Bike trails by the lake make epic Vermilion days
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It might be a weekend trip to visit family in Vermilion but Tomas Vidal and Robyn Webster aren’t going to pass up a chance to indulge in one of their all-time favourite outdoor activities in Vermilion Provincial Park: mountain biking. For one thing, the trails are literally right next to town. But the deciding factors are green, blue and ridden all over: a trail network that transitions from verdant forest single track to lakeside thoroughfares criss-crossing the park.
As soon as they’re past the park gates, it’s like all their cares have been lifted and there is a sense of ease and excitement in their demeanor.
“It’s so green and lush,” Webster gushes. “You can really feel like you’re off the grid a bit.”
Since the couple began dating, Webster has had a crash course in trail riding with Vidal, whose family has adopted mountain biking as their summer sport. Their passion for biking spans three generations. While Tomas and his brother Eddie are hardcore mtb’ers, their mom Jean is more easygoing (while not shy of hitting some dirt). Eddie’s two kids, Caleb and Sidney, are keen riders as well. And at 10 years old, Caleb can rip the tracks and launch off the same dirt jumps as his dad and uncle.
For Webster, Vermilion Provincial Park has been a great spot to integrate into the sport. “I just bought a bike about a month ago, and this has been a fun place to get into it a bit and gain confidence,” she explains.
“The trails aren’t too narrow, there are single tracks if you want them but there’s plenty of wide open trails to start with, and gravel or paved options too. There’s drops too if you want them—I’m not quite there yet, but maybe one day!”
Earlier that day, after dropping their bags at the centrally located Days Inn, the couple jumped on their bikes and rode a couple blocks over to Burnt Rock Adventure Co., a new outdoor gear retailer and rental shop just opened in May 2021. The store has created an anchor point in the downtown core for recreationalists, stocked with gear and supplies for biking, paddling or just adventuring outside. While you’re there, you can grab a bike trail map to guide your ride in the park.
It’s also worth taking in the building itself: a restored heritage building that integrates seamlessly into the prairie aesthetic of Main Street in Vermilion, with modern-styled exposed beams and beautiful hardwood throughout. Which isn’t surprising, given that the two partners in the store are the two main builders in town. They may compete for construction contracts, but the outdoors has united them in a common interest, just as it does the Vidal family.
For Tomas Vidal, who grew up here, it’s exciting to see the community and the park evolve into a riding destination. “I ride all over the mountains, through the Edmonton river valley, and it’s cool to see the same kinds of trails in Vermilion,” says Vidal. “It’s a blast to get back, it’s different when I’m away and it’s a big deal to drive somewhere. Come to Vermilion, and you can bike uptown, you can bike into the provincial park. You park your car and you can bike everywhere from there.”
“The town seems very engaged in building their adventure,” Webster adds. “People are out walking, paddling, camping… there’s a lot happening for a small town.”
When the day of riding is done, there is nothing the family loves more than a post-ride treat at Night Owl Sweets & Treats. After bidding goodbye to the family for the afternoon, Tomas and Robyn head back to the Days Inn, which puts them back in easy walking distance of downtown and local establishments like the Copper Cork Distillery, The Red Brick and Anthony’s Grill.
And you might think that would be where the day ended. But no, because there is nothing quite like a sunset on Vermilion Lake and it is too much to resist, so before day’s end the couple grab a kayak and a paddleboard from Burnt Rock to get in an evening paddle. After a big day of biking, it’s the perfect way to wind down a Vermilion adventure.
WHEN YOU GO
- Stop in at Burnt Rock Adventure Co. for all your outdoor gear needs, rentals and bike trail maps.
- Pick up some trail snacks at The Red Brick.
- For a nice apres, check out Night Owl Sweets & Treats for sweet treats or Copper Cork Distillery for custom spirits.
- Days Inn Vermilion is right downtown and close to everything, for a comfortable and convenient basecamp.