In anticipation of a busy summer of hiking and biking, I decided it was time for a spring shakedown so recruited a couple friends to bike out to Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park on the weekend of April 18th for an overnight trip.
We left around 2pm on Saturday and chose to follow the Central Valley Greenway out through Burnaby to New West. This route comes highly recommended by other cyclists but thanks to some poor planning on our part (and maybe some missing signage) we got off track and had to detour around the South side of Burnaby Lake on a gravel path. But we reconnected with the route at the end of the lake and made good time out to New West.
After New West the dedicated bike route ends and we spent some time in some fairly heavy traffic along United Blvd and Mary Hill Bypass. Luckily you can detour off MHB along Argue St and Kebet Way until you get to the Pitt River Bridge and it’s not a bad ride. On the whole the route is very flat for Vancouver and other than the area around the Port Mann Bridge nicely separated from the worst traffic.
Once in Pitt Meadows we followed Old Dewdney Trunk Rd East towards Maple Ridge. Most of the way there’s a nice shoulder and while there was a fair amount of traffic drivers were generally pretty courteous of us. We made great time on the flat roads and enjoyed the views of farmland and the mountains fast approaching.
We stopped at the Black Sheep Pub on 232 St (just a bit South of our route) for an early dinner around 5pm. A very popular spot and we were lucky to get a table before the dinner rush. Predictably there was no safe place to lock up our bikes, so we just locked them together and sat by a window where we could keep an eye on them.
Back on the road by 7, it was a steady climb up Fern Crescent and the Golden Ears Parkway to the lake. The grades weren’t nearly as steep as we’d feared and even with gear we made great time up to the campground. Even early in the season it was fairly crowded with RVs but we found an empty site and had a great evening around the campfire. Total for the day ~60km.
The next morning we were on the road around 10am. We decided that since we hadn’t enjoyed the section of yesterday’s route through Port Coquitlam that we would take an alternate route through Surrey. This was a mistake! Not only did we add an extra bridge to our trip, but it turns out there’s a big hill right in the middle of Surrey that we didn’t know existed.
The first stretch, through Maple Ridge to Golden Ears Bridge was easy, especially the long bomb down the parkway to leave the park. The local street bikeways through Maple Ridge are fairly well marked and similar to Vancouver’s network.
Once across the bridge and into Surrey it was a different story. It took us a while to get our bearings since the signs were not at all clear for bikes. We’d chosen a route parallel to 96th Ave that was parked on our bike map as an off street bikeway. It turned out to be a thin park which follows a gas pipeline right-of-way. It was basically all uphill until we reached Green Timbers urban forest, and with a hot sun (and no sunscreen) we were all feeling a little pooped. Don’t take this route if you don’t have to. A flatter on-road route would have been better.
We turned briefly onto Fraser Hwy and then onto Whalley Blvd and followed the urban bike route to the Patullo Bridge. The Patullo is not fun! All I knew about it beforehand was that it was only 4 lanes and that biking was allowed on the sidewalk so I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. But the traffic was fast and the sidewalk was thin and a little mistake would have sent us into traffic. So we all just put our heads down and powered through until we got to the other side safely.
Back in New West, we had the option to go back along the Central Valley Greenway or follow the Expo Line along the BC Parkway route. We’d heard not-great things about the BC Parkway so opted to head North and re-trace our steps. A warning to future travellers: there is a section of the bike route through New West the tells you to take a right up a steep hill on Cumberland St instead of continuing to follow Columbia. Don’t take this turn! Stay on Columbia and you’ll reconnect with the bike route in a block without have to climb an unnecessary hill.
After that it was smooth sailing and this time managed to properly follow the Greenway the whole way. I was home by about 4:30 after about 75 km of cycling.
This is a great overnighter out of Vancouver! It would be nice if there was a good alternate route so you didn’t have to come back exactly the way you came. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is a possibility which I’ve heard is decent for cyclists but still would require crossing the Patullo or adding a 3rd bridge to go through Richmond. Maybe next time!