This route is a great intro for cycle touring and bikepacking. The route rewards riders with amazing views and all the services needed in the small communities along the route; this includes quirky coffee shops, a microbrewery and distiller.
Initially I was not planning on posting this route as it doesn’t fall into the type of routes I normally explore. After riding the route with some friends during the first week of July 2020 and running into fellow cyclists who called this route world class and a father introducing his son to bikepacking I figured it was probably a good one to post as an entry level route. We had a 73 year old join us for the first part of the journey between Nelson and Kaslo. That should give you, the reader, a general idea of how gentle of a ride it is. Another point is you don’t need a bikepacking specific rig. Tire size ranged between 700×30 and 29×3. It was all doable on two wheels even in the pouring rain although our rider on the 700×30 did not ride the rail trail portions with us.
The first part of the route starts from Nelson on the International Selkirk Loop. It’s fairly easy pedaling on pavement from Nelson to Kaslo with some amazing views along Kootenay Lake. Kaslo has a municipal campground and is within walking distance to all amenities. From Kaslo the road has a lot less traffic. The last spot to resupply is Meadow Creek so make sure you have enough food for an overnight as the next resupply point is 70km away in Trout Lake. The first bit of packed gravel starts just North of Meadow Creek and continues just passed the community of Trout Lake. There are no services between Meadow Creek and Trout Lake. There is a Recreation Sites and Trails user maintained campsite on the south end of Trout Lake where the mighty Lardeau river starts. There are opportunies for wild camping along the way for the adventurous.
From Trout Lake riders continue along Highway 31 to Highway 23. Highway 23 is fairly quiet. Riders will experience the ferry traffic every hour between the junction of Highway 31/23 to Nakusp. There are some natural hot springs along this route at Halfway River (11km off the highway) with paid camping or choose one of the hot spring resorts to stop at; Halcyon Hot Springs Resort or Naskusp Hot Springs. In the town of Nakusp there is paid camping. There is also a new Recreation Sites and Trails site (Mt. Abriel) just North of Nakusp. This new Recreation Sites and Trails is developing some single track and has a bike jump track. The hosts of this site is the local cycling society so your money is supporting a local club.
From Nakusp there is the option for some off road adventure or simply stay on the highway. Follow Highway 6 to Summit Lake. Summit Lake has Provincial campground which might come in handy depending on how the day is going. On the North end of the lake the Naksup & Slocan Rail Trail starts. We did not ride this portion as there were reports of the trail being flooded between Summit Lake and Roseberry. However we did hop on the Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail from Roseberry to New Denver. From New Denver we continued along Highway 6 to Slocan. The route between Silverton and Slocan is where the largest climb is which is totally worth it for the views over Slocan Lake to the mountain ranges of Valhalla Provincial Park. Once in Slocan we again opted for the Nakusp & Slocan Rail Trail for the remainder of the trail to the trailhead at Playmor Junction on Highway 6.
We finished off the ride on Blewett Road back into Nelson as this road has far less traffic and is a more scenic ride. There is one climb on this road at 49er Creek that looks intimidating but isn’t very long. For riders wishing to skip this additional climb they can opt for staying on Highway 6 all the way back into Nelson.
Although we took 4 days to ride this route there are a few super human locals who have ridden the entire route in less than a day and some who have done it in two days. It’s such an easy route you can choose your adventure.
Map and GPX