British Columbia has a reputation as a wildly beautiful province upon which Canada’s greatest outdoor playground exists. That playground is split into, for the most part, two seasons. Winter brings world class skiers and snowboarders to the province. But for people like me it is summer and the search for brown pow that drives us to explore mountain biking destinations. Revelstoke has the best of these 2 worlds and finally I found myself staying in this SE BC mountain town. It was time to discover Revelstoke mountain biking.
Revelstoke Mountain Biking
The town of Revelstoke sits in a wide valley along the Columbia River flanked by the Selkirk Mountains to the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east. First with the building of the CPR railway and then the Trans Canada highway, the town sits upon the countries most active transportation corridor. Thanks to this corridor countless scores of outdoor enthusiast have found their way to Revelstoke.
Realizing the potential and falling in love with the rugged beauty many early visitors stuck around to cultivate the atmosphere that I was now experiencing. An atmosphere that embraces the outdoors, is rooted in the mountain culture and one that seeks to play hard but also enjoys the down time of food and drink that follows.
Driving to Revelstoke it is just under 5 hours from Calgary and roughly 6 hours from Vancouver via the Trans Canada Highway.
That atmosphere when it comes to outdoor activities includes hiking, climbing, camping, canoeing, rafting, dirt biking and then of course in winter skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. But we all know I was here for the what I feel is the best of them all, Revelstoke Mountain Biking.
What Makes Mountain Biking in Revelstoke Unique
I spent a full week in Revelstoke which allowed me to fully immerse myself into the town. To start I left my car parked at the hotel when not driving to the local trailheads. Each day I would ride my bike downtown on the ample pathways and protected bike lanes. Riding along I would pass endless fellow cyclists on the road, bikes in yards, bikes on the back of cars and downtown full bike racks.
At the many outdoor patios, inside the diverse retail shops, restaurants & cafes and of course at the several local bike shops I felt amongst “my people” with riders everywhere. You could just feel that the cycling culture flowed through everything in town, from the people to the businesses.
But why does this culture exist? Reading about the history of the region the town was built on a foundation of outdoor pursuits. The oldest ski club in BC is here and the region is also known “Capital of the Canadian Alps” for mountaineers. It only made sense as mountain biking grew in popularity around the world that it would eventual take hold in Revelstoke.
Of course mountain biking also exists in so many other BC communities now, why is Revelstoke any different? Well that skiing and mountaineering culture of reaching nearby summits lended itself well to mountain biking. It only made sense that mountain biking would reach those same heights. The high alpine MTB trails in the region are what truly set Revelstoke mountain biking apart in the province.
BC Epic Must Do MTB Trails – Frisby Ridge and Keystone Standard Basin
When I first got to town I needed to get in some fun shakeout ride after the driving to get to Revy. For my first quick ride to work up a sweat with a fast fun reward I hit up the Sunnyside located a short drive straight south of town on the east side of the river. I love the description on Trailforks;
“Here you can start your day with an egg-cellent enduro-style loop. Start with the climber, Sunnyside Up, and ketch-up with your friends down the new flow trail, Haulin’ Daze. And for second breakfast you can give it another climb and hash out those berms and tables on the descent all over again.”
The next day I used to explore around downtown, enjoy the amazing food scene and fuel up my energy to hit my next shake out ride before tackling the alpine the next day. For this ride I crossed to the west side of the Columbia River and drove down to the Mount Macpherson trail network. “Mount Macpherson offers about 55 km of classic Revy singletrack of all difficulties inter-connected with logging roads/nordic trails. There are endless variations of link-ups awaiting. The trails are all well signed at junctions, including the nordic trails.”
I enjoyed the views looking over town on Ridge Walk after my pedal up followed by the fast downhill fun that followed. The downhill is very flowly but definitely XC enduro in nature with rolling terrain needing some pedalling here and there. A few of the trails I enjoyed on my ride were Root Canal, Break A Leg, Flowdown and Tantrum.
With my first two days behind me, soaking up the MTB culture of town and shaking off the cobwebs it was time to experience what I had heard so much about. I was ready for the ride that I afterwards found myself repeatedly saying, “This is a BC Top 10 MTB Must Do”. It was time for Frisby Ridge and my escape into alpine mountain bike riding heaven.
Frisby Ridge is 8km south of town on the west side of the Columbia River. Then a 6km drive up logging roads (2wd ok but good clearance recommended) you find yourself at the trailhead. This purpose built MTB trail starts out at an amazing 1300m elevation without even having pedalled yet. When the riding this blue rated trail you start you begin to work your way up through thick forest on well planned switchbacks making amazing use of the natural terrain. Eventually the trail breaks out of the forest and you find yourself on top of a huge alpine ridge extending for miles with endless views in all directions.
The special part of this trail aside from being on wide open alpine terrain is the amazing wildflowers. Be sure to time your visit during the middle of August when the alpine flowers are just coming into full bloom. I was lucky to visit just as the flowers had just peaked, the landscape was a visual treat of towering peaks and a colourful alpine meadow canvas.
Frisby Ridge Trail is 12km one way reaching a high point of just over 2000m elevation. The ride up knocks off more than 820m elevation gain. At the end of the trail is a serene alpine lake. Here you can relax for the return or tackle an extra 5kms of riding to reach the end of the ridge. Coming back down was way more fun than I expected. Not only is the trail a great climb up but wow it was fast and fun on the descent.
Once back across the open alpine as you descend back into the forest prepare yourself for more than 8km and over 600m of descent. An endless marathon of flow. PLEASE be very mindful coming down though as this trail can be very busy. Watch for climbing riders on your descent and yield right of way.
Disclaimer: The Frisby Ridge, Frisby Vistas, and Frisby Low Route trails are closed until July 15 annually to protect caribou in their habitat. Users are subject of fines if they enter during the closure period. Respect the closure and do your part to protect southern mountain caribou.
Frisby on Trailforks.com
I thought I had seen it all riding Frisby Ridge the day before. Beauty and stunning vistas surrounding a flower filled trail is tough to beat. Let me assure you that Keystone Standard Basin trail sits right alongside Frisby Ridge on a BC Epic MTB ride list. Frisby to me was the trail of beauty while Keystone brings the rugged wild nature side to Revelstoke mountain biking.
Keystone Standard Basin trailhead is located a 50km drive north of town (grab coffee and breakfast at La Baguette for the road) up past Revelstoke Dam. Just like Frisby you then drive 15kms up forest service gravel roads. The trailhead and parking area sits at 1750m, a full 400m higher than Frisby Ridge.
The first major difference is the trail is very rugged and raw, part due to it being an old hiking route and second to the more rocky terrain. For this the trail is rated black and starts out with a very punchy tech climb up through the trees into the alpine.
Once in the alpine you discover a wildly different terrain than Frisby. Talus slopes, waterfalls, patches of snow and steep slopes are the setting for the trail. Winding its way over and around the many creeks and prominences the trail challenges your skill and fitness. New views are around every corner until the trail reaches the terminus at an old ski cabin 11km in after nearly 600m of elevation gain. This trail when you ride to the very end does demand work on the return as the cabin sits in a low basin which is something to keep in mind. Once you do climb out though, the last few kilometres dropping back to the trailhead is a fast fun technical descent.
Be Prepared : Both Frisby and Keystone have no cell coverage and are remote backcountry trails as well they are also in bear country. Plan your ride accordingly, let someone know you are going, pack bear spray, know the 10 essentials and be safe.
Keystone Standard Basin on Trailforks.com
My final day in Revelstoke would be spent pedalling up to the highest elevation of my riding over the course of the week. It was time to tackle the Stoke Climb located in the Revelstoke Mountain Resort on Mount Mackenzie. The Stoke Climb is started after a paid gondola lift access pass which carries you all the way to the trailhead at 1700m. Here you begin your way up the gentle but steady machine built Stoke Climb. The reward of the climbing up that 7kms and 517m is sitting at 2200m overlooking Revelstoke and the entire valley below.
While the view is a reward in itself, it is merely the topping on the desert that is Fifty Six Twenty trail. This trail is taking machine bike park build to the next level. While it may be rated blue, there is no lack of epic hips, tabletops, berms, jumps and speed to be found. The build is amazing but what makes this trail so unique is how long the descent is! On your ride down you cover a mind blowing 15 kilometres of machine-built blue flow. Descent is 1,713 metres, or as the trail is named 5,620 vertical feet of elevation loss.
Mount Mackenzie on Trailforks.com
Over the course of 5 day stay I rode as much as I could and honestly barely scratched the surface. One ride at Macpherson merely skimmed the inventory of trails. I never shuttled or rode the trails at Boulder Mountain. Heck I could have either hike a bike or heli-dropped on the summit of Mt Cartier. I didn’t even do the road climb up the gruelling 1400m elevation of the 26km Meadows in the Sky Parkway within Mount Revelstoke National Park.
Where to Eat and Stay in Revelstoke
During my stay I enjoyed my sleep each night at The Stoke Hotel. A funky boutique hotel right alongside the Columbia River and Revy’s iconic green suspension bridge. I really enjoyed my stay here and the breakfast was great each morning to get ready for my daily riding.
Earlier in this blog post I touched on the food in town that fuels the Revelstoke mountain biking scene. Honestly your options are endless but when I find something amazing I tend to keep coming back. I knew about the amazing selection of food at La Baquette before (best breakfast wraps) and the mind blowing baking for a lunch treat at Modern Bakeshop & Cafe. What I didn’t know about, and my must know stop, is the best coffee is at Dose Coffee and you have to try their hummus toast! For supper I found myself returning often to Taco Club Revelstoke, fresh tasty and filling, the trifecta of feeding the mountain bike appetite.
On your down time between shredding the local mountains be sure to ride your bike everywhere as I did. Slow down and immerse yourself into Revelstoke. Discover the craft breweries or maybe Jones Distilling located in the historic Mountain View School built in 1914. Revelstokes tourism website SeeRevelstoke has an amazing list of curating all the arts, culture, history and things to do around town on their website HERE.
There are plenty of reputable bike shops selling and servicing all the major bike brands out there here in Revelstoke. A special shout-out to Tantrum Ride Co who helped fine tune my rear derailleur so I could hit Frisby Ridge on the Chromag Rootdown in tip top shifting shape. On a side note their bike shop is the first office/commercial building in North America—and one of only 24 in the world—to be certified by the Passive House Institute in Germany (passivehouse.com). Read the full Vancouver Sun article HERE (you all know I love & endorse eco-conscious efforts).
Thanks to Revelstoke Cycling Association for all their hard work in the area. This non-profit with its crew of dedicated volunteers strives to maintain trails, advocate for MTB and keep the Stoke rocking. With over 150km of trails under their management your support can go a long way in helping their reach their goals. Donate on their website or if you are on Trailforks drop them some Trail Karma next time you ride.
I had a wonderful time in Revelstoke and it now sits high in my list of memorable mountain biking destinations. It is the complete package of community and the MTB culture with these world class alpine trails that make Revelstoke a must visit on your list. Give yourself time here, don’t plan a day trip, trust me plan a week!
One last note. As we are all still being mindful and safe in the effort to curb Covid-19 it should be noted Revelstoke has developed a cohesive community effort to look out for residents and visitors alike with the Revy Rules.
Disclosure: This post was published in partnership with SeeRevelstoke who graciously hosted me for the week so that I could fully appreciate all Revy had to offer.
STOKED ON REVY? TAG YOUR ADVENTURES WITH #THEREALSTOKE. This is where you go to get REAL STOKE, a feeling you can’t experience anywhere else. Their hashtag has been used over 50,000 times and embodies what Revelstoke is all about: real people, real adventure and real stoke. Whether you’re shredding on a powder day, biking our legendary alpine trails, exploring ancient rainforests or just recovering on a patio with friends, tag your adventures in Revelstoke with #TheRealStoke.
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