping Goose network. Find more on Victoria Regional District cycling routes here

Off-highway cycle touring routes | VCancouver Island cycle touring maps

Below is a list (with page links) of the maps, or alternate off-highway route areas, you can see outlined in the overview map above. Or, if you'd like a little more of a description on the linked pages, check out the thumbnail links that follow.  

There's no page for the Gulf Islands as we don't have the main highways there to get off. That said, cycle tourists may want to find themselves alternate routes on larger islands like Saltspring.

Check out local maps & off-Highway alternate (mostly paved) routes

Some maps or alternate routes are found in multiple areas, as they may start in one area and finish in another.  

This off-highway area page includes the excellent 'Rotary Route', with alternate routes between Swartz Bay ferry terminal (Victoria) & Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo. There are links to the Lochside Trail and southern segments of the Trans Canada Trail, with connections onward to the network of trails in the Capital Regional District, including the renowned Galloping Goose.

The pic here shows a lovely seaside section of the Goose approaching Sooke.

Consider branching off the east coast of the island to visit Cowichan Lake, and ride the Cowichan Valley Trail, the finest cycle touring stretch of the Trans Canada Trail (highly recommended!) on Vancouver Island. Connect to Mill Bay and the ferry over to the Saanich Peninsula. Check out some recommended secondary road options to avoid the big highway around Duncan, which is about halfway between Victoria & Nanaimo.

The pic shows a section of the Cowichan Valley Trail heading inland up to Cowichan Lake.

Most cyclists heading up or down the Island pass through Nanaimo, which also has a couple of ferry terminals to carry travellers over to Vancouver. There's lots to see, including  some fine islands reached from the must-see downtown harbour. Nanaimo has a vibrant cycling community, resulting in some excellent commuting routes, trails and maps of alternate off-highway riding options.

The pic shows Departure Bay, where BC ferries dock (and sea planes land), taken from the shores of nearby Newcastle Island

Parksville & Qualicum are popular east coast seaside destinations north of Nanaimo. At Parksville the older, more laid back coastal highway branches off (generally recommended for cycle tourists). Even the old highway gets busy, and there are stretches where it is possible to get off on alternate local paved routes.

This seaside pic is from Rathtrevor campground, very popular with cycle tourists and an Honourable Mention Fav campground (make reservations in season)

Courtenay is the big town in the Comox Valley, which also ropes in Comox, where one catches the ferry over to the Sunshine Coast, and Cumberland, a mountain biking hub. There's some fine city cycling networks, and worth-while off-highway riding options, particularly to the north. There's even a couple of fine nearby islands (Denman & Hornby) thrown in.

The photo is from seaside Kin Beach Campground, a couple of kms south of Little River terminal, popular with cyclists connecting to Powell River 

Campbell River is the gateway to vast north Vancouver Island. It has a grand backroads hinterland, and ferry links to fantastic Quadra & Cortes Islands. The main road links from the south are via the new inland (big!) highway, and the old coastal highway. But there are a few local alternate stretches worth checking out if you're not in a hurry, and a good network of trails and routes within the city.

Pic - coming from the south, you can ride the final 6kms into town on the popular Rotary Seawalk.

Port Alberni & Tofino

This page gets off the popular east coast of Vancouver Island. Port Alberni is not only a grand backroads hub, but there are some fine local trails, cycling routes, cycling groups and bike maps. And there's the paved Pacific Rim Highway out to Tofino and the wild west coast.

The photo shows the north trailhead for the wonderful Log Train Trail, which continues south right to Port Alberni. This is also right beside the start of the old Valley Link Hwy, an alternate route for the Fav backroads ride from Port Alberni north to Courtenay.

There's a few seaside towns along the Sunshine Coast. If you branch inland from the highway in the southern Sunshine Coast, you're almost immediately climbing up into the rugged coastal mountains. There are incredible trail networks, but mostly for rougher hiking. That said, there are a few alternate local route options, near Sechelt and Langdale ferry terminal. 

The pic is from the campground at Porpoise Bay, with a dedicated cyclist tenting area. Check out the early morning wake-up committee

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