We’ve been told that the best place to ride mountain bikes in the Victoria area is the Hartland/Mt. Work area. This relatively small area borders on an active landfill and holds a dense collection of trails. Our first ride was on
Sunday. We soon learned that “Sunday” meant that the bike shops were closed and we would be map-less for the ride. At the parking area, along with the bathrooms, the bike wash station, and the compressed air for tires, a map was posted. We studied the spider web of trails on the posted map carefully, but with the trail density, there was little hope that we would stay on one of the suggested routes.
Rolling out from the parking lot, we stopped first at the technical training area for some technical training. The area had a small collection of skinnies and ladder drops along with a teeter-totter. These were fun but we’d learn soon that there was no real training area for the terrain that we were about to attempt at the park.
Our climbing route took us up Regional Trail to Emergency One. Just as the serious trail finding confusion set in, we came across a pair of riders who had some familiarity with the area and followed them up Little Face until we reached a trail, Small Craft Warning. Small Craft Warning was marked as an advanced or black trail. We’d seen the exit of this trail from below and it looked to have some “interesting” rock face drops. Later, when we had a map, we noticed that there were red dots on the map’s trail routes to signify “rock features.” Small Craft Warning is a short trail that connects two legs of the climb but it still had eight red dots. The dots told the story. Pretty much all of the altitude lost on Small Craft Warning was on glacier-formed smooth, steep granite rock face drops. Most of the rock drops had multiple lines with varying degrees of difficulty. Between the red dot rock features, the trail tread was dirt with patches of partially buried rock. The trail tread also had roots but their density was lower than on the North Shore areas of the BC Mainland. When we visited, the conditions were dry-tacky and perfect for attempting new challenges.
What wasn’t perfect was our form. Neither of us had ridden much in the last weeks. Not that riding in the Bay Area would help us much for riding the mucho sicko trail features in BC, anyway. In the end, we found rideable lines down six of the eight rock sections but we bypassed some of the more interesting alternative lines in process. One of these drops will reside in our dreams until we conquer it on a return visit. This drop, near the end of Small Craft Warning, was about 20 feet high with a vert-ramp steep section in the middle and perfectly rounded entries and exits. I knew this one was rideable. There were bike tire tracks emerging from the bottom transition. It had to be rideable. But the height and the near vertical slope were just too intimidating to pull trigger. I needed to watch another rider on this drop to feel comfortable plunging into the over the edge free fall. I asked myself what I would think many times this day, “Where’s Becky? Becky will do it.” Unfortunately, Becky was home working. There’d be no help on the drops today.
At the bottom of Small Craft Warning, we repeated our climb to Little Face and on to Centerfold. Climbing Centerfold, we ran into another rider and helped him with a flat tire. With his tire working for the moment, we followed him up the hill to the trail named Switchbacks. Switchbacks wound its way up the hill with moderate slope. The turns on Switchback are relatively mellow, but the roots and rocks in the corners conspired to make this a very difficult trail to clean. Rolling past the top, we continued to follow the flat tired rider down hill. The trails were only occasionally marked so we soon lost track of our route on the fast, twisty, and rocky drop down the hill.
The ride was soon over taking us less than 3 hours to complete. The introduction to the fun at Hartland was sufficient to lure us back the following day.
The next day was a Monday. With the bike shops now open, we were able to get trail maps of the area though, with the infrequent trail signage and our lack of route knowledge, the map had only a small impact on the quality of our ride. But at least we had a vague idea of where we were and the route we took.
Our route looked something like this:
Regional Trail→ Emergency Trail→ Inventive→ Left onto Little Face→ Right onto Ruffles→Left onto Crossover→ Right onto Bottom Feeder→ Steep climb until we reached Fun Trail→ Hot Cherry→ Birth Control→ Left onto Centerfold→ Switchbacks→ Harem Scarem→ Left onto Old Payoff→ Cross the Regional Trail until we reached the upper portion of Who’s Your Daddy→ Night Shift→ Regional Trail. After a short drop we were back through the Technical Skills Training Area and out.
Overall, the ride took us about 4.5 hours. The Hot Cherry and Birth Control Sections were, at many points, over our heads. These trails are labeled double black diamond, so that shouldn’t have been a surprise. I think we’d really enjoy the steep technical challenges of these trails if we rode the area all of the time, but it was just too much for us on our first visit.
We were told that Who’s Your Daddy/Night Shift is the downhiller’s favorite run in Hartland. These trails were definitely fun with fast, banked turns punctuated by five manageable steep rock drops.
Hartland is a “way fun” ride. I wouldn’t say that this area is as destination mountain bike travel worthy as Whistler, Squamish, or North Vancouver, but it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.