Unless you’ve been living under a rock or strictly road biking for the past decade, you’ll know that Hornby Island is among the best places to ride on the West Coast (maybe all of B.C.). Here are some pointers for an epic trip.
-This trip we stayed at the Fords Cove Cabins. To get there you take the only paved road all the way around the island to the end. I'd highly recommend these. The cabins are economical, have great ocean views, and are close to the trailhead. If you’re traveling by bike you can take the shortcut trail directly from the ferries, which would get you there in around the same time as by car. I’d recommend bringing a jug of Vic water as the water is pretty sulfurous.
See Map. If you’re staying at the Ford’s cove cabins, you’ll have a short but amazingly scenic climb out of fords cove and short descent to Strachen Rd and you’re basically at the trailhead. 15min easy spin. I wouldn’t recommend accessing the trails from the Northern entrance (by the Rainforest loop trails) as you’ll have about a thousand stairs to climb.
You need to spend at least two days here to cover all the trails. Day 1 do the XC course. The trail head will be on your left off Strachen Rd (directly opposite Jessie’s trail). Climb for a bit and you’ll get to a clearing. Turn left, work your way over to the logging road, turn right and start climbing. Climb, climb some more, and then keep climbing. This isn’t technical climbing, but it is boring as hell. However, you are rewarded by a pretty epic view at the top. Stop here, take some pictures. If you have a severe fear of heights (Karen), then stay well away from the cliff edge. If you’re riding with someone with a severe fear of heights, then there’s lot’s of fun to be had here venturing close to the cliff to make them sick. Or threaten to divorce you. Anyway, once you're finished with pics, etc. the fun begins. Take the cliff trail. You’ll go past Devil’s Kitchen on your right. Ignore this trail for now, you’ll be back. There are a couple of hike-a-bike sections here which Tom could probably ride but which the weight of my calves tend to keep me from cleaning. Walk up these and then get back on your bike. This will be the only time you’ll be off your bike on Hornby. After the second hike-a-bike the trail splits a bit which isn’t marked on the map (there are very few trails which aren’t clearly signed on the island). Take the trail to the left which leads you back to the cliff. You’ll end up on slalom, take this down to the clearing, hang a right and cross the clearing onto Toad’s ride. Bomb Toad’s ride but don’t miss the left turn onto Furry Freak. NOTE: you will come to a 4 way intersection of single track while bombing Toad’s ride. There will be signs saying “The Way” but this is actually “Purgatory”. I think they renamed this trail so it’s a bit inconsistent with the map. Proceed straight through this intersection. Watch for Furry Freak on your left. If you reach an intersection with tadpole and 4 dead aliens you’ve gone too far. Furry freak will pop you out at a logging road (Cold Deck). Take a left and climb back up to the clearing where you started toad’s ride. Stay right and the logging road will turn into single track (Hot Rims). Bomb down hot rims but watch for a trail to your right that climbs back up called “Northwind”. Take this. Take a left when the single track turns into logging road (this is still Northwind). You’ll begin descending and start to think “why the eff am I wasting my time going down this doubletrack?” Patience my son. Keep your eye out for “slick rock” on your left. Honestly, I don’t know how this trail got its name cause there is only one tiny little rock on the whole trail. Anyway...take slick rock all the way down to the intersection. You then want to take a hard left (almost doubling back) onto an unmarked trail. This unmarked trail can’t be missed as it is super fun. This will pop you out onto coltsfoot. Take a left, cruise down this to the intersection with "Beulah" on your right, take this and you’ll end up at the slade road parking lot. From here you’ve got options. If it’s going home time, take Jessie’s trail which will disorient you and then pop you out on Strachen Rd (5min descent to cabins). If it’s still on like donkey-kong, and if this is your first day riding, then I’d recommend climbing back up Northwind (logging rd), then up Cold deck (more logging rd), and repeat everything from Toad’s ride onwards.
Day 2. So day 2 arrives, and you’re thinking “do I really want to climb all the way back up that friggen hill just to see the view?” Clearly, the answer is “no”. Other acceptable answers include “I would, but I’ve got a date with your mom tonight and need to conserve my energy”, and “these calves are too big to ride up that hill”. Well, fortunately for you and you’re buddy’s mom you actually don’t have to. Take Strachen Rd again and start climbing the Summit trail again. Just as your ADD sets in from climbing this god-foresaken logging road, you’ll see a trail on your right called “inner Ridge”. Take this trail. After cruising along a nice flowy trail on the edge of a cliff into Strachen Valley, you’ll end up at a T-junction. If you go right you end up descending 4-dead aliens. Save this for later. Go left and climb a bit more to the messy intersection of Devil’s kitchen, 4-dead aliens and purgatory (signed as “The Way”). I don’t know what happened here, but there are a pile of branches and crap obscuring the trail signs. Anyway, you want to take “The Way” (Purgatory) and here’s my advice: Do not stop at any intersections until you’re at a T-junction. Just go straight. The trail will eventually turn into “Bitchn’ Camero” (keep going down this trail) after you pass over a fire road (Northwind) and then pop you out at Slick Rock. This is honestly my favorite trail on the island. Take a right, then a left onto Milo’s Meadow. Cruise all the way down here to Walton, take a right on Walton. You will now be at the bottom. But the fun isn’t over, oh no. Now you will climb all the way back up to the intersection of 4 dead aliens, purgatory (The way) and Devil’s kitchen. Best way to get there is probably Northwind to Cold Deck to slalom to Far side to the way (purgatory). Now, if you don’t do this trail you will regret it and I will rub it in your face about how much fun you missed from not doing it the next time I see you. Here it is: Take 4 dead aliens and stay right on test tube and then again on Chris and Brad’s. When you get to the bottom, you can think “thank you Jon for telling me to do that trail”, and then you can go do it again. And again. And again. Then you can ride home. At which point you will only force yourself to ride back up the mountain and then back down Chris and Brad’s.
Karen’s favorite trail: Chris & Brad’s
Jon’s favorite trail: Purgatory (AKA “The way”). From top to bottom including Bitchn’ Camero.
-Cabins are way cheaper in the shoulder season.
-Trails aren’t as accessible from the North end of the island, so it’s best to stay somewhere towards the south unless you want to drive to the trail head.
-Bring water from Vic.
-“Downtown” Hornby is closed on Sundays during the shoulder season.
-The pizza place on your right as you’re approaching the ferries is worth the stop.
Link to the XC and super D courses can be found here (red is XC, blue is super D):
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