Single Day Singletrack: Kaslo

Welcome to Single Day Singletrack - an ongoing series from Swagman about squeezing great rides into a day on the road. 

Here’s the thing though: we’re rolling into these trails with spontaneity, randomness, and a time limit. Don’t expect us to be trail gurus; we’re just like you - sometimes a little lost, sometimes striking gold, but always in for an adventure. 

Armed with just a day and a thirst for the path less pedaled, we may not always pick the “best” trails (hey, there’s a lot to see and so little time!), but that’s the beauty of it. This series is a tribute to making every hour count, whether we’re dodging cacti, chasing sunsets, or avoiding bears. Enjoy! 

Words & Photos: Evan Wishloff

Perched on the shores of Kootenay Lake, surrounded by the Purcell and Selkirk mountains sits a small and mighty town that is a jewel for adventure-seekers and history buffs alike. 

Amidst breathtaking vistas, shimmering waters, and - of course - friendly locals, the spirit of mountain biking merges seamlessly with echoes of the past in Kaslo, BC.

Home to just over a thousand people, Kaslo has the kind of rough-and-tumble past you’d expect from a mining town. Established in 1892 to service the booming silver mining operations sweeping through the Kootenays, it was almost entirely destroyed just two years later in the great flood of 1894. 

Undeterred, locals rebuilt the village almost immediately through a hardiness and work-ethic that is still evident in the village’s DNA today.

One of my personal preferences when it comes to a riding destination is proximity of trails to downtown. In a perfect world, I want to park my vehicle at a hotel or campground, and ride my bike from there on out. 

In Kaslo, that is absolutely an option, with all 262 kilometres of trails accessible from any hotel on the main street, or even the downtown campground. No shuttles needed.

There are many options for a great single day of singletrack in Kaslo, including XC loops with views on Strawberry Ridge, but a single day required a more epic choice: Friendly Giant

This trail lives up to its name not just in length, but in spirit, covering nearly 18 km with 1,327 metres of vertical gain. That’s right, not a typo - a 17.8 km climbing trail with well over 1,000 metres of vertical gain. 

I don’t know of another professionally-built, smooth-as-butter climbing trail that comes close to Friendly Giant in distance or vertical gain. (And if there is one, let me know in the comments!)

Where many growing trail networks start small, branching out further and further from the trailhead with each new loop constructed, Friendly Giant bucks the trend, going big and going far. 

Its a testament to the trail builders that you can reach the summit - or in my case due to the snow line in mid-May, near the summit - with relative ease. Okay, maybe ease is the wrong word, but I don’t know any other 1,300 metre mountain bike climb that rides as nice as Friendly Giant. 

From the top, there are currently two options to get down (the Kaslo Mountain Bike Club has plans to build further options so stay tuned). 

First, for the true thrill seekers, is a double-black diamond trail known as The Monster

If you remember the Disconstructed Wheel from the New World Disorder 3 mountain bike film,  you’ll understand a little bit of the thrill-seeking nature that led Sam Brown to dream up a trail like The Monster. Built in the late 90s, it lives up to its name, featuring expansive views and ridiculous features reserved for the most advanced riders. 

Most advanced is not how I’d classify myself, so I chose option B to return back to the valley.

Friendly Giant was built as a bi-directional trail, so it serves double-duty as the descent from the summit. 

Yes, you heard that right - you turn around, and head right back down the climbing trail. On first read, you probably think that sounds terribly boring, and I don’t blame you. Most climbing trails are good as a single-purpose ride: getting to the top.

Not Friendly Giant, however. This trail turns into a near-flow trail when pointed back down. Featuring rhythmic rollers and big berms, it’s a pure thrill ride for riders of all abilities on the way down! 

Don’t forget, this is a two-way trail. The higher reaches may be quieter, but as gravity pulls you back down to civilization, remember to yield to climbing riders who always have the right of way. 

About two-thirds of the way down, a downhill-primary trail called Commander awaits, offering up a somehow even swoopier, bermier, rollier, funner (not sure if any of those are actually words, but spellcheck be damned!) descent down to the main trailhead. 

From there, it’s an easy downhill pedal back to town - or a connection into more trail networks surrounding if you’re legs are up for it. 

In Kaslo, the journey from trail to table is short. Whether you refuel at the Blue Belle Bistro with a bite of local food and proper coffee, or unwind at Angry Hen Brewing with a craft beer that tastes of surrounding peaks and pines, you’re in for a local treat.

If you wander into Neil’s North Kootenay Bike Shop, or chance upon Jeff Bryson from the Bikeroom, while wandering Main Street, you’ll find the heart of Kaslo’s biking community beating strong, ready to share the next trail or tale. 

So pack your bags for a day, but prepare your spirit for much more. Kaslo isn’t just a stopover, it’s a standout chapter in any rider’s logbook. 

Are you ready to tackle some of the best mountain biking trails Kaslo has to offer? We can’t wait to see your adventures unfold! Share your journey by tagging us (@Swagman) on your photos and stories! 

And if there’s a trail or location you think should be on our radar, let us know! Drop a note in the comments, or tag us in your posts to spread the stoke. Your next epic ride could help shape our next adventures. 

Until next time, happy trails! 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.