The Purest Singletrack Mountain Biking Experience in North America?
Carcross in the sun.
Editor’s Note: This article is Part 2 of the Yukon Mountain Biking travel feature. Read Part 1- Whitehorse here. Photos and videos by Lee Lau and Sharon Bader.
Carcross is a town of 400 people 40 minutes drive from Whitehorse. In the 4 – 5 month riding season Carcross enjoyed in 2013, 3,500-4,000 people visited Carcross for the sole purpose of riding their bikes. Visitors from Whitehorse, Alaska, BC, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, the US and elsewhere travelled to this wonderful small town. In and of itself that number isn’t that staggering; many tourist towns draw multiples of their population over their tourism season. What is more interesting is that the bike-specific trail system in Carcross only came into existence in 2004. The mountain bike scene was literally created from close to nothing.
Video: Over the years mountain bikers have found out about Carcross’s insanely high quality of trails and have travelled to ride.
Carcross’s main industry is tourism, mostly from cruise ship traffic from the Skagway White Pine area and from outdoors recreationalists from the surrounding area drawn to Carcross’s lakes and mountains. Nine years ago in cooperation with and through the Singletrack to Success programme, Whitehorse locals, Carcross locals, the town of Carcross itself and the CTFN (Carcross – Tagish First Nation), slowly and painstakingly started developing a network of multi-use trails.
In 2014 this network totalled two discrete alpine trails both dropping 800-1000m to valley floor (Mountain Hero aka Sam McGee and the Macdonald Creek trail) and a network of shuttleable but also pedallable lower trails winding through forest, rock slabs and along lake shores.
Carcross’s prominent geographical feature is Montana Mountain and Bennett Lake. The mountain was the location of many silver mines at the turn of the century. Access roads from the past century of resource-driven exploration and local trails criss-cross this mountain winding to the alpine, the sub-alpine and through the lower boreal forest. Through the previously mentioned, Single Track For Success program, local youth (with Whitehorse locals and local CTFN elders as their supervisors) were hired to create mountain biking trails for the benefit of the community. Ending at Bennet Lake some 40km of trails flow their way down the mountain in some of Canada’s most beautiful scenery.
Bennett Lake comes into view on Macdonald Creek Trail.
Professionally built and maintained, the structures, flow and quality of the trails make for an awesome day of riding. An hour pedal to the top of the lower trails (or a 30 minute shuttle) rewards you with a one hour descent. One exception to the shuttle is Carcross’s most well-known trail, Mountain Hero which just received IMBA epic status and is the creation of Wayne Roberts, Carcross’s mtb pioneer. Not so much as a trail as a journey through time and history culminating in an insanely long alpine descent expect to take the whole day to climb to the top, traverse alpine roads then hero the descent.
Video: 40kms long, 1400m elevation gain ridden from Carcross in the N and traversing SSE to the shores of surrounding lakes; this monster of a ride spends 75% of its time in the alpine. Not only did Sylvain of Boreal Mountain Biking guide this ride, he also managed to arrange perfect weather. 30 degrees hot in the valley but a cool and breezy 20 to 25 degrees in the 1850m alpine ridges was then followed by a ripping killer 1200m downhill on singletrack.
The Yukon is a magical place. Not just for its sheer expanse, not just for the friendliness of the people, not just for the contrasts of the different biology, geology and climates as you climb and descend what seems like different worlds. It’s a package of wonder, of joy and of discovery. Carcross and Whitehorse epitomize this feeling. See it for yourself and see why we and many others have fallen in love with this very special place.
The incredibly mossy and loamy Sam McGee trail.
More information and maps of the trails can be found at the town’s exceptionally well laid out website featuring the trails while questions about trail conditions can be found at an active facebook group maintained by locals.