Squamish is hands-down one of my favorite places I’ve ever ridden. Not only are the views that surround this little British Columbia fjord town absolutely stunning, but the riding is irrevocably world-class. I spent almost two weeks here exploring with my dad and we had a blast! Squamish mountain biking is perhaps most well-known for its steep rock rollers (and there are a lot of them), but there are also amazing flow trails, super well-built climbs, technical old-school singletrack through beautiful forests, and mellow dirt tracks for those just starting out (although I would definitely not categorize Squamish as a beginner-friendly mountain bike destination).
Squamish is also just a short drive away from one of the best mountain bike parks in the world – Whistler. So if you’re looking for an epic road trip to western British Columbia, it’s time to put Squamish on your calendar!
Below is everything you need to know about Squamish mountain biking including the best trails, how to link them up, and more
Important Things to Know Before mountain biking in Squamish
The blues are really blacks and blacks are really double blacks
British Columbia – particularly the North Shore of Vancouver and Whistler Bike Park – is known for being very lenient in its trail ratings. Guaranteed that the blue trails in Squamish are going to be harder than your hometown blues and so on. Know your skill levels and don’t be afraid to walk scary features.
Rock slabs are fun, but… they can be slippery
It rains a lot in Squamish during the fall, winter, and spring months, so if you’re visiting any time other than mid-summer keep in mind that wet rocks are not as grippy as dry rocks. There is a lot of rock slab riding in Squamish!
Best Time To Ride in Squamish
Squamish can technically be ridden all year round because it rarely snows due to its temperate coastal climate however, it rains A LOT during the fall, winter, and spring months. Squamish gets an average rainfall of 113 inches per year and most of that occurs between October and April. The best time to enjoy Squamish mountain biking, then, is in the summer from June to September. I visited in late June and we had almost perfect weather!
If you’re looking for events, in the summer SORCA (Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association) puts on weekly rides and events and the legendary BC Bike Race also has its final stage in Squamish in late September/early October.
Squamish Mountain Bike Trails & Routes
There is a ton of riding to be had in Squamish and truthfully, it’s all good! You really can’t go wrong. Below are a few of my favorite trails and trail link-ups, but the opportunity for routes and loops is endless. Also, keep in mind that trail ratings in British Columbia tend to be more lenient than in other places. Blues have black features and blacks have double black features. Double blacks are best left for the crazies…
Diamond Head is located northeast of Squamish near Quest University. This mountain bike network has a good mix of flowy machine-built trails as well as old-school rocks and roots. The main Legacy Climb Trail – Stl’lhalem Sintl’ – is well-built and if you take it allllll the way to the top, it’s about 8 miles and 3,000ft of climbing. But the views are worth it!
Diamond Head is a great place to start your Squamish mountain biking adventures. There are trails for all levels and it has some of the best singletrack in the area. Half Nelson and the Psuedo-Tsuga’s are probably Squamish’s most popular flow trails while Angry Midget and Ditch Pig provide raw DH action.
HOW TO LINK UP DIAMOND HEAD:
I love this loop! Climbing all the way to the top of the Legacy Climb Trail is a haul, but not too bad if you take it slow and steady. Upper Powersmart is intense – very rocky with lots of drops and loose baby heads. If you’re not into raw and intense riding take Meadow of the Grizzly to Short Cut instead and then link back up with IMBA Smart. The highlight of this ride is Fred. Flowy, steep, some techy features, and all-around awesome.
- Route difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
- Route stats: 11.1 miles | 3,005 ft +/-
- Make it shorter: If you want to cut off some of the climbing, you can access Meadow of the Grizzly from the Climbing Trail and take Short Circuit to IMBA Smart.
- Route directions: Climb Trail Parking > Legacy Climb Trail (or shuttle to the top) > Upper Powersmart > Skookum > IMBA Smart > Fred > Tinder > Your Mom > Pseudo-Tsuga Part 3
This is a big ride with a lot of elevation gain (unless you shuttle to the top), but the descents are totally worth it. Meadow of the Grizzly is long with lots of big bermed turns and great views out over the fjord. Half Nelson and the Pseduo-Tsuga’s are simply the best if you’re looking for flow! The map below is a bit confusing but basically, the two descents are:
- Meadow of the Grizzy to Half Nelson
- Pseudo-Tsuga Part 1, 2, and 3
- Route difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
- Route stats: 14.4 miles | 3,750 ft +/-
- Route directions: Climb Trail Parking > Legacy Climb Trail (or shuttle to the top) > Meadow of the Grizzly > Access Road > Half Nelson > Another Man’s Gold > Fool’s Gold > Ring Creek Rip > Access Road > Operation Panda > Climb Trail > Access Road > Pseudo-Tsuga Part 1, 2, and 3
This is another big day. Angry Midget and Ditch Pig are fast and rooty (I personally prefer Ditch Pig if you only want to do one climb). Somewhere Over There is a great trail with some crazy rock slabs that definitely have you second-guessing on the first go-around. Poop Alley is a fun, fast, flowy easy trail to end the day.
- Route difficulty: Expert
- Route stats: 14.7 miles | 3,808 ft +/-
- Route directions: Climb Trail Parking > Legacy Climb Trail > Angry Midget > Climb Trail (Access Road) > Ditch Pig > Another Roadside Attraction > Another Man’s Gold > Ring Creek Rip > Powerhouse Plunge Access Road > pH > Hood’s Connector > Bonsai > Somewhere Over There > Powerhouse Access Road > Poop Alley
Just interested in the creme de la creme of Squamish riding? Head over to my Best Mountain Bike Trails in Squamish post
Alice Lake is a bit farther north of town above Garibaldi Highlands. There is a bit of everything here except for machine-built flow – you’ll find that at Diamond Head. But if you came to Squamish looking for rock slab riding, this is where you want to be. In general, Alice Lake has more advanced trails than Diamond Head and there’s also less continuous climbing. Don’t think for a minute, though, that it’s going to be easy!
Like Diamond Head, you really can’t go wrong at Alice Lake. A few of my favorites here include Mad Hatter, Man Boobs, Leave of Absence, and Rupert. If you want to step things up a notch (or two) try your skills on Entrails, Bony Elbows, and In-and-Out Burger. Remember to ride within your skill level! There’s some big stuff here.
HOW TO LINK UP ALICE LAKE:
This is a lap kind of day. Leave of Absence is a fun warm-up – definitely a hard blue – and Rupert is freaking awesome. I love that trail! Entrails is next on the list and holy moly does it have some crazy features. Lots of steep rock slabs and techy bits. Ride within your skill level. Bony Elbows is just as techy with steep rock rollers. Finally, Rollercoaster is a super fun and flowy finish to the day.
- Route difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
- Route stats: 12.6 miles | 2,031 ft +/-
- Route directions: Alice Lake Parking Lot > Fifty Shades of Green > Of Mice and Men > Leave of Absence > Tracks From Hell > Of Mice and Men > Rupert > Tracks From Hell > Entrails > Bony Elbows > Rollercoaster > Lumberjacks > Access Road > Jack’s
It’s a climb to get up to Mad Hatter, but the descent is worth it. Man Boobs is fun – very rocky and rooty, but does have some flow. My favorite trail in this link-up is Rupert. SO MUCH FUN. Big rock slabs, fun wooden features, fast and flowy, and all over awesome. Credit Line has a big up at the beginning but the down is fast with lots of rocks and roots.
- Route difficulty: Intermediate/Expert
- Route stats: 16 miles | 2,500 ft +/-
- Route directions: Alice Lake Parking Lot > Four Lakes Trail (if not open take Alice Lake Access Road to Mashiter) > Bob McIntosh > Rock n’ Roll > Ed’s Access Road > Mad Hatter > Man Boobs > Edith Lake Access Road > Mike’s Loop > 50 Shades of Green Part 2 > Of Mice and Men > Rupert > Mashiter > Tracks From Hell > Mike’s Loop > Credit Line > Jack’s
***There are other mountain biking networks in Squamish in addition to Diamond Head and Alice Lake, but these two are where I spent most of my time while visiting Squamish. I’d love to return to explore Valleycliffe and Brackendale!
What to Pack For your Squamish Mountain Bike Trip
In addition to my mountain bike pack essentials, here are a few additional tips and pieces of gear to bring with you on your mountain bike trip to Squamish:
- A Helmet. Depending on which mountain bike trails you plan on riding, you might want to pack a breakaway full-face helmet. Since there’s quite a bit of climbing and pedaling to be had in Squamish, a breakaway like the Giro Switchblade is a great choice. You can wear it as a half-lid while you’re pedaling and then strap on the chin bar to make it full-face when it’s time to descend.
- Hydration Pack. Bring lots of water with you on every ride. Squamish can be humid, so be prepared to sweat a lot. It’s also a good idea to add a scoop of electrolyte powder to help replenish your body with electrolytes.
- Knee pads. I always ride with knee pads, but it’s an especially good idea to wear them in Squamish because there are plenty of sharp rocks and slippery roots. I wear the Fox Enduro Sleeves for mellower trails and the Fox Launch Pro’s for burlier stuff.
- A first aid kit. Luckily, there are no super remote trails in Diamond Head or Alice Lake, but that being said, there’s definitely some gnarly riding. It’s a good idea to prepare for the worst with a mountain bike first aid kit. I really love the pre-prepared kits by MyMedic (I personally have the Solo Advanced).
Squamish Bike Shops, Rentals, & Tours
Corsa Cycles – This is my go-to bike shop in Squamish. Super friendly and accommodating staff right in downtown. Rent/demo your bike from them, get a full-service tune-up or pick up a Squamish jersey souvenir | +1 604-892-3331
Tantalus Bike Shop – Another great bike shop in Garbaldi Highlands, north of Squamish. They don’t rent or demo, but they can fix pretty much anything that goes wrong with your bike | + 1 604-898-2588
Flying Spirit Rentals – Located at Mountain Fun Basecamp, these guys rent a small fleet of Kona bikes and offer guided tours and coaching sessions | +1 604-390-3822
Dialed In Cycling – Partners with Flying Spirit Rentals, Dialed In Cycling is a mountain bike coaching and guiding service based in Squamish | +1 604-390-3822
Squamish Shred Shuttle – Not into big pedal days? Call up the Squamish Shred Shuttle and have them drop you off at the top. They will also shuttle you up to Whistler and back or vice versa | +1 778-915-7473
Where To Eat, Drink, And Stay In Squamish
Food & Drink
There are a lot of great restaurants in Squamish. Below are a few of my favorites:
Locavore Bar & Grill: Tasty food with an emphasis on healthy and local
The Watershed Grill: A bustling place with good food. Situated right on the banks of the Squamish River
Saha Eatery: A down-to-earth restaurant serving amazing Middle Eastern food
Backcountry Brewing: Good beer and fantastic pizza
Caffe Garibaldi: Really good coffee and breakfast pastries. Located in the Squamish Adventure Center
Zephyr Cafe: A fun little cafe with great breakfast and lunch options. The smoothies are delish!
Squamish has a handful of great camping opportunities close to town and trails:
- Alice Lake Provincial Park: This is a nice campground close to the Alice Lake mountain bike trails. There’s also a refreshing small lake to cool off in.
- Paradise Valley Campground: This is a beautiful family-oriented campground located about 11 miles north of Squamish.
- MTN Fun Basecamp: A stunning campground right in the midst of mountain biking trails with a variety of camping options. They also offer several kitchenette-equipped cabins.
- Mamquam River Campsite: A rustic campground situated on the Mamquam River close to town. There is no running water or RV services, but they do have two Mongolian-style yurts.
Mountain Biker-Friendly Hotels
Squamish is an adventure town, so there are lots of mountain biker-friendly hotels to choose from. The Squamish Adventure Inn is a hostel that caters to the outdoor adventurer with dorms and private rooms available. They have secure storage and a bike wash station. Executive Suites Hotel and Resort is more of an upscale hotel with nice rooms, friendly staff, secure bike storage, and even a Bike & Stay Package that includes 15% off mountain bike rentals with Flying Spirit Rentals.
Other Things To do In Squamish
Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
For amazing views out over Squamish, the Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief, and surrounding mountains take a ride on the Sea To Summit Gondola. This 10-minute scenic ride takes you up almost 3,000 ft above sea level and at the top, you can enjoy the views from three different viewing platforms. You can also enjoy a delicious meal at the Summit Lodge on their viewing deck while taking in the panorama.
Just like there are tons of mountain biking trails around Squamish, so too are there plenty of hiking trails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore Squamish on foot, but next time I visit I’d love to check off these two hikes:
- Stawamus Chief Trail that takes you up the two peaks on Squamish’s iconic monolith, the Stawamus Chief
- Elfin Lakes Trail up to a beautiful lakes basin area above Squamish. You can also ride your bike up to Elfin Lakes
If you’ve made your way to Squamish for mountain biking, you might as well hit up Whistler Bike Park as well. Whistler is only 40 miles north of Squamish and in addition to its world-class lift-served playground, it’s also home to dozens of miles of backcountry singletrack including the Lord of the Squirrels trails, which is supposed to be epic!
Go white water rafting
Squamish has two rivers that offer white water rafting fun, the Cheakamus River with class I and II rapids (mellower) and the Elaho-Squamish River with class III and IV rapids (more challenging). Both rivers offer epic views and are a good way to rest the legs while still getting an adrenaline rush. Book your day out on the river here!
Have you experienced the Squamish mountain biking scene? What are your favorite trails and routes? Let us know in the comments below!