Fav ride for all
Turns out this is one of the favourite short tours, usually an overnighter. That's partly because the destination has so much to offer, but also (maybe) because many cyclists do this ride over a weekend. Others might be early in their training, looking for a manageable distance.
This ride is sort of a segment from the longer Van Isle Sunshine Coast Loop, another core favourite ride. I expect it to appeal most to riders doing the 'out & back' round trip, coming over from Vancouver on the Horseshoe Bay ferry. That ferry connection gives the ride a special sense of travelling to a different place.
I've titled this ride an 'overnighter': that said, it's very worthwhile to stay an extra day or three, and I share some temptations below.
Here's a few (of many) possible highlights:
Camping along the SE shores of Sechelt Inlet at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, just 4km outside Sechelt, which has a walk-in tenting area that can almost always accommodate an extra cyclist. In the summer, you'll often meet other cycle tourists
Wandering through and sampling the charms of the local towns, particularly Gibson's Landing (aka Gibsons) & Sechelt. In the summer, keep an eye on markets & festivals
Strolling seaside walkways and bustling marinas. Once you get off the main road, almost every little village has a scenic cove
Some fine riding, complete with a couple of tough hills to earn your passage
The collage above is from Sechelt and nearby Porpoise Bay Provincial Park Campground. Top left - from the seaside walkway stretching along Sechelt town's NW seaside. Bottom left, from the town marina at the SW corner of long, majestic Sechelt Inlet. There's a pub/restaurant here (recommended), just 4kms from Porpoise Bay. Top right the walk-in camping area at Porpoise Bay, a good place to meet other cycle tourists in season. Bottom right, the beach at Porpoise Bay, at last light, with the tide out. It's not a great swimming beach, but well worth the effort when the tide is in. Check out this link for things to do in Sechelt.
This collage is from Gibsons and the nearby BC Ferry terminal at Langdale. Top left - many Canadians remember the popular, long running TV show the Beachcombers. The main cast of characters hung out at Molly's Reach, which is still alive and well. Top right is a wonderful house boat garden at the marina. Bottom right is from the seaside road between Langdale and Gibsons, 8 kms to the east. Bottom left is at the Langdale terminal: in the summer you can check out market stalls - artisans and food treats - while waiting for your ferry. Check out this link for things to do in Gibson's.
Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver. Most riders tackling this favourite ride will catch their ferry to the Sunshine Coast here. For some more info on Horseshoe Bay, check out this little add-on section.
Days for Ride:
The basic version of this 'there & back' ride is an overnighter, 2 days and one night, likely camping at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, just east of Sechelt town (close enough you can explore or grab a beer and dinner in town).
If you have the time, here's a few ideas for an extra day or two:
stay put at Porpoise Bay for 2 nights and explore the Sechelt area
camp your first night at closer (to Langdale) Roberts Creek Provincial Park Campground, a good campsite, though not along the seaside (there's a trail down to the beach). For those just getting their riding legs, this might be a good plan
Continue ~20kms north of Sechelt to Smuggler Cove Provincial Park, a unique little campground north of Halfmoon Bay. Check out the Fav Campsite page.
The ride is only ~30+kms. There's a couple of good hills, though, particularly at the start as you climb out of Langdale Terminal, or up from Gibson's Landing seaside, if you started with the seaside road to the lower centre of Gibsons.
4 kms final trail into Smuggler Cove Provincial Park, a favourite campground. It's a well groomed trail, accessible for all touring bikes. There's long stretches through the incredible, otherworldly wetlands.
Moderate. Distances for this ride are small, and everything is on paved roads with services and other travellers never too far away. Shoulders are narrow, pinched in a few places, but sufficient. Traffic can get a little heavy at the start or end of the working day, or with folks heading for a weekend ferry, but nothing alarming.
Be prepared, though, for some tough little hills, particularly coming up from the ferry, and the climb up from Davis Bay before the descent into Sechelt. If you decide to head further north along Hwy 101, roughly following the coast, be prepared for more hills.
Lots of side trip options here, though some of them get into rougher backroads.
The main option would be to continue north all the way up the Sunshine Coast, then loop back south on Vancouver Island (see Fav ride). There's also a number of Fav rides on the north Sunshine Coast near Powell River.
As you ride north, you'll notice that the grand Coastal mountains rise sharply up from the ocean. If you want to try some rough and tough backroads climbing, take a look at the Lyon Lake Mt Hallowell Descent.
Check out the blog posts on the fine short trail rides into Smuggler Cove (north of Halfmoon Bay) and Skookumchuck Narrows (further north, east from Earl's Cove). Both of these excellent destinations can be done as half day side trips from the highway (should you be in the neighbourhood).
Here're the elevation / distance view.
As you can see, coming out of the ferry at Langdale terminal onto Highway 101 (Sunshine Coast Highway), you start with the longest and toughest climb - up to ~185m. The only joy to compensate is that when you come back for the return ferry, you get a wild descent.
Instead of proceeding straight up the highway, you can turn left onto Marine Drive and follow the looping, seaside road, with some hills, to Lower Gibsons (the tourist part by the marina). This might seem like a great way to get around that initial hill, and it's partly true, but you'll still need to climb up from the seaside to the highway in Upper Gibsons. I'd suggest that you ride through Lower Gibsons either your way out or your way back. It can be real touristy in season, but it's fun to stop by.
OK - back to our elevation chart. As you see, although there are still some small ups and downs, you'll be able to cruise along for a stretch after you get up that initial hill. Just after Roberts Creek Campground, there's a good descent to the seaside at Davis Bay, then another mean little climb before you descend into Sechelt. The final 4km ride out to Porpoise Bay can feel hilly, perhaps as it's the end of the ride.
Here's the directions / distance guide:
Just follow the highway signs off the ferry and it'll get you to Sechelt. Note my comments above (with the elevation chart) on the alternate route to start (or finish) by going through Lower Gibsons.
It's 2+km just to climb the initial hill, and you'll reach Upper Gibsons (commercial/mall stretch along the highway) after 5-6kms. ~12kms later, you'll see Roberts Creek Provincial Campground on your left.
Then a sweet ~4km (mostly) descent to oceanside Davis Bay. Then you've got to climb another 1+km hill before your final descent into Sechelt.
The turnoff east (right) to the south tip of Sechelt Inlet, and Porpoise Bay Provincial Park beyond, is at the bottom of the little hill just past the Starbucks and hospital on your right. From the turnoff, it's under a km to the marina and pub (good food), then 4 kms (well signed) to Porpoise Bay. If you turn left/west, rather then east to Porpoise Bay, you'll find yourself getting into downtown Sechelt, with shops and restaurants and a fine seaside walkway.