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Bikepacking, Bike Camping: Skip the Parking, Double the Fun

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Canadians like to camp, it’s no secret. From cottages to camping-oriented comedy to cottages to canoes, venturing into the great outdoors is a Canadian tradition. However, our love for camping as a nation can lead to problems – in the summer, many popular camping sites fill up, reserved and unreservable for the majority of the summer months. The only alternative is often to drive endlessly further afield, or to give up and go to city parks and beaches for the day.

There is, however, an alternative – bike camping. Unlike car camping, bike camping is possible at numerous campsites throughout BC as most walk-in campsites are also bikeable and also usually less full than reservable campsites with parking spots. Also, unlike car camping, the journey is as much an enjoyable part of the experience as the destination – bike trips allow a slower pace, and full engagement with the sights, sounds, and smells of the beautiful outdoors.

There are many interesting, worthwhile, and accessible bikepacking and bike-camping sites and routes near Vancouver, a few of which will be mentioned here to help you dip your toes into bikepacking, or to inspire seasoned veterans this upcoming summer.

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island is a beautiful Gulf Island a short ferry ride from Tsawwassen, which is easily accessible by bus and/or Skytrain. As a cyclist, the ferry ride is affordable, and you don’t have to wait in line with the other cars! You can ride through the picturesque landscape of rolling hills and Douglas firs, enjoy Saltspring’s bustling downtown near Fulford Harbour, dip into the many cultural experiences on offer, and enjoy the many hiking trails on the island. Saltspring Island has many beautiful B&Bs, if you prefer more of a bike glamping experience – however, some of the best summer accommodation on the island can be found at Ruckle Provincial Park, a beautiful waterfront park at the south end of Saltspring, 23 km from the Tsawwassen-Saltspring ferry ramp.

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Summer views from Ruckle Park

This park features many walk-in campsites and only a smattering of vehicle campsites, making it a good bet for summer availability. If you’d rather not bike all the way across Saltspring Island to get there, BC Transit even runs a bus service which will get you much of the way there, or you can combine a stay at Ruckle Park with a longer trip to Vancouver Island and ride from the closer Victoria-Saltspring ferry terminal.

Sooke, Leechtown, and the Galloping Goose Trail

The Galloping Goose and Lochside trails in and around Victoria, on Vancouver Island, are terrific bits of cycling infrastructure. The Galloping Goose trail itself is particularly fine – built on an old rail right-of-way, it is flat enough for trains, smooth, and is even paved for a good amount of its interurban length. If you cycle its full 55km length, there are quite a few sights to see.

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For much of its length, the Galloping Goose is a beautiful multi-use trail

From downtown Victoria, easily accessibly by bus from the Tsawwassen-Victoria ferry, it’s a short 15km ride to Langford, where there are many options to stop for a quick bite or a drink. After Langford, the trail riding starts in earnest – winding through forests, past beautiful ocean views, all the way to sleepy Sooke. if you don’t feel like riding the full length of the trail, there are many beautiful parks at a closer distance – Witty’s Lagoon and Matheson Lake are both particularly beautiful places to have a picnic or spend the day.

Once you are in Sooke, you can spend the day shopping, exploring the beach, or getting lunch, before heading back to Victoria by bike or by double-decker bus. For a longer trip, the Galloping Goose trail continues to the Sooke Potholes Park, a beautiful waterside park next to the Sooke River, which features innumerable places to swim.

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Who wouldn’t fancy a swim at the Sooke Potholes?

Sooke Potholes Park has an excellent campground, with walk-in, non-reservable campsites which are perfect for bike campers. From here, you can continue further along the Galloping Goose trail to its terminus, where you’ll find Leechtown, an abandoned gold-mining town.

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Ghostly thrills from the past in Leechtown

Kettle Valley Rail Trail

For a trip a bit farther afield, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is part of a 650 km series of rail trails in BC’s interior. Much like the Galloping Goose, their heritage as railways make them easy rides, going through beautiful countryside away from busy roads and excessive hills. Go in the summer for some beautiful day trips or multi-day rides with easy access to delicious refreshments such as wine and summer fruits! Since these trails are so extensive and developed, there are also many tour operators who can guide you through a curated, well thought-out cycling experience.

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The Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Galiano Island

Galiano Island is another gulf island easily accessible from Vancouver, perfect for an overnight trip or longer. There are numerous camping options on Galiano – Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park is close to the ferry, and features reserveable and non-reserveable campsites, while Dionisio Point Provincial Park, at the extreme north end of the island, is walk-in only, and only accessible by boat or trail – perfect for a bike camping trip.

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Beach riding at Montague Harbour

And of course, how could any discussion of a bike mechanic’s trip be complete without talking about his bike and gear? Kyle rides a beautiful green cyclocross/touring bike, kitted out for overnight camping with Ortlieb Front Roller panniers secured with ROK straps, various frame bags, a dynamo lighting system, and Panaracer Gravel King tires for good performance on and off-road

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Kyle’s bike, set up for overnight bikepacking

If you’re interested in learning more, come down to Denman Bikes today! We’re always happy to share our bikepacking experience, or to help you outfit your bike to be your dream bikepacking machine!