When you first consider riding the trails in North Vancouver, the concept seems nebulous. Where do you go? What do you ride? Do you shuttle or climb up on your bike? What routes are good? Hopefully the information here will get you started on discovering some of the best trails anywhere.
There are three main freeride-style mountain biking areas in Northern Vancouver—Cypress, Seymour, and Fromme Mountains. They are all separated by a good distance and, at least for Fromme and Seymour, not convenient to ride-in-ride-out lodging. In other words, expect to spend some time driving Vancouver’s traffic clogged highways to get to your ride.
I’d suggest that you find a local bike shop in North Van that sells good mountain bikes. After they interview you to find your skill level and ride-type interests, they should all be able to give you directions and trail route suggestions. Importantly, you should be able to buy a copy of the maps. There’s an individual map for each of the mountains. Having a map is a very good thing.
Note that the trails on the route suggestions below generally rated blue intermediate and advanced. While they are pretty easy on the North Shore scale, riders new to Shore-style riding will often find these trails to be very difficult, particularly when the conditions are wet.
Directions from Vancouver:
If you take the Second Narrows Bridge to North Vancouver, look for signs to Mt. Seymour Parkway on the north side of the bridge. The exit will be on the right.
If you take the Lion’s Gate Bridge, take the Upper Levels Highway (1) to the east and exit on Mt. Seymour Parkway.
Follow the Mt. Seymour Parkway for about 5 km, looking for Mt. Seymour Road. Notice the amusing “Watch for wildlife” signs alongside the road. Northlands Mall is at the intersection with Mt. Seymour Road.
A bike shop, Different Bikes, is in the Northlands shopping center. This is a convenient place to get a map and trail advice. You can also follow the directions on their website: http://www.differentbikes.ca/contact/north-vancouver/location/
Take a left turn onto Mt. Seymour Road. About a kilometer up Mt. Seymour Road, take the turnoff to the left for “Northlands Golf Course”.
On the immediate right is a parking lot at the Old Buck Trailhead. Likely you will see a bunch of bikes.
You can park in the pay lot or on the street.
If you want to set a shuttle, leave a car here and drive up the hill on Mt. Seymour Road. The large parking lot for CBC is on the inside of the switchback turn just past the CBC radio tower. Bring change (a few dollars) to pay for parking if you are leaving a vehicle. To get to the CBC trailhead, you ride down the hill on the road for maybe a kilometer. The CBC trailhead is inside the trees on the right side of the bend in the road, very close to the radio tower.
Mt. Seymour features the classic CBC and a series of other well-built trails. If you don’t want to shuttle to the top for CBC, you can ride up the road. The road is wide, smooth, and evenly graded with minimal traffic but we have never seen a mountain biker riding up to the top. I’d suspect that this might have something to do with the beefy machines that the riders want for the descent.
At the bottom of CBC, a series of trails fans out. These include Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Corkscrew–Pingu–Team Pangor, and Severed Dick. A steep but doable climb up Old Buck to Baden-Powell or riding the road also allows access the “lower” trails. Another option is to car shuttle to the mid mountain.
Most of these “lower” trails drain, eventually, onto Bridal Path. Taking the deceptively challenging Bridal Path to the left will, with Empress Bypass, take you back to the Old Buck parking area.
If you are shuttling, you can take your big bike to Mt. Seymour. A five or six-inch travel bike will work, but you will always want a bigger bike unless you are one of those mutants who like to take a hardtail down CBC.
Some suggested routes:
The “Classic” Mt. Seymour route: CBC to connect alongside the road to Corkscrew to Salvation to Pingu to Baden-Powell (right) to Team Pangor to Slash to Bridle Path (right) to Empress Strikes Back
A short loop: Climb Old Buck to Baden-Powell (left) to Severed Dick to Bride Path (left) to Empress Strikes Back
A self-propelled visit to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin: Climb Old Buck to Baden-Powell (left) to Old Mushroom Trail to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin to TNT (Red Shed, left) to Powerlines (left) to Hyannis (right) to Bride Path (left) to Empress Strikes Back
More about Mt. Seymour:
Take either of the bridges (Second Narrows and go west on Upper Levels Highway 1 or Lions Gate and go east on 1) to North Vancouver.
Exit at Lynn Road from the Lions Gate Bridge or on Mountain Highway from the Second Narrows Bridge. Either way, you want to end up near the end of Mountain Highway, at the base of the mountains, so go northeast on Lynn and left on Mountain Highway or, if you exit on Mountain Highway, head north towards the hills.
Unless you are a resident, parking within a few blocks of the entrance of the dirt climb is prohibited (look for the signs). You’ll need to park further down the hill and ride up the road.
The main access point for Mt. Fromme is at the end of Mountain Highway. This road passes a bike drop off area and through a gate, turns to dirt and gravel, and switchbacks up the hill. It does not appear to be possible for the general public to routinely car shuttle up to the top of the trails. Instead a long service road climb takes you to the trailheads.
There are trails lower down, but the most interesting trails are nearer to the top, between the 5th and 7th switchbacks. Between the 6th and 7th switchbacks, Seventh Secret and Upper Oil Can start. Off of the road on the downhill side between the 5th and 6th switchbacks, Expresso, Oil Can, Ladies Only, Pipeline, and more start. You can ride to the top, drop Seventh Secret or Upper Oil Can and connect on the service road to Espresso, Oil Can, Ladies Only, or Pipeline. At the bottom, you can take Baden-Powell or use one of the other options on the map to get back to the Mountain Highway area. The routes are easy to find and follow. The trails are not so easy to ride.
Another good option is the sequence of Seventh Secret to Leppard to Krickum Krankum to Kirkford* to Cedar Trail. Below Cedar Trail, there’s a web of paths that either will take you back to Mountain Highway or to McNair St. Following Upper Griffin to Lower Griffin is a good option here. If you end up on McNair, a right turn will take you back to Mountain Highway, just below the yellow gate.
* The “Fromme North Shore Trail Guide, Version 09″ shows the trail sequence, Leppard to Krickum Krankum to Kirkford, but the text says that Leppard connects to Kirkford. Older maps on the web (NSMBA 2003) show this sequence as Leppard to Kirkford to Crinkum Crankum. I seem to recall a trail sign saying Krickum Krankum at the end of Leppard, but who knows?
We will have to go there first! We need to got there.