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Spring Awakening: Arrow Slocan’s Premier Trails and Outdoor Havens

By Jayme Moye

It’s a crisp morning in early April and I’m pedaling my mountain bike on a wide, dirt path through the lush cedar-hemlock forest that blankets the base of Mount Abriel. The aptly-named Lake Trail traces the contour of Upper Arrow Lake and, in between stands of lichen-draped conifers, offers picture-perfect views of the azure blue water set against the rugged Monashee Mountains.

I note that the peaks are still snow covered. Spring comes slowly in the high country. But down here on the valley bottom, the trails are clear and the air is full of birdsong. At the lower elevations, our trails start to dry out around the time of the spring equinox. By early April, there are ample places to mountain bike, trail run, and hike—for those in the know. Follow this essential guide to the best springtime trails in the Arrow Slocan region.

For Mountain Bikers and Trail Runners

Lake Trail at the Mount Abriel Recreation Site is the local go-to for the first ride of the season. It’s the lowest elevation mountain biking trail in the region, and has a green (easy) rating, making it an ideal choice for coaxing those cycling muscles out of hibernation. Add distance and/or challenge by linking to the handful of other green and blue trails that weave through Mount Abriel’s base, between the lake and the highway. This network of low-elevation trails also welcomes trail runners, families, and dog walkers. As temperatures continue to rise and fitness returns, mountain bikers can work their way up the mountain, where more than 50 additional kilometers of trails await.

Shortly after the lower trails of Mount Abriel thaw out, so does the Box Lake Trail Network, bringing another 30 km of mostly blue and black mountain-biking trails into the mix. On Slocan Lake, the bottom section of the Rosebery Trail Network is another great option for mountain bikers and trail runners in the later spring.

For Adaptive Mountain Bikers

Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association is based in the Arrow Slocan region, out of Nakusp, offering adaptive mountain bike rentals, events, and adaptive trail building consulting across British Columbia and beyond. The association has designated a 3.9-km linkup of trails in the lower section of the Mount Abriel Recreation Site as an “Entry Level Adaptive Route.”  Alex Marshall, Trails and Site Manager for Nakusp Bike Society, the organization which builds and maintains the trails, tells me another 5 km are in the works this season.

Mt. Abriel Mountain Biking Trails. Kootenay Rockies Tourism/Mitch Winton

Similarly, the 1.8-km Spine Trail, located in the Rosebery Trail Network, was created by the North Slocan Trails Society specifically with adaptive mountain bikers in mind. The society also made improvements to the Lower Galena Trail, a 5.3 km rail trail connecting Rosebery and New Denver along Slocan Lake, so that it’s accessible for adaptive mountain bikes, bike trailers, wheelchairs, and strollers.

Galena Trail Cable Car. Ashley Voykin

For Hikers and Dog Walkers

The earliest walking trails to melt out in the spring are the lake and riverside rail trails, most notably, the Slocan Valley Rail Trail and the NS (Nakusp and Slocan) Rail Trail. The former extends 52 kilometres south from Slocan Lake, following the scenic Slocan River toward the Kootenay River. The latter starts in Nakusp, traveling 46 kilometres along the valley bottom to Rosebery, where it connects to the Lower Galena Trail along Slocan Lake. 

Hikers and dog walkers are also welcome on all of the mountain biking trails at Mount Abriel, Rosebery, and Box Lake.

Slocan Valley Rail Trail

Where to Stay That’s Closest to the Trails

Located 8 kilometres north of Nakusp, on the shores of sparkling Upper Arrow Lake, the Mount Abriel Recreation Site is the Arrow Slocan region’s newest camping area. There are 48 sites for tents and RVs (no hookups), with access to both the mountain biking trails and the beach. The Nakusp Bike Society maintains the site, along with the trails, starting April 1.

Five kilometers north of New Denver, Rosebery Provincial Park offers 33 vehicle-accessible sites set in a forest on the banks of Wilson Creek, with easy access to the adjacent mountain biking trails. The campsite operates mid-May through Mid-September.

About 12 kilometers southeast of Nakusp, on the other side of Box Lake from the mountain biking trails, the Box Lake Recreation Site has 31 campsites that accommodate a variety of setups ranging from hammocks and tents to trailers and 32-foot RVs. The lake is a popular fishing destination, stocked with trout and kokanee salmon. Camping opens May 1.

Wilson Creek Falls near Rosebery, BC

Where to Get the Goods

Shon’s Bike and Ski in Nakusp is the place to go for all things cycling. Owner Shon Neufeld is well known in the community for his work with the Nakusp Bike Society. And for serving fantastic coffee in his bike shop. Many local rides begin with a cuppa at Shon’s.

Valhalla Pure Outfitters is a British Columbia institution, with more than a dozen stores across the Coast, Columbia, and Rocky mountains. The very first store opened in the Arrow Slocan region, in New Denver, on Canada Day 1990. There’s still a store there today, and while it’s more geared toward water sports on Slocan Lake, it carries most of the outdoor essentials. It opens for the season in early May.

Know Before You Go

Electric mountain bikes, or e-MTBs, are welcome on all trails in the Arrow Slocan region, so long as they are pedal-assist, meaning the motor only engages when you pedal—providing a power boost, but not a free ride.

Leashing your dog keeps you, them, and other wildlife safe. Letting your dog off leash outside designated areas can damage trails and natural resources, and harm sensitive wildlife. It may also endanger or upset other park visitors.

West Kootenay’s Visitor Code of Conduct

  • Keep wildlife and yourself safe
  • Think before you light a fire
  • Prepare for all adventures
  • Respect trail etiquette
  • Respect everything local
  • Drive carefully
  • Camp responsibly
  • Leave No Trace