Mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore is like riding in a dream. Epic trails wind through emerald forests with the shimmering Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. The rainforest, as such, sees more than its share of precipitation and cedar features endemic to the region are found on every trail – some more daunting than others. A foggy eeriness shrouds the forest when the clouds set in. Notched hulks of ancient stumps – many burned hollow by past wildfires or sprouting new growth – appear as ghosts in the mist and stand as testament to their stolen grandeur. However, on most summer days, the sun dapples through the canopy and the loamy trails are at their finest.
North Vancouver’s quality and variety of mountain bike trails is unparalleled. Although there are several very technical expert trails on Mount Fromme and Mount Seymour, we will stay off them and keep to the advanced trails which offer the most fun with the least exposure to injury. For the intents and purposes of this article, a “mountain bike trail” is a sequence of several connecting trails that form an excellent “top-to-bottom” experience. Baden Powell is the common trail cutting across both mountains and intersects nearly every other trail.
Old growth stump burned hollow
Across the Capilano River is West Vancouver and Cypress Mountain – home to the area’s oldest single-track trails. Because they lie on the northern side of the Burrard Inlet across from downtown Vancouver, North Vancouver (Seymour and Fromme) and West Vancouver (Cypress) are collectively known as “The North Shore”. As a result of the significant rainfall, the area is often saturated and trails can quickly become eroded and destroyed.
To mitigate this, trail builders take advantage of the abundant wood supply and build boardwalks, bridges and other features above the soaked ground. The ubiquitous cedar, once stripped of its bark, resists rot and lasts decades. As a result of this tradition, wooden obstacles on trails around the world are often described as “North Shore”.
Parking around Mount Fromme can be as challenging as some of its trails, especially in the afternoon. If you are going for a ride in the morning, when most people are working, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot in the main parking lot at the end of Mountain Highway. Anytime after 2pm, you might be better off at or near the Dempsey Braemar parking lot where street parking is also permitted.
From the Mountain Highway Parking Lot:
Take Roadside Attraction until the first switchback for some singletrack before your climb up Mountain Highway to the seventh switchback. The total vertical descent of the following trails is approximately 560m with nearly thirty minutes of downhill mountain biking.
Get ready, because Seven Secret starts right away and doesn’t stop the whole way down its steep, tight armored corners. About halfway down is a section of skinnies, ladders, ramps and all things North Shore. Commit to the consequential Log Ride and dangle off the precipice of the Gangler, if you dare. Even the ride-arounds require concentration and technical ability. Watch for ramps over fallen trees and other features that tempt along the bottom of the trail. At the end of Seventh Secret, the boardwalk splits. To the right is Mountain Highway between the fifth and sixth switchbacks and the top of Expresso – more on that later. Stay to the left onto Leppard.
A good starter or warm-up trail for those new to the North Shore, Leppard is almost as much up as it is down. It can be accessed from the bottom of Seventh Secret or Mountain Highway opposite Expresso. Although rated a blue trail, the corners, bridges, skinnies and boardwalks keep things focused and interesting, and there is nice flow throughout. Make sure your front tire finds the armoring on the lee of the last rollover before Leppard ends at the double-track access off Mountain Highway for Crinkum Crankum.
Crinkum Crankum is a toned-down Seventh Secret. The corners aren’t as tight or steep and there is good flow down the entire trail – most of which follows side-hill contours. The trail forks about two minutes in – stay high to the left for some North Shore fun. Boardwalks, ramps, ladders and a log ride beckon for an exciting finish. Crinkum Crankum and Kirkford are great for those advancing to black trails.
Kirkford starts where Crinkum Crankum ends – there is also access from Mountain Highway. The first couple of minutes is a mix of flow with a short punch up and a fun wooden rollover. The flow continues with a couple of dozen corners snaking through the underbrush after which several wooden ramps of varying states of repair can be found. It ends much like it begins with corners and flow. Kirkford empties into Cedar Trail, which connects to the bottom of Mountain Highway just before the first switchback. A decent ride can end here, but climb back up for a few minutes to access some bonus downhill fun.
The first of three short trails at the bottom of Mount Fromme, Floppy Bunny connects to Natural High and Imonator. The top entrance to Floppy Bunny is more challenging than the lower one, and hence more exciting. After that, all manner of wood features and optional jumps are to be found along the way including a fun roller-coaster. At the end of the trail, cross Mountain Highway and connect to Roadside Attraction and the highest corner of the parking lot.
Starting at the highest corner of the parking lot, Natural High is a generally flat trail with as much wood and rock as there is dirt. Keep an eye open for two optional features along the right side to add a bit more spice. Follow Griffen to the boardwalk and drop into Imonator.
The wood ramps up (and down) on Imonator with the skinniest boardwalks on the North Shore. Several options are available for the more or less faint of heart, including a skinny-coaster and other width-challenged features built through the trees. At the end of Imonator, follow Baden Powell back towards the parking lot or to McNair Drive and back up Mountain Highway.
From Dempsey / Braemar:
Parking at Braemar allows for exploration of Mount Fromme’s main trail network without having to navigate the dreaded Baden Powell – with armored corners as steep and intimidating as anywhere else on the North Shore – for over a kilometer back to the main Mountain Highway parking lot. There is one small parking lot at the end of Dempsey Road at the Dempsey trailhead, and another along Braemar Road near the end of Princess Avenue at the Braemar trailhead. There is also some street parking along Braemar between Princess Avenue and Regent Avenue.
Halfway between Princess and Regent is the tennis court access and For The Kids climbing trail. From here, the way up is along For The Kids, Dempsey, Baden Powell, Dreamweaver, Executioner Connector, Ramble On and, finally, D’yer M’aker completes the stairway to heaven. The climb ends on Mountain Highway just before the sixth switchback. From here, either ride up to Seventh Secret or down to Expresso.
Described above, but at the end, take the right fork of the boardwalk to Mountain Highway and the top of Expresso. For those new to black trails or short on time, Seventh Secret can be tackled later.
A blue trail with black stripes, Expresso has everything you would expect from one of the most popular trails on the North Shore. If you want flow, you got flow; if you want berms, you got berms; if you want wood, you got wood; if you want rock, you got rock; if you want jumps, you got jumps. If there is one trail you should ride in North Vancouver, it’s Expresso. The most difficult features are found in the first few minutes. A skinny plank leads to a short boardwalk and Big Smooth – a 10 foot 45° rock slab. Just past Big Smooth on the right is a ramp up to a rock roll with another ramp down the backside. The rest of the trail is high-speed dirt.
Take a left onto Baden Powell and a quick right onto Lower Expresso. Things get toned down a bit, which is just as well after the last 5-10 minutes. The fun keeps coming with more berms, wood and fast dirt. Lower Expresso ends at Dempsey trail and continues into Pennzoil.
Pennzoil is a short trail that crosses the bottom of the uptrack and returns us to Braemar Road where we started. From the top of Seventh Secret to bottom of Pennzoil is nearly 500m of vertical descent with only a 2m climb for 20-25 minutes of classic North Shore downhill.
Another option after Lower Expresso, or a climb back up Dempsey from the bottom of Pennzoil, is a quick ride along St. Mary’s to the top of Lower Digger. If you liked Expresso, you’ll love Lower Digger. The namesake of an iconic North Shore trail builder is another classic. With all the berms, jumps and wood you could ever want, if there is one trail on which you should end a visit to Mount Fromme, it’s Lower Digger.
Shuttling up the ski hill road is popular on Mount Seymour, if you’re into that kind of thing. Otherwise, there is a parking lot at the bottom of the trail network for about thirty cars and street parking along the adjacent Ann Macdonald Way. The straightest route up is to hump up Old Buck to Bridal Path, Powerline Access Trail, or the ski hill road.
Alternately, get some speed down to Taylor Creek Place and up Perimeter Trail to Bridal Path. From there, it is a long and often technical climb up Cardiac Bypass, Academy Climb, Rapid Transit, RT Connector, C-Buster/Pussyfoot, Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin to reach the Baden Powell section of Mount Seymour. The long climb continues on Mushroom Trail with a hike-a-bike scramble up the top of Incline to the ski hill road and the beginning of Corkscrew.
A fast and smooth start to a long top-to bottom with plenty of berms, jumps, wood and rock. Don’t miss half the fun by starting halfway down to avoid walking up Incline. Farther down, on the left, confident riders can challenge their confidence on Salvation. Corkscrew empties back onto Incline. From there, another left is Power Line, leading to the Powerline Access Trail and Pingu.
Beginning after Salvation, Pingu is a short and sweet downhill trail with as much flow as jank. Moderately technical, it is mostly dirt with a few jumps along the side.
Pangor is a classic and has everything you could want in a North Shore trail. Drops, rocks and rolls with lots of wood, and every skinny has an even skinnier skinny next to it. The most advanced features are optional with obvious ride-arounds. Halfway down, after a log-ride is an uphill punch, and the rest of the trail has more of the same gnar, rock and wood. Pangor turns into Slash which takes you back down to Bridle Path.
Follow Bridle Path back towards the parking lot to Empress Bypass. This fun and fast flow of jumps, table-tops and berms is an exciting finish to any day on Mount Seymour. It sees a lot of traffic and can get rutted – maintenance is performed a few times throughout the year by dedicated volunteers from the North Shore Mountain Bike Association.
The middle of Mount Seymour, through which its technical climb threads, is a maze of all things North Shore. A mix of intermediate and advanced trails criss-cross to form several options and laps to suit any style and ability. All these trails empty onto Bridle Path which leads back to Empress Bypass and the parking lot.
Instead of continuing up Mushroom Trail, head down the Powerline Access Trail and look for a trailhead in the trees on the left across from the transmission tower. This is Upper Severed which accesses the mid-mountain trails. Hang a left at the bottom of Upper Severed where in crosses Baden Powell to Dickie – a short trail bypassing the more technical entrance of Severed D, ending with an optional rock roll.
After Dickie joins back to Severed D, keep an eye open on the right for the beginning of C-Buster. The trail starts with good flow and fun wood features including a canoe ride, and is skirted by optional elevated skinnies. A janky section of roots and rocks leads to the top of Asian Adonis. C-Buster forks to the right just before the Asian Adonis trail sign, partially hidden behind a burned out cedar hulk. The bottom of C-Buster (and Lower C-Buster) is technical and raw old-school gnar.
On the other hand, Asian Adonis is all flow and speed. Corners and jumps keep things fun and interesting, making up for the lack of wooden features. Hang a left back onto C-Buster, rather than crossing it to continue on Asian Adonis and Adonis Connector, and pick your way down to Penny Lane for another lap.
For a steeper and more challenging entrance, instead of taking Dickie, go straight over Baden Powell into Severed D. A North Shore favorite with many personalities. After the tricky entrance, pass C-Buster and continue over the plank. The first section is flat to the start of John Deer, but then the trail gets more technical – steep and janky downhill with lots of drops and jumps. Shortly after Severed D crosses Good Sir Martin, it turns into a smooth a flowing series of berms and jumps.
John Deer is the perfect introduction to Mount Seymour and the North Shore with lots of speed and jumps. After a short punch up about halfway down, there are a couple of wooden features – the Buck Huck ramp followed by the Buck Shot gap jump. For a quick lap, start where it crosses Good Sir Martin. For the entire trail, start on Severed D (Dickie entrance for intermediate riders) and ride the top flat part to the start of John Deer. The optional and expert Deer John forks to the right almost immediately – a steep rock face ending with a boardwalk gap jump. Upper John Deer rides around to the left and continues to the main part of the trail.
North Vancouver’s classic trail systems on Mount Fromme and Mount Seymour are mandatory for any mountain biker visiting or living in British Columbia. At least a solid week of riding would be required to fully experience what the North Shore has to offer, and it is a great place for those looking to hone their skills and progress to their next level.
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