Date: August 9 – 10, 2020
Location: Coquihalla/Tulameen, BC
Distance: ~105 km
Resources: Strava route
Brittany spent three quiet weeks this summer in a town of 250 people in northern BC but when she returned on a Saturday she was looking to get out and do something active. I, on the other hand, have had no shortage of activity so we compromised with a leisurely 107 km bike ride split over two days.
We followed a route Brittany found on Strava that makes a big loop between highways 5A and 5, starting from the Britton Creek rest area just past the Coquihalla summit.
The entire first day was spent on fairly quiet logging roads that were in great shape. We’d travelled most of this section on the Tulameen FSR on our way to Illal meadows and Coquihalla mountain. We climbed a few hundred meters from the rest area before descending for the remainder of the day. We quit 3 km from the town of Tulameen when we came across an informational sign post and bench talking about the HBC Heritage Trail, a historic trail completed in 1849 used to move furs to the coast. We hadn’t heard of the trail but we decided to check out the camping options seeing as we were standing at the trail head already.
Directly from the signpost we forded the shallow (at this time) Tulameen river and found the log book for hikers doing the entire trail out to Peers Creek, 74 km away. On the opposite bank we found lots of thimble berries, nice shade next to the river, and flat land on a former road on which to pitch our tent. We spent the evening bathing and enjoying the lack of bugs in what has been a distinctly pesky summer.
The best camping opportunities are on the Tulameen FSR and near Hwy. 5 after Brookmere. Between Tulameen and Brookmere the opportunities to wild camp are much slimmer with poor water access and an abundance of farms.
The second day we had about 75 km to ride and coasted the 3 km of paved road into Tulameen. Neither of us had been here before and were surprised that it’s actually a cute little tourist spot. We found the start of the KVR trail at Otter Lake, which in the time before refrigeration was a source of ice that was transported down to Wenatchee and beyond.
As former rail grade, we enjoyed flat riding until later in the day when we joined the Trans-Canada Trail back at Hwy 5. Instead, we passed by lots of cattle grazing areas and some swamp on our way to the town of Brookmere. We were again surprised to find Brookmere is a real town because both of us thought it was deserted for some reason. There were other cyclists out and the trail is best maintained near the towns of Tulameen and Brookmere. Between towns there were some sections of washboard and little rollers.
About 6.5 km past Brookmere, we reached highway 5 and started making our way back to the car on a mixture of paved road, pipeline access roads (gravel), and the Trans-Canada Trail. There were some washouts next to the river on the TCT (see below) that are pretty loose with the hot, dry weather. As we pushed closer to the end of the day we rode directly next to the highway on overgrown double-track and the nice riding was over. From this point it was a few short hike-a-bikes on steep, loose hills and a mistaken attempt to ride through a deceivingly deep river.
I was getting grumpy when we rolled into the Britton Creek rest area to find our car just as we left it. I had been thinking about it for two days since you are not supposed to park for more than 2 hours at the rest area.
Also at the rest area we revisited the food truck that does a brisk trade slinging coffee, ice cream, samosas, and butter tarts. The couple that run the truck are really personable and live in Merrit. Another couple on bikes rolled in while we were eating our butter tarts and the food truck family pointed them over to us so we could give them some tips for the road ahead. This couple was on their way home to Rossland and gave us some tips as well on their route from Chilliwack to Hope that we can put to use on a future weekend.