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Where to ride is a tough decision these days in Prince George.
While trying to decide what trails to ride one day, my riding partner and I mutually commented that there were almost too many choices. Although not a bad thing, I will admit I have a difficult time riding all our local trails in a given season. Prince George has multiple areas to ride, with levels to suit all abilities and interests. Otway has added close to one new trail every year for the past 5 years and I am almost certain the Pidherny Recreation Area has exceeded that.
Along with the growth of our trails, is the growth of the riders. People ask me all the time why I think there has been such a huge growth. My answer is simple and always the same: because it’s fun! As a mountain bike instructor, I coached about 40 brand new riders this past season. When I say “brand new”, I mean people who have never ridden on dirt before. Some of these people literally bring their fresh new bike to the lesson and have not even ridden it yet. And the best part is seeing their smiles when we are finished!
For a beginner starting out, the best place to visit would be Otway. These trails are located in the midst the Otway Nordic Center ski trails on Otway Road and are all single-track trails. There are 2 full green trails, many blue rated options with a few black mixed in for a lot of variety. For a beginner, I recommended doing a loop of Home Run and Tin Can Alley. If you have a little more experience but questionable fitness, take Home Run-Inside Passage-Midway-Karma; and yes, there are maps posted at all the major junctions making navigation a breeze. If you are more experienced and like a good workout, get yourself up to the Doghouse via Curves-Espresso or Karma-Twister-ACDC, all great climbs. You can do a couple loops up top including Java, Cyclone and Cross Cut to easily fill an hour and a half. If you like “old school” technical riding, check out Tree Hugger and Adams! Otway has something for everyone, even some fun little air time opportunities on Cyclone and Tornado Alley.
Pidherny is generally considered a little more advanced than Otway, only because it has some steeper/ technical sections that are not as easily avoidable. If you are a beginner rider, I would suggest parking at the top parking lot on Foothills Blvd., which is directly across from Vellencher Road. A beginner option would be to take the green Foothill Access trail all the way to the Ten Dollar/Flow Job trailheads. Both Ten Dollar and Flow Job are blue rated, but do-able for a beginner; just ride slower your first time so you don’t accidently get air on some bumps or roots. Both these trails take you down to the mid-way point of Pidherny, where you can do repeated loops going back up Ten Dollar. Note that Ten Dollar is the only two-way trail to get you back to the access trail, so caution when going both directions. I would not recommend going much further down if you are a beginner, because you still need to get back to your vehicle at the top. Some people will park a vehicle at the bottom and shuttle up to avoid the climb back out.
If your skill level suits some steeper descents, start with the blue access trail from the top parking lot all the way to the start of Papa Woods. You can then take any of the trails from here including Papa Woods, Carcass and Dixie noting that all have Technical Trail Features (TTF’s), most with ride arounds. If it’s your first time down one of these, ride with caution and check out the features first before attempting them. You can also descend the more advanced Valve Job or New England Clam Chowder (NECC), which both come off the blue access trail before you reach the Papa Woods trail-head. These will pop you out on a quad trail; hang a right, then a left, bringing you down to the start of Ditch Pig, which will take you a little further down. If you need to get back to the top parking lot, you can head back up to the road and then up Ten Dollar and along either access trail. Or you can plan to shuttle and avoid the climb.
Pidherny also has some extremely challenging technical cross country loops that are better accessed from the lower parking lot, and are located on both sides of Pidherny Road. These include Climb It, Pulaski, Front Porch, McLeod on the east side of the road as well as Gus’ Grind, GXC, Peanut Butter, Big Ass Hill, Sidewinder and Ridge XC on the west side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that most of these have advanced technical sections and some challenging climbs! Note that the east side trails are currently not on the Pidherny Recreation Site trail map, as they are out the previous boundary; this includes the bottom of Valve Job and NECC. The future map will have these east side trails as the boundary has been extended. I highly recommend you have a map on hand as there are currently no trail maps posted within the trail network, only in the parking lots. Even with a map; however, you may still get a little lost. If getting lost if not your thing, I recommend you try to ride with someone local who knows the trails.
Be sure to bring water with you and maybe even a small snack. Also, a spare tube or patch kit, tire levers and a pump may prevent a “less fun” walk out. You can access links to trail maps and other local cycling information at www.pgcyclingclub.ca. Stay safe and have fun!!
PMBI Level 1 Instructor
Fem Bike BC
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