Mud, Sweat and Gears
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Battle Creek Showdown just the tip of the mountain biking trail experience in Cypress Hills
The Cypress Hills rise 600 metres above the surrounding prairies making them the highest point between the Canadian Rockies and the East Coast. The unique mix of climate, geography, and ecosystems create a home for an extensive diversity of plants and animals. The entire area is also steeped in rich history with archaeological evidence confirming human habitation as far back as 8,500 years.
The region has long been a hotspot for outdoor pursuits and those looking for year-round adventure. This forest-covered oasis sitting above a sea of prairie is also the best-kept mountain biking secret in western Canada.
This is also why it's a prime location for the Battle Creek Showdown. Anyone looking to satisfy their competitive nature should consider registering for the fourth annual showdown taking place on Aug. 26. The yearly race sees competitors complete as many laps as possible around a designated course in a four-hour window.
The beauty of this region is that not only can two-wheeled enthusiasts enjoy the trails, but anyone who enjoys getting outdoors will love it here.
As long as Cypress Hills has been an interprovincial park there have been a slew of multi-use trails, but most of the older ones were created for hikers or equestrian riders. Thankfully the hard-working volunteers of the 670 Collective, the local mountain bike club, have been developing superb single-track in the hills above the town site since their inception back in 2012.
Not only have these trails been designed with cyclists in mind, but they’ve been built by those who ride them on a regular basis, meaning visitors get a first-class trail experience. Even the park’s older trails have been renovated by trail crews making them more biker friendly. The end result is an outstanding system of trails that rivals the most popular networks in the province.
With over 60 kilometres of trail criss-crossing the park and boasting everything from paved lakeside trails to technical downhill single-track, you’re sure to find something to suit your skill and ability level.
From my time riding the majority of the trails in the park, personal favourites include the Mystery Trails, Cobble Miner, and Last Grizzly. If you’re looking for a breakdown of all the trails open to mountain bikers consult the Trailforks app for the most up-to-date information.
As you ride, you’ll notice shifts in the geology that make up the trails. The region’s topography provides unique challenges for trail-builders and riders alike. The soil composition changes drastically as you increase in elevation and there’s a definitive band of cobbles that run through the middle of the plateau.
For those of you used to riding in the mountains, you can rest easy as the chance of encountering a bear is impossible. There hasn’t been a bear in the Cypress Hills for more than 100 years, but there is a healthy population of cougars, so ride with your eyes open!
Because Cypress County is one of the sunniest places in the country, the biking season is exponentially longer than in the Rockies. The typical biking season starts in early March and continues right through until the snow flies in late November. With the rapid rise of fat biking, there really isn’t an off-season anymore. And, don’t fret if you don’t own a bike or can’t bring yours along, there are rentals available right in town.
Yes, the Cypress Hills are currently mountain biking’s best-kept secret, but with 670 Collective’s membership increasing by 40 per cent this year alone, it won’t be a secret for long!
But it's probably best to start planning your biking getaway today.