There’s nothing quite like the feel of hugging tight corners on two wheels while zooming through the terrain. And if that terrain just happens to be mountain passes threading past turquoise lakes, all the better!
Castlegar is in the heart of some of the best motorcycle riding in British Columbia. There are winding mountain roads, straightaways beside rushing rivers and calm lakes, scenic viewpoints where you can take into the jagged peaks and evergreen forests, and lots of motorbike-friendly cafés, stores, campgrounds and guest houses.
Whether you’re an easy-rider, a sport bike enthusiast or a dirt biker, there is something for all motorcycle enthusiasts visiting or living in the area. Below are four of the best motorcycle rides around Castlegar. Three are scenic trips that can be done in a day or less and one is an all-out fun blast on a designated motocross track only a 20-minute drive from downtown Castlegar.
The Old Glory Loop
If you’re short on time, this is an excellent loop that can be done in about two hours or you can take it slow and enjoy the entire day. From Castlegar drive Highway 3 west towards the Paulson Summit. At the junction where Highway 3 meets Highway 3B you’ll find Nancy Greene Provincial Park, a roadside park with a natural setting and sub-alpine lake. People come here to enjoy the fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking and to walk the easy 5-kilometre loop trail around Nancy Greene lake. From there wind your way south on Hwy 3B and you’ll spy Old Glory Mountain, which rises 2356 metres (7795 feet) to the west. Eventually you’ll come to the alpine town of Rossland, which is worth hanging out an exploring for a short while. Once you’ve enjoyed a coffee and rest, continue east and down the hill to Trail. Highway 22 will lead you back to Castlegar but if you have some time to spare, continue your journey through Trail and continue on Hwy 3B over the bridge and follow along beside the mighty Columbia River. You’ll climb in elevation and eventually reach the funky community of Fruitvale. You can rest there and then continue on the last leg of your journey through evergreen forests and up to the Bombi Pass. Turn west on Hwy 3 and follow it back to Castlegar, making sure to enjoy the views of the Columbia as you come down the pass.
The Bombi Pass
This loop can take two hours but you’ll definitely want to dedicate more time. Start in Castlegar then drive south over the Bombi Pass, where the KMX Trails mentioned in Ride #4 can be found. Enjoying the mountain views and evergreen forests before reaching the quaint town of Salmo. Have a coffee and recharge before winding your way to Ymir where you should stop in and see the eclectic collection of art and musical instruments at the hotel there. Across the street you’ll find a great sitting/picnic area to lounge and watch the Salmo River flow past. Eventually you’ll continue north to Nelson where you’ll want to be sure to cruise Baker Street where the majority of the city’s stores and restaurants can be found. You can also take a break and dip your toes in the sand at Lakeside Park near Nelson’s famous Big Orange Bridge. The last stretch of the journey takes you West from Nelson over the Taghum Bridge before heading back towards Castlegar along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake past multiple generating stations and beautiful viewpoints. There are some fantastic corners along this stretch but also more traffic than the rest of the journey so be aware of your speed.
The Slocan Valley
This is definitely the longest motorcycle day tour from Castlegar but it’s also the best. There is a way to shorten it by turning around anywhere within the Slocan Valley and returning the way you came, thereby making the journey an out-and-back. But we recommend the full loop so as to enjoy all the scenery, communities and amenities the region around Castlegar offers. Start by driving north on Hwy 3A out of Castlegar and follow the West Arm of the Kootenay Lake where you’ll spy multiple generating stations and scenic pull-outs. When you reach the Slocan Junction (the only set of traffic lights along that stretch of highway) turn left onto Hwy 6. You’ll follow the Slocan River and enjoy views of Valhalla Provincial Park to the West. There are many cafés along the way as well as picnic spots so take as many breaks as you’d like. The highway gets windy north of the community of Slocan and the views get even more dramatic as the mountains seem to descend directly into Slocan Lake. The quaint communities of Silverton and New Denver are good places to rest before enjoying one of the best highways to motorcycle on in BC. From New Denver turn onto Hwy 31A which takes you the 45km to the cute village of Kaslo. The pavement here is excellent, the road is windy and there’s lots of fun to be had. Enjoy the sites and stores of Kaslo before heading back south on another windy road to the world-famous Ainsworth Hot Springs. Some may be tempted to go in for a soak but there’s still a good two-hour journey to go. Continue south to the City of Nelson, cross over the Big Orange Bridge, take a cruise down the city’s main strip called Baker Street and then enjoy the final stretch of highway, which parallels the West Arm of Kootenay Lake back to Castlegar.
The WKRDAS Trails
If off-road is more your thing, there are innumerable opportunities to go dirt-biking around Castlegar. Plenty of logging roads will take you high into the alpine or to neighbouring valleys such as the Slocan. (It’s important to beware of active hauling, however.) If you’re looking for something better maintained, however, consider visiting the trails of the West Kootenay Recreational Dirt Bike and ATV Society (WKRDAS). Founded in 2004, WKRDAS operates the trails at Rover Creek, between Castlegar and Nelson, and the KMX Motocross Track and Trail system near the Bombi summit just south-east of Castlegar. There you’ll find a full MX track, a kids MX track and a 23-kilometre hare scramble loop. To get to the KMX track, follow Hwy 3 east up the bombi pass and about 5 km after the summit (where the power lines cross over) look for a runaway lane on your left. You want the first left after the runaway lane (look for the KMC sign). Once you make a left turn, follow the Beavervale FSR for about 1.5 km then turn right and follow the road through the gate. Membership rates apply to use the KMX track but the extensive singletrack system at Rover Creek is currently free. To access those trails, set your odometer to zero at the north end of the Brilliant Bridge just outside Castlegar. Follow Hwy 3A for 18.9 km and look for Blewett road on your right. Follow Blewett Road for 3.5 km and look for a dirt road on your right just after crossing the Kootenay Canal bridge. Park in the wide area at the base. For trails maps and more details about these areas, visit wkrdas.com.