Do a google search on “biking the Duffey Lake Loop” and you’ll get dozens of entries. Lots of stuff like “scenic and twisty ride” and “classic loop with sweeping curves” and “one of the best rides in Canada”. But, it’s not what you think – they’re all in motorcycle forums!
The Duffey Lake Loop is a beautiful circle route in the Coast Mountain region of British Columbia. It’s got highways, winding roads, switchbacks, tunnels and single lane bridges. Sights you’ll see include the Fraser River, Thompson River, Duffey Lake, Joffre Lake, and Howe Sound. It would be a wonderful ride on a motorbike. But way more fun on a road bike!
Five of us committed to doing it on our bicycles in four days in mid-September. The weather at this time of year is still predictably dry but not as scorching hot as it is in July and August. There’s merit to going in either direction but counter-clockwise seemed like the better way to go. It would be nice to get through the suburban sprawl section of the ride early on the first day. The best views would be mostly on the right. And the idea of spending our final night in Whistler just seemed like the most fitting way to schedule things. After securing SAG support from Bike Tech Cycle Mechanic Services and booking our accommodation, we were ready to go.
Day 1 – Vancouver to Hope (160 km)
We went through Burnaby, Port Moody, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, then into the country past Stave Falls and down to Hwy 7. With the Fraser River on our right, we had tremendous views of the valley and Mount Baker. By mid-afternoon, we’d reached Hope, the self proclaimed chainsaw carving capital of the world.
Day 2 – Hope to Lillooet (172 km)
The Fraser Canyon is filled with scenic curves as it goes up along the Fraser, which has lots of rapids and pools on this stretch. This was our longest day and probably our favourite. The section from Lytton to Lillooet is arguably as good as it gets with minimal traffic, curvy roads and stunning views.
Day 3 – Lillooet to Whistler (132 km)
The Duffey Lake Road south out of Lillooet goes pretty-much uphill for 70 kms. It made for a hard day but we were served up some spectacular mountain views as we rode through pure wilderness with Cayoosh Creek on our right. Our hearts skipped a beat at one point when we heard rustling in the bushes beside the road. This is bear country after all!
The 12 km descent down from Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was gratifying and fast. Very fast. Strava showed a top speed of 88.6 km/hr.
After Pemberton, it was another hour of climbing before reaching Whistler – a world class resort and a great place to spend our final night. We had a relaxing soak in the hot tub, then treated ourselves to a three course Italian dinner at Il Caminetto.
Day 4 – Whistler to Vancouver (130 km)
The final leg is down the Sea to Sky along Howe Sound with mountains and views that change with each curve. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much as smoke had blown into the area from wildfires burning in Washington and Oregon. For some reason, we had some good punch left in our legs and made very good time. The back-to-back-to-back days were making us stronger!
Grand total of 600 km and a whopping 8,400 m of elevation.
It was an awesome trip. The timing happened to coincide with the end of summer construction season so the roads were in great shape. The motorists were respectful and not in a hurry. We actually got lots of waves and head nods from motorbikers.
As each group of motorbikes passed by us, I wondered if they were having more fun. They were certainly enjoying themselves and they definitely weren’t sweaty or sore. But I am convinced that cycling is the better way to go. On bikes, you get to see more and hear more. And the trip takes longer so you get way more bang for your buck. It’s definitely a trip that should be on your bucket list!