By Johnny Smoke of Bushpilot Tours.
Located at the head of Howe Sound, Squamish with its population of 15,000 is rapidly growing . Over the years its resource extraction economy saddled Squamish with a reputation as being a “tough” logging town. However, in recent years a significant shift in fortunes within the region has dramatically changed that character.
The runaway success of the nearby resort of Whistler has boosted the tourism potential of the area. You can’t help but notice that the area boasts world class rock climbing, fishing, wind surfing, all manner of alpine pursuits, and of course, mountain biking.
Squamish plays host to not just one, but two of Western Canada’s premier point-to-point XCountry classics; the Test of Metal and the Cheakamus Challenge. The Cheakamus race, originally called the “See Colours and Puke” (due to the alternative dietary supplements of the early participants), is the older of the two events. Starting just north of town, the course covers some seventy kilometers of road and trail to Whistler, and encompasses the brilliantly scenic trails of the Cheakamus Canyon. The race takes place in late September and traditionally signals the end of the competitive season in B.C.
The Test of Metal, is now roughly equal in length to the Cheakamus race, loops through all the major riding areas in town, including Alice Lake and Power Smart areas, the infamous Powerhouse Plunge, and the Smoke Bluffs. While the cross-country race samples all of these areas, a free ride bike is necessary to fully appreciate all of Squamish’s charms. The Test takes place in late June or sometimes July. Check out www.testofmetal.com for current info.
The Smoke Bluffs are characterized by exposed granite domes, like the neighboring Squamish Chief but smaller in stature. In fact, one of the bonuses of riding the bluffs is the viewing potential of buffed rock climbers hanging it all out on the many sport climbs in this area. The limited elevation of this area means frequent small to moderate climbs but the variety of rock drops and steep faces make all the effort worth it. Sorry, no roads so shuttling is not an option. Excellent off-season choice when the higher elevations are covered in snow.
The Power smart area is located up the access road for Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is truck shuttle heaven. Several challenging lines wait in this area. Expect steep eroded coastal mountain riding, with lots of bridges, jumps and stunts of varying degrees of difficulty. This area is perfect for multiple laps, so figure out a designated driver or bone up on the rock-paper-scissors technique.
After the ride, you might want to checkout one of the towns two brew pubs, or sample one of the many fine restaurants in town. Squamish winters are wet and dark, so it’s no wonder that there are so many good eateries in town to while away the time, from traditional steak houses to authentic sushi bars.
If you actually get bored of riding, there are plenty of alternatives available. You can go rock climbing, wind surfing, hiking, white-water kayaking, or swimming in one of the many small lakes in the Squamish Valley.
Squamish offers several fine hotels and motels, and there is a wealth of free camping in the area too. The upper Squamish valley in particular has many secluded and safe riverside campsites, or you can try the serviced provincial campsites at Alice Lake. Just don’t expect any vacancies during weekends in the summer.
To search for Squamish trails listed on Trailpeak, use the search engine at the bottom of the main mountain biking page, and, for town, enter 'Squamish' and see what comes up. Latest count, we had a general overview map, Powersmart, and the Smoke Bluffs trails, but there are so many many more.
How about highlighting the 19th Hole, One Man’s Garbage, and Another Man’s Gold.
Rob Coquyot has published a fantastic guidebook of the trail system and would quite likely help out.
Entertainment and Restaurants
Pubs: The Shady Tree and the Howe Sound Brew Pub
Restaurants: Sushi place
(?) and the Loggers Inn
Tantalus Bike Shop 604 898 2588
Corsa Cycles 604 892 3331(?)