BC mountain biking is often dominated by Whistler, Squamish, and Vancouver’s North Shore in the minds of riders. While these spots each have outstanding reputations for a reason, there’s a ton of great riding toward inland BC in areas like Rossland, Fernie, and Nelson.
The Baldface Lodge and Whitewater Ski Resort get a heavy amount of snow each winter, which makes Nelson a big ski destination. Although there’s no lift-served terrain for mountain biking, Nelson has a swath of natural, hand-built trails, newer machine built trails, and a lot of the freeride features that BC is known for.
When planning a trip from Colorado to British Columbia last summer, I tried my darnedest to squeeze Whistler in, but it was too far and the drive time would have cut into ride time too much. The next best drivable BC destination seemed to be Nelson.
A lot of people describe Nelson as a “hippy town,” and they’re not wrong. It’s eclectic and some could say it’s BC’s Austin, or Boulder, or whatever. But, the town is full of great restaurants, there’s camping in the area, and it sits on the Kootenay Lake.
I’ve included trails that I rode and enjoyed, some of which were recommended by local bike shops, while others are Nelson icons and/or trails that mentioned by others in the Singletracks forums. I’m sure I’ll miss a good one, because there are too many too list, but there’s a trail for everyone on the list.
The following trails are ordered by difficulty, staring with the easiest.
Upper and Lower Goosebumps
Let’s start with a mellow, green-rated descent in Nelson. In my experience riding BC, it’s easy to get over your head pretty quickly. Upper and Lower Goose Bumps is located on Nelson’s North Shore trails, just north of town. Once there, riders can either climb up Goose Bumps and turn around, or take the Kokanee Glacier Road, a moderate, but sometimes steep fire road up until the first major intersection.
There are a few steep and technical trails to choose from here, but I’d recommend warming up on Goosebumps. It’s close to a mile of descending with over 400 feet of elevation change. The trail is flowy, with small rock slabs and some roots. It’s housed under the dark, old-growth forest canopy. After the warm-up, you can decide if you’re ready for the gnarly trails on the North Shore.
Gross name? Kind of. Fun trail? For sure.
Placenta Descenta is located on Morning Mountain, which is packed with different types of trails, from rough and rooty downhill-style trails, to bermed, jump trails like Turnstyles, which also made the list. I don’t know if progressive downhill trails are thing, but that’s what I’d say Placenta is. It’s a moderately-rated trail that gets loose and dusty in a dry summer, and is chock full of rocks and short steeps. If you’re nervous about riding Powerslave, the prominent downhill freeride trail on Morning Mountain, warm up on Placenta Descenta.
The Mountain Station trails are just outside of Nelson’s neighborhood streets. After making their way through the neighborhood, mountain bikers usually take the Evening Ridge Road up through the network of trails. The fire road intersects with both mellow trails and trails with full-on road gaps over the access road. With a little less than a mile and a half of climbing, Eli Slim shoots down into the dark BC forest. It’s full of roots and soft loam and there are wooden planks and rollers on the way down too. Take the access road back up for another run and try Tiger Beef, or go for the road gap on 719.
The Svoboda trails are one of the smaller networks in Nelson, situated less than a mile northeast of the Mountain Station trails. The network features mostly moderately-rated trails, like Una Canuma or Frog Jam, but still has technical trails with rock slabs and rollers too. Take the Svoboda Road up the hill and then pick a trail to descend.
Also on Morning Mountain is the Turnstyles trail, a machine-cut trail with smooth berms and huge doubles. From the parking lot at Morning Mountain, take Bottoms Up to Upper Bottoms, both green, mellow climbing trails up to where the route intersects with Turnstyles, Placenta Descenta, and Illuminati. The intersection is marked with a wooden bench in between the trails.
Dropping in, riders will maneuver around an S-type gate, before picking up speed fast heading into the first set of tabletop jumps and berms. After that, it’s speed and air all the way down.
Where to stay in Nelson, BC
There are plenty of hotels in town to choose from, and Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has some great camping and beautiful scenery, just north of the lake.
Your turn: What is your favorite trail in the Nelson, BC area?