I’ve been keen on riding the Terra Nova Trail for a while. I finally got out to the trailhead which is partway between Victoria and Sooke BC this week for a solo ride. The trail is billed as a XC ride with lots of overgrown vegetation. Like most trails on Vancouver Island that don’t see constant use it has a feeling of being a bit forgotten. It doesn’t take very long for the plant life in our rainforest to take back a trail.
The trail is based on a disused skidder road used to pull felled trees out of the forest. It hasn’t been used for a longtime so in most places it’s singletrack now. The ride isn’t hard technically, but there are a number of challenges including vegetation overgrowing the trail, dead fall across the trail and a general lack of maintenance leading to eroded sections. If you want to explore some beautiful forest terrain and explore a nice spot on the island you should ride the Terra Nova Trail. If you want a high quality XC mountain bike ride this isn’t it.
I rode my On One Scandal 29er hardtail mountain bike. It was a fine choice for the ride, but you can ride pretty much any type of bike on this trail. The sections you can ride are easy and the sections that are not easy will require most people to get off their bikes and carry them. I’d break it down as: 50% easy riding, 25% challenging riding & 25% hike-a-bike. So bring a bike you don’t mind lifting and pushing a bunch! ;) Even though the trail is short at 11kms don’t expect to be back at your car before 2hrs is up. You’ll want to enjoy the scenery and you never seem to get any momentum on this trail with the constant need to find the route or carry your bike over an obstacle.
I used a GPS track to navigate the trail. That proved useful as there are a number of alternate trails to explore. I’m not sure where they go. I had a limited amount of time so I stuck to the main trail. I’ll be back to check out all the bits I didn’t get a chance to ride on a future visit. Freak Maps has a mountain bike guide book that is available at most LBS with a description of the Terra Nova Trail for those folks not interested in using a GPS.
I stopped a lot and snapped some pics to document the ride. You can see those photos on Flickr at this link. I found another set of photos and videos from the Terra Nova Trail on Flickr showing conditions earlier in the season with water in the creeks. That photographer also posted a GPS track which is what I used to get around the trail.
Would I recommend the Terra Nova Trail? Yes - if you like your rides on the adventurous side with some hike-a-bike thrown in. This is not a buff singletrack buffet!
There is a longer ride option out to Harbourview Rd that ends at Sheilds Lake which sounds like a good option for a swim and a picnic. Looking at the map it seems to cover some of the same ground A-Man I traveled when we tried to ride at Harbourview and managed to get amazingly lost.