On the northeast corner of Campbell River lies Snowden Demonstration Forest. For mountain bikers, the Snowden trails are a roughly cut gem; beautiful and rugged. It’s a place of hardcore venture. Legend has it that one guy managed to ride all 100+ kilometres of trail in a single day, something that seems darn near impossible! The trails are slowly changing, and this rough gem is becoming more polished with, dare I say, some flow.
The vast trail network started taking shape in the early 1990s, following old logging grades (like Lost Lake Loop or Riley Lake Connector for example). Painstakingly, through unforgiving terrain, various capillary trails were added to connect larger, more established, trails. BLT (Boulders, Logs, and Trees not the sandwich!), Mudhoney Pass, and Scotty’s are well-known trails in this core area that developed once Snowden got the green light from the BC Ministry of Forests (MOF). Snowden soon became the go-to area for mountain bikers. The MOF recognized the value of the land for both recreation and timber. Today, BC Timber Sales actively consults with the River City Cycle Club (RCCC). Yes, active logging still happens in the area. The forest has also been home to a stage of the BC Bike Race and hosts the annual Snowden Challenge Trail Race and Loveland Bay Trail Race.
The RCCC is a major player when it comes to trail accessibility and maintenance. The club frequently has trail maintenance days where up to 20 people (and their dogs) show up. Led by devoted individuals, this crew spends countless hours clearing fallen trees, repairing bridges, and correcting drainage and erosion in sensitive areas; each on a legend in their own right.
In our 45 years of wrenching on bikes at Pedal Your World, we’ve witnessed demands transform as trails and technology evolved. Heck, when we opened in 1976 there weren’t mountain bikes! The first of these sold in the early ‘80s had limited gearing and brakes that, by today’s standards, wouldn’t be good enough for a beach cruiser. Nowadays, a typical Snowden rider has a dual suspension aluminum or carbon fibre frame. Bigger wheels, wide gearing range, and powerful hydraulic disc brakes complete the package. A select few brave the unrelenting terrain on hardtails and single speeds! Looking back, it’s been incredible to witness simple bikes of the past transform into refined and purpose-built machines for every type of rider.
Campbell River is a top destination for bike tourists. For a true Snowden experience, some camp at Loveland Bay Provincial Park. Recently, we’ve seen an increase in Europeans travelling here to sample Snowden’s hiking and biking trails. There have been a few chuckles shared in the shop when Euro riders rent bikes from us. Clearly very fit and ready to ride, they expect to cover 50-60 km in Snowden on a day’s ride. Remember the mention of unforgiving terrain?! Most come back after completing 15-20 km pretty much wiped out!
Locals know, and newcomers quickly discover, that Snowden offers a truly unique outdoor experience. Cumberland’s trails are infamous, but word is slowly spreading that there’s another gem that needs riding if you travel a bit farther north.
Eat a big bowl of Wheaties, bring your trail bike and camera, and come check out the Snowden trails! Follow it up with a swim at McIvor Lake, a beach fire at Tyee Spit, and then head over to Beachfire Brewing for some much-needed debriefing to experience a quintessential day in Campbell River.