Victoria’s most notable mountain biking locale is Hartland/Mt. Work a.k.a. “The Dumps.” There’s plenty of good stuff to ride at Hartland. The area can easily occupy several days of exploration. Nevertheless, there are other places to ride on the southern edge of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. We checked out one of these places, Sooke’s Harbourview, during our recent visit.
The network of trails at Sooke’s Harbourview is not as extensive as Hartland’s. It doesn’t warrant a multi-day riding budget. Nevertheless the quality of Harbourview’s trails is worth the jaunt from Victoria.
Harbourview’s trails are about 25 minutes from Victoria. The ride starts at an improved trailhead at the end of Harbourview Road. (Harbourview Road comes off to the right a few kilometers of Sooke Road before the road reaches the town of Sooke.) Beyond a gate at the edge of the parking lot, after 45 minutes of climbing in the bike’s saddle on the gravel service road, we reached an unmarked singletrack intersection. From the map we figured that we had found the trail named FM Radio.
Now our ride really began. FM Radio and Kumquat, the next trail in line, twist and meander over heaves and through the lush ferny forest. For a good stretch minimal elevation is lost. The terrain is classic western British Columbia temperate rainforest. Such a dense wet forest is a surprise as nearby metropolitan Victoria averages around only 25 inches of rain annually.
Further down the terrain dries out as the slopes steepen. By the time we reached Hump the tread had turned dry and dusty. Hump has numerous, short, committing steep sections over the rocks and the roots. Higher up, we could ride most of the drops. Towards the end of the trail, it was too loose and steep for us to ride.
Our ride finished with the GT1—Pipe Night—GT2 sequence. The trails down low have been reworked in the new school flow trail style with a wide smooth tread, banked turns, and options for airtime. The last section is the easy to digest dessert at the end of the ride.
With scouting, do-overs, and picture taking, the singletrack descent of FM Radio, Kumquat, Ankle Biter, Hump, GT1, Pipe Night, and GT2 took us more than twice as long as the 45 minute or so climb. For sure we’d go faster on a return trip. Still a ride that takes us more time on the way down than on the way up is a good thing.
Sooke was good fun. Indeed, like many of our rides in BC, Harbourview’s trails would be most popular in our home area. We’d have ridden more but we had reserved a slot on the Black Ball ferry. The ferry would take us across the strait back and back to the States. In the short distance across the water to Washington State, though the terrain changes little, the trail fun quotient drops dramatically. We missed BC’s trails as soon as the boat left the dock.
We owe our route choice to a suggestion that we received at Trek Bicycle Store in Victoria.
Freak Maps shows the trails in the area and a map for Harbourview can be downloaded for free. The website also reminds us that there’s another area to check out nearby, Broom Hill. How can we miss a place with trails named Fecal Undertow and Lawnmower Rodeo?