Harrison West

In the name of exploring places closer to home, we decided to take a look at Harrison Lake, BC. The lake is mostly famous for its hot springs on southern end. It’s actually quite large, covering 218 km² and 60km long according to Wikipedia. At the north-end of the lake, there is a small community called Port Douglas, also known as in-SHUCK-ch.

To plan our route I went over to my mapping app and came up with a hypothetical counter-clockwise loop starting from Vancouver, up north following the west side of the lake; then east side of Lillooet River and Lillooet Lake; turning south via Pemberton and follow Sea-to-Sky highway back home, all in seven days. Then we decided to start from Coquitlam to make the first day distance bearable.

Chehalis River
Chehalis River

The forecast was 10% rain for the first couple of days, so the morning ride was a bit damp and we had two flat-tires one after another when we reached Mission. It was also the Fathers’ Day AND an antique car show was in progress which made the traffic unusually dense despite being a Sunday morning. When we reached the first campsite, the Chehalis River recreation site, it was almost deserted.

Twenty Mile Bay
Twenty Mile Bay

The second day, the road was in decent shape until we reached the last BC hydro service location. The surface deteriorated quickly, becoming loose gravel with steep up and down hills towards the end to our second campsite, Twenty Mile Bay. This was a beautiful site. I attempted to swim in the lake but quickly came to my senses when I hit the water. It was colder than the glacier lakes I’ve tried before.

Nice road

Third day was the worst in terms of road conditions. We kept climbing through dense forest and on rocky gravel snaking left and right until we reached a large opening. After that we hoped to go down but there were a few more uphills. All our bones, nuts and bolts on our bicycles were tested vigorously by the washboard surface. We had to ford a few creeks too. On the plus side, we had a couple of beautiful stretches with nice views. It also drizzled a bit, which helped to keep the dust down from a few passing vehicles. When we reached the north end of the lake, a large log sorting area appeared just before the village named Tipella. Fortunately it was getting late in the day so there weren’t many trucks on the road. in-SHUCK-ch forest service road was pretty flat and we were ready to camp. Turned out there was a hot-spring (Sloquet) after another 9km uphill. We skipped that opportunity and chose an unofficial campsite near Lillooet River for the night.

View from Harrison West

The fourth day we kept following the in-SHUCK-ch FSR up to T’sek Hotsprings. This was a historically significant place, both for its aboriginal heritage and also for the Fraser Gold Rush days from around 1850s. Friendly “Jeff” approached our table to tell a bit about the local history and a few anecdotes from his interesting life. There were hot and cold tubs in the hot spring area which helped us to wash the dust off. It got a bit windy towards the evening but luckily we had chosen a relatively protected area. We did a short walk on historic trails to a small waterfall. Towards the end of the day the campsite got almost full.

Fifth day was the end of our northward travel. We reached the end of the in-SHUCK-ch covered in dust around noon and joined Hwy 99 to reach Pemberton. The weather was extremely hot and dry with no clouds. After a quick lunch and a beer we went to a store and re-filled our bags with food. The closest place was Nairn Falls and we had no problem finding a spot near the water although it appeared that the weekend was fully booked.

Land of the Giant Lupines

For the sixth day our initial plan was to get to the Cal-Cheak recreation site but we missed the sign by a few kilometers. It would be uphill to go back now. We figured we have to reach home by Saturday to be safer on the road and to find an empty camping spot on the sea-to-sky corridor was not going to get easier, so we decided to keep going to Alice Lake instead. When we arrived at the entrance, a “full” sign welcomed us. Just at that moment another cyclist arrived and decided to try it anyways while we turned back, disappointed. We lingered at the junction for a while trying to decide where else we could go. The cyclist had not returned so we figured he must have found a site, so we went inside and sure enough the lady at the gate let us in and instructed us to share the site with Garth, quite an interesting fellow. Our site was next to the showers too.

On the seventh day we were worried about the Britannia Beach hill but we managed it without a problem and after a brief stop at Porteau Cove, we reached home early enough to make a pizza.

The first half of this route will test your bicycle’s sturdiness. From Harrison Mills to Pemberton there are no stores or services, so you need to take all your food and spare parts with you. Between Twenty Mile Bay and Tipella the condition of the road can change anytime due to land slides, so be prepared for the possibility that you may need to turn around. Don’t forget your water filter; none of the official camp sites have tap-water but lakes and creeks are close by. Sea-to-Sky corridor is better navigated north to south; shoulders seem wider and also better to ride on the side that has the view. Also, avoid weekends if you can help it.

Distance: 435km

Days: 7 days

Flat-tires: 2