In the hills above north Nanaimo lies a network of nearly 48 kilometres of easy- to expert-rated, all-mountain and downhill trails offering thrills and challenges for mountain bikers of all ages and experience.
The Doumont trails, located along Weigles Road, next to Benson Creek Falls Regional Park, were voted Nanaimo’s Best Place to Mountain Bike in this year’s Best of the City survey.
Trails date back some 35 years or more to the earliest days of mountain biking when tracks were carved through woods, under the tolerance, if not the blessings, of land owners. Over the decades the trails wove their ways deeper through the woods and higher up the hills as mountain biking’s popularity grew and bike technology evolved allowing riders to refine skills and take on ever more challenging terrain.
Nanaimo’s early trails might not have been sanctioned by local governments and landowners – TimberWest operates a woodlot in the area – but Nanaimo developed a reputation for some of the best riding to be found anywhere. The trails also gained popularity with hikers and trail runners as the community adopted the land, unofficially calling it the Doumont recreation area, which is also home to the Wastelands Motocross Track.
With mountain biking in Nanaimo and its benefits to tourism established, groups such as Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club, the province and local governments started working together to sanction use of the area for mountain biking. Fine China, the first provincially approved trail in the Doumont trails network, was completed in 2013 and is managed by Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club with liability insurance obtained through the International Mountain Biking Association and trails are now built according to environmental and safety standards.
“We actually have a three-way agreement with TimberWest and the Regional District of Nanaimo,” said Dana Wacker, Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club communications director. “What really is special about this area is that there is literally something for every level. We see a lot of beginners using this area. Whether it’s their very first time on a bike or they’re expert riders from the mainland coming over to sample some of our gnar, there’s literally something for everyone.”
Long-term plans are to continue to revitalize the area – which has suffered abuse from illegal trash dumping along the numerous logging roads – as a recreation mecca. TimberWest, NMBC, the Regional District of Nanaimo and private companies sponsor clean-up events and trails are maintained by NMBC members and community volunteers.
Bridges and features are also constructed and maintained along with trail markers, bearing names like Armageddon, Crazy Horse, Old Car, Monkeys in the Mist, Space Balls, Penny Lane and Mary Jane, one of the original trails carved out more than 30 years ago and now a well-worn path and old favourite among riders. Runs range from relatively gentle climbs, to tight, twisting single track and steep, technical downhill. All trails, even Fine China and Finer China, rated as expert-level runs, have go-arounds so less aggressive riders can enjoy them and ride within their comfort level.
“We still have remnants of structures from days of old when Stevie Smith was growing up and building in here and hitting those things, so it’s kind of cool, as an up-and-coming rider, to see some of that old infrastructure – while it’s completely not safe to ride anymore – you kind of look back at the days of old freeride and where mountain biking is today and where it’s going and the different facets that have come out of it,” Wacker said.