Dirt biking is a popular past-time in Castlegar, not only because of the plethora of backcountry logging roads around but also because there are excellent maintained areas including the KMX Motocross Track and Trail system near the Bombi summit just south-east of Castlegar and the extensive single-track system at Rover Creek near the Kootenay Canal bridge. We detail these areas in our article “The Best Motorcycle Rides Around Castlegar.”

However, not everyone wants to zip around on only two wheels and for those folk there are an assortment of ATVs with which to explore the wilderness areas around Castlegar, whether it’s for sightseeing, hunting, backcountry camping, or fishing in remote lakes. They include:

  • Utility ATVs: These have a large engine, short travel suspension, and they typically have attachments for hunting and camping gear.
  • Sport Quads: Usually ranging in size from 250cc to 700cc, these vehicles are lightweight with significant suspension. They don’t have the capacity to tow things like their utility counterparts, but wow are they fun.
  • Side By Sides: As the name suggests, these vehicles allow the driver and passenger to sit beside each other. Some have additional seating for four. All have powerful engines and good suspension.
  • Youth ATVs: Basically these are smaller types of ATVs that are much lighter and range in size from 50cc to 110cc. Usually they have an automatic drive and small gas tanks.

There are so many excellent ATV riding areas around Castlegar we decided to reach out to two experts for help determining which ones are the best. Brian Magaton and Robert Dunlap are Castlegar locals and passionate ATV riders who volunteer and help maintain the local trails. They both agree that we are lucky to have so many old mining trails around and there are still ones that have yet to be discovered. Here are their favourite picks for trails that offer fun riding and amazing views for the entire family.

Before you embark, though, remember to pack weather-appropriate clothing and safety gear. Always be kind and courteous to other users and remember to carry out whatever you bring in to help keep everyone’s experience of riding in Castlegar a positive one.

#1. The Columbia and Western Rail Trail

It’s no secret the Columbia and Western Rail Trail is a local gem but did you know you can take motorized vehicles on it? The decommissioned railway is 162 kilometres in length and winds it’s way beside lakes, over creeks, and past communities from Castlegar to Midway. The views are spectacular and it is comprised of six trestles and five tunnels, the longest of which is called Bull Dog and it’s almost one full kilometre in length. Be sure your headlights are working!

This trail is shared with bicyclists, hikers, and other motorized vehicles who use it to access about 50 different cabins. Highlights include two bread ovens built in an igloo style by railway workers during the line’s construction – you’ll find one just past the second trestle. You’ll also find access to various swimming holes and beaches, picnic areas, and spring water at the beginning of the longest tunnel.

The southern terminus of the C&W Trail is accessed via Arrow Lakes Drive, just past the Hugh Keenleyside Dam. The parking lot is wide enough to turn big trailers but be mindful that the hardest part of the trail is the up-and-over access right at the entrance by the gate. Don’t worry, it is side-by-side accessible.

#2. Arrow Lakes – Sunshine – Gladstone

This is a very scenic, intermediate trail that winds it’s way for about 100 kilometres north along the east shore of Arrow Lakes past Sunshine and Gladstone. This is an excellent ride for larger groups but be sure to start at Syringa Provincial Park where there is a larger parking area. If you’re not on a large group ride, it’s recommended you start about 11 kilometres up the Deer Park Road where there is a large pullout to park. That will also bypass the logging trucks that travel this road.

This trail offers photogenic views of the surrounding mountains as well as to Arrow Lakes for swimming or fishing. Depending on the season, you may even be able to do some mushroom picking. If you are in a side-by-side, be cautious of some of the steep embankments along the route and check your speed.

It’s also good to know there is a creek that must be crossed when accessing this trail and in the Spring months the freshet run-off will swell its waters.

#3. Castlegar Golf Course – Glade lookout – Bombi Pass

If you’re looking for a fun but shorter day, there is an extensive web of intermediate trails that start at the golf course on McPhee Rd in Ootishenia. Park at the large field there and follow the forest service road for about a half kilometre where you’ll see the trail access. Alternatively you can start at the top of the Bombi Summit where the power lines cross the highway. There is a large dirt parking lot here where people have been known to overnight. Both trail heads access the same 50-kilometre-long network.

This trail will take you to some very beautiful viewpoints include lookouts over the Glade Ferry, the Valhalla Mountain Range and the Kokanee glaciers. This excurision is family-friendly and accessible via side-by side, although there are a number of up and downs near the golf course and some tight spots. Huckleberries and mushrooms are commonplace along these trails, depending on the season, and be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife.  

More information can be accessed via the West Kootenay Recreational Dirtbike and ATV Society as well as via ATVBC.ca.