The following is an excerpt from a brand new book by valley resident Julie McDonald titled Kidding Around The Columbia Valley: Making the most of your family time in the valley. McDonald explains her motivation for writing the book as an extension of her desire to “expose my kids to all the valley has to offer with my daily hope of wearing them out completely.” For an in-depth story on McDonald’s book, formatted as a very easy-to-use guide for a range of year-round activities, check the June 26th Pioneer Play ‘n’ Stay section.
Kidding Around the Columbia Valley
Chapter 8: Tykes on Bikes
Two-Wheeled Trail Treks
Whether your family is interested in serious, technical mountain biking or you prefer a calm, paved cruise, this valley has something for all levels. The biking options below offer a sampling of rides, with a route suited to everyone’s ability. Once your youngsters have mastered these, you’ll be ready to tackle the many trails available to test skills and bring thrills to the whole family.
The Junior Johnson Trail at Lake Lillian
What to expect: This family-friendly, 2.5km single and double-track trail provides new or young mountain bikers an opportunity to experience the joys of mountain biking without any major scare factor. The gentle trail requires riders to focus on their riding, but is forgiving in its inclines and declines. The trail is marked and easy to follow, though maps are available through the Columbia Valley Cycling Society or from local bike shops. Jr. Johnson is a loop which takes casual riders 20 – 40 minutes and can be ridden with a tag-along bike trailer.
How to get there: Lake Lillian is en route to Panorama. From Valley Central, travel west towards Invermere. Turn right onto Panorama Dr and follow this road for 6.7km. Lake Lillian and the parking for the Junior Johnson are at right. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road.
Panorama’s Paved Valley Trail Loop
What to expect: With no official start point, this popular paved trail can be picked up anywhere along its loop. If unfamiliar with the area, ask one of the resort employees to point you in the right direction. This scenic 5.5km loop winds its way along the bottom of the ski hill, along the fringes of the Greywolf Golf Course, then meanders along Toby Creek and finally through the village. Resting spots with picnic tables and benches are scattered along the trail and make a great location to catch your breath and take in the alpine views. Being paved makes it friendly for new riders, tag-along bike trailers and strollers. First trip up to Panorama? A bike ride along this path will give you a good overview of the village and surrounding area.
How to get there: From Valley Central, drive west towards Invermere, turning right onto Panorama Dr. Follow the road 18km as it crosses Toby Creek and heads up to Panorama Mountain Resort.
Panorama’s Toby Trail Loop and Hale Hut
What to expect: This trail is great for families wanting a relatively easy mountain bike adventure. The trail is wide and friendly with numerous gentle ascents and descents, making for a fun ride but not an extreme one. Children still getting to know their gears will most likely need to walk some of the longer ascents. The Hale Hut is a perfect place for tired legs to catch a break. The Toby Trail Loop is about 7km round-trip, but like so many others, turning it into a shorter out and back is always an option.
How to get there: From Valley Central, drive west towards Invermere, turning right onto Panorama Dr. Follow the road 18km as it crosses Toby Creek and heads up to Panorama Mountain Resort. There are two options for starting. Families can travel along Greywolf Drive past the Golf Course Clubhouse where the trail can be started just after the bridge, or on the Valley Trail which meets up with the Toby Trail at that same bridge.
The Old Coach Trail Greenway between Dry Gulch & Radium
What to expect: This 9km trail was the original highway and often still referred to as the Old Coach Road. Restored for both hiking and biking, the trail has become a popular area and is suitable for all ages. As the double trail winds along the benchlands, single-track trails veer off to the valley ridge and provide breathtaking views of the wetlands below. Most of the trails that veer off towards the upper wetlands are manageable for children; a few single tracks to the east of the main trail are quite challenging. This route can be ridden out-and-back; or if you can get organized to leave a car at the opposite end, it’s a great destination ride. An ice cream or restaurant stop in Radium can be a motivating destination!
How to get there: To begin biking from Dry Gulch, drive 7.2km north from Valley Central. Turn left and then immediately turn left again. This road will lead to the parking area. To begin from the town of Radium, turn onto Main St. West. Follow that south until you come to the end of the road and intersecting Edelweiss St. The north end of the trail starts there. If that area is congested, another option is to park at the Visitor Information Centre and begin there.
Radium Pump Track by the Sinclair Creek Greenway Trail in Radium
What to expect: Created and maintained by the Village of Radium Hot Springs, this track is a biker’s playground! Kids and big kids (yes, the parents) will have a blast cruising around various bumps, dips and groovy tracks. Even young bikers can handle many sections and will be motivated to try more!
Kudos to the town of Radium Hot Springs for being one of the first local communities to build a pump track. With an ‘if you built it, they will come’ philosophy, Radium built it! How to get there: From Valley Central, drive north to Radium. From the 4-way stop in Radium, turn left on Foresters Landing Rd. If biking, look for signage on this road and a bike trail that veers to the right and takes you to the pump track. If driving, take your first right onto Horsethief Forest Service Rd. and follow to the pump track.