Bikepacking British Columbia’s Chilcotin Range
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller
I merely whetted my appetite for the Chilcotins last year. It was a fun, albeit short trip. It was challenging in its own right, but really gave me an appreciation for Canada’s mountain ranges and how, errrr, ‘fun’ it is to drag your mountain bike through them. Regardless, in recent years the Chilcotins have become quite popular. They’re one of the few Provincial Parks to allow mountain biking and one of the few places to ride alpine terrain.
I mean: push your bike through alpine terrain. Scott from Porcelain Rocket once told me “The Chilcotins are a perfect place for a singlespeed. You’re either pushing your bike, or grabbing handfuls of brake lever. There’s very little pedaling to be had.” And he’s right. Regardless, the payoff is worth it. Once you push your bike—or more frequently the case—lift and hoist and scramble your bike to the top of a pass you’re rewarded with hordes of giant vicious biting horse flies.
You’ll snap a photo and descend into the closest valley frantically, where gleeful swarming masses of mosquitos lie in wait. Seriously. I’m a yooper and these are the worst mosquitos I’ve ever encountered. Don’t even ask me about the Willow Leaf Beetle larvae. Vile, vile creatures.
If you’re lucky, the rain will be heavy enough to keep the bugs under cover. Just don’t linger in any open exposed areas—lightning storms can roll in without warning. Then again, the only decent riding in the Chilcotins is the exposed ridgelines. Everything in the valleys is mud bog after mud bog. I’ve never been mired in so many muck pits than a certain 3-hour 3-mile section of Big Creek. It was raining so hard that we actually found a trout swimming in the middle of the trail on our first day. That was the only fish we saw the whole trip—and we brought fly rods.
If the bugs don’t eat you the mammals will. Most people tend to focus on grizzly bears—and rightly so—they’re apparently all over the park. Carry your bear spray with you when you take your morning shit. I’ve seen plenty of Griz tracks, but sadly never been lucky enough to meet one in person. Keep an eye out for wolves and moose too, their tracks are just as common.
The Chilcotins are hard to get to, hard to ride, unpleasant to camp in, the views are terrible, and the wildlife very inhospitable. You will have a miserable time, trust me. But if you insist—meet us at Iron Pass next July. There are a few more things I want to check out. Our group of seven rode 68 miles in 6 days. None were easy. The float plane drop in Lorna Lake was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. If you see a guy on a horse with a white beard ask him about being strafed by sleeping bags.