Mountains of variety on Squamish bike trails

For years, Squamish mountain bike trails quietly flew under the radar as riders drifted between Whistler and Vancouver’s North Shore, only pulling off the highway for fuel and snacks.

But as Squamish began to grow into its reputation as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, the trail system came into its own. 

A large part of that evolution has been due to the dedication of local trail builders. One of the many is Ted Tempany, president of local trail building company Dream Wizards. Tempany has spent the better part of the last 18 years digging and shaping dirt in the Squamish forest for the enjoyment of mountain bikers. He is also the mastermind behind Half Nelson, arguably Canada’s most ridden mountain bike trail. 

The huge sprawl of the neighbourhoods in Squamish means most of the valley is covered with trails connecting different parts of town,” says Tempany. “Most of this connectivity is due to our town’s logging heritage. Overgrown skid roads, old logging rail grades and logging mains have become heavily used by trail users. All of that coupled with our mild winters and abundance of volunteer trail builders has contributed to mountain biking growing and flourishing here.” 

A mountain biker crosses a bridge on a challenging trail in Squamish. - Chris Christie

The most popular riding area in Squamish is Diamond Head, located in the hills above Quest University. While the terrain there is quite steep, the talented hands of shovel and pulaski-wielding builders managed to craft more than 30 intermediate trails. The ride up is a smooth and gentle gradient on Stl’lhalem Sintl’, connecting onto the Legacy climbing trail if you want to reach Diamond Head’s upper flanks. 

From the top, it’s a quick dash to the top of Upper Half Nelson if you’re in the mood for flow and jumps, or the classic Angry Midget if you’re feeling like more technical single track. Another option is to take Recycle to connect with the always-fun Pseudo-Tsuga. Advanced riders looking for higher speed thrills and big features can keep riding up to descend 19th Hole or Grin and Holler.

Mountain bikers put their skills to the test on a rocky trail in Squamish. - Chris Christie

Alice Lake has a selection of novice trails which are great for families visiting for the day or staying at the nearby campground. On the opposite shore of the lake there are a series of connector trails that wind towards Garibaldi Highlands with options to link up extended loops with longer climbs and some steeper descents. Highlights include Rupert, 50 Shades of Green and Crouching Squirrel Hidden Monkey.

South of downtown Squamish, the neighbourhood of Valleycliffe has another 18 intermediate trails on offer with a smattering of black (advanced) and double-black diamond (expert) options. This area also connects to the Diamond Head area via the historic Powerhouse Plunge.

There’s already a trail for every ability and style of mountain biker in Squamish, but development of even more trails is on the horizon. 

“As the town continues to grow, we have a tremendous opportunity to create even better trail connections, but we need to remember and understand how much the tough terrain dictates our current trail layout,” says Tempany. “Careful planning and working together with First Nations, foresters, developers, BC Parks and the District of Squamish is our best hope of achieving a better trail network.”

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