A fine, well-marked cycle route that takes in all the sights of Port Coquitlam with some great riverside views of Golden Ears. While it rubs shoulders with traffic and industry in a couple of places, much of the route is close to or immersed in nature. I wouldn’t walk much of this route as it’s just not interesting enough but as a cycle route it’s highly recommended!
The route was very well marked with signposts, following the Trans Canada Trail for a short section. However, I’d still recommend bringing a map of some kind – the Open Street Map cycle layer (which is available in almost all phone mapping apps) is ideal. Ample free parking can be found at multiple points along the circuit, some of which have public washrooms too. The trail was a mixture of gravel and pavement, and we were very pleased to find that the gravel was small, compacted, and very easy to ride on, even with street tyres. There were very few potholes or other obstacles. Some of the paved section were actually the worst as they were pushed up by tree roots.
We began in Gates Park and took an anti-clockwise route, passing through Colony Farm then alongside the Fraser and Pitt Rivers as far as De Boville Slough before cutting back through Hyde Creek nature area and finishing along the Coquitlam River. I chose this direction to maximize our mountain views along the river.
It was a good day for bird sightings: my first turkey vulture of the year, several bald eagles (including nests along the Pitt River), a pair of ospreys, many hummingbirds (Anna’s and rufous – Maria had a wonderful close encounter with a male rufous hummingbird), ravens, crows, spotted towhees, white-crowned sparrows, common mergansers, northern flickers, Canada geese, swallows, a distant flock of snow geese, and mallards. We also saw a pair of deer at Colony Farm.
Among the growing number of spring blooms we saw skunk cabbage, salmonberry, false lily-of-the-valley, red flowering currant, ferns, and western trillium.
Distance: 25.5 km
Elevation gain: minimal
Time: 2h 45m
Route on AllTrails (not ours)
- 🙂 Finding freshly blooming western trillium
- 🙂 Hummingbird encounters – watching a female Anna’s flit from branch to branch, and getting a close-up view of a male rufous showing off his gorget
- 🙂 Easy, enjoyable cycling along a quiet trail
- 🙂 Views of Golden Ears across the Pitt River
- 🙂 Being inspired for future visits
- ☹️ Getting caught in a cold rain shower – my hands were cold for most of the ride after that
- ☹️ Biking alongside the Mary Hill bypass was not fun, even though it was a separated bike lane
Despite the promising forecast in the days leading up to Sunday, the weather put paid to any hiking plans we had. We didn’t fancy the idea of getting caught in the rain up in the snow, nor the idea of slogging to a viewless summit. Instead, we decided to brave a bike ride and, rather than just bike the familiar streets of Vancouver, we headed east to try out a trail that had been on our radar for some time.
The torrential downpour we passed through on our way had us seriously wondering if we were doing the right thing, but all was well five minutes later when we emerged onto a bone-dry highway, and our hopes were lifted again as we turned into Port Coquitlam. Ahead of us loomed a threatening shower, great diagonal streaks of rain filling the sky and hiding the mountains, but it seemed to be staying over the peaks. Good for us, we thought.
We parked in Gates Park (to the sound of someone’s booming tailgate party, alas) and ate a filling lunch before reassembling the bikes and getting under way. As soon as we got out of the car, the scent of the cottonwoods filled my nose and I breathed it in. Maria’s less keen on it and looked somewhat less enamoured. The second sense that was pricked as we stepped outside was from the cool of the air, much colder than we expected. This was going to be a chilly ride…
The trail started out alongside the Coquitlam River, a line of cottonwoods forming a barrier between the open park and the river bank. Between the tall trees was a tangle of salmonberry dotted with fresh pink and green, while beneath that was a carpet of green from hundreds – if not thousands – of false lily-of-the-valley leaves. Under our tyres, the trail was paved, although the nearby trees were making their presence felt with many small bumps where the tarmac had been pushed up by the roots, which made for a much less comfortable ride than we were expecting!
We wound our way through the trees and soon emerged by the Pitt River Road which we crossed underneath by the river, then doubling back to pick up the trail again along a dyke. Upon reaching the gate we saw a sign informing walkers and cyclists of a closure which meant we had to turn around and bike back the way, going over the river (on a sidewalk that was a little too narrow for two cyclists in my view) and picking up what seemed to be a much newer trail.
The surface turned to gravel and we wove our way through the skunk-cabbage filled reed beds of the marsh. Although we were close to the Lougheed Highway, the traffic noise didn’t really seem that intrusive. What soon became more of an issue was the cold rain that was starting to fall, helpfully blown at us with more force by the westerly wind. I suppose we could have turned back, given that we were only a couple of kilometres from the car, but we figured that we’d be just as likely to emerge from the shower and be able to enjoy the rest of the ride.
Within a few minutes we began to re-contemplate our decision as the rain got heavier. We found ourselves biking along the open dykes alongside the Coquitlam River exposed to the full force of the wind-driven rain that was soaking the right legs of our jeans – yeah, for some reason we’d worn jeans – as well as our gloves, chilling our fingers. And still we biked on, turning left over the river and noticing how the mountains had disappeared in a wall of grey… I checked our route on the map and we continued south along the dyke to reach the comparative shelter of a line of tall, aromatic cottonwoods. We followed the path alongside a line of moss-covered split-rail fencing, pausing at a sign informing us of the establishment of Colony Farm itself, and looked up to see two deer browsing the grassy meadows. At first they looked like they might startle and run, but they quickly decided we weren’t a threat and returned to their grazing.
Next, we crossed the Mary Hill Bypass (highway 7A) and joined the path again as it came alongside the Fraser River, following the oddly-named Argue Street. As we came up behind some pedestrians we realized the path was too narrow to be a multi-use path and we moved onto the road instead, at least until the path and road veered away from one another. We pulled off at a bench with a view of the water and stopped to check out the view. I went down to the river’s edge to get a view downstream to the Port Mann bridge while Maria enjoyed the company of a spotted towhee and a fancy male rufous hummingbird, flashing his red and green gorget from the tip of a bush. To our relief, it had stopped raining.
We moved on, enjoying the quiet ride, passing only the occasional dog walker and other cyclists. Apart from a few clearings, the river was mostly hidden from view by the trees but we could tell it was always there. It wasn’t obvious but at some point we left the Fraser and began to follow the Pitt River instead. We passed through a barrier on Argue Street stopping vehicles from going any further and enjoyed the peaceful section of road, with its plentiful lumps from encroaching tree roots, now sheltered from the main highway thanks to a high bank. Alas that was all too short and we found ourselves riding parallel to the busy road passing a number of light industrial businesses before passing another gate as we rode onto the next section of gravel dykes.
The next couple of kilometres were perhaps the least scenic, with a line of industrial buildings constantly on our left followed by an open works yard, before our way was blocked by the railway line. A short steep descent took us off the dyke and onto a narrow, bumpy path between some tall cottonwoods – that required some careful riding! – before emerging next to the highway again. My heart sank a little as I was hoping that we didn’t have to venture onto the road but I was pleased to find we followed a separated pathway, under the railway lines and out the other side, passing a small pond before rejoining the dyke again. It all looks very convoluted on the map but the signposts kept us on track.
We rode under the Pitt River bridge on Highway 7 and emerged in greener pastures. A pair of Canada geese honked as they flew overhead while a pair of northern flickers caught my eye in the trees next to us. Now the trail took us past a relatively new retail park, complete with trail-facing brewery. I had earmarked this spot as our half-way point and a good spot to sit and enjoy a (well-earned?) beer. But the day was too cold and neither of us really felt like drinking anything so chilly and so we continued on, vowing to revisit on a finer day.
Now we were on open dykes with great views over the river towards Pitt Meadows. The shower that had doused us earlier was now lingering over the summits of Blanchard Mountain (more commonly known as the Golden Ears group of peaks). Blanchard Needle was barely visible and I hoped the clouds would clear as we biked on so we could get a view of these familiar peaks. Lining the route to our left was another line of tall cottonwoods, one complete with an eagle nest being guarded by one half of a pair. Down in the shrubs at dyke level, a female Anna’s hummingbird caught my eye and ear and we watched her go from branch to branch, whether feeding or collecting nesting material we couldn’t tell.
This was the most enjoyable section to ride and we soaked up the views around us. I had planned to travel in this direction so that we’d be looking at the mountains the whole time, and even though they were doing their best to hide, it was still beautiful. We stopped a few times to admire the views, at one point hearing the calls of an osprey over the water. Later in one of our photos, we could see a pair of ospreys on one of the old dolphins in the river. (No, not that kind of dolphin: the kind that was used to moor logs before processing at a sawmill or transport elsewhere.)
Eventually this section came to an end and we turned inland, following the curving lines of De Boville Slough. The trail continued on around the slough and up to the edge of the Pitt-Addington Marsh wildlife management area (next to Minnekhada regional park), but we decided to save that too for another day. It gave us an idea for a simple bike-n-hike trip too that would be fun. We stopped for one last glimpse of Golden Ears, now partially free of clouds, and watched swallows dart across the sky before moving on. A well-placed public washroom meant we could make ourselves comfortable before moving on to the next part of the route.
It wasn’t entirely obvious which way to go from here but a quick check of the map and the signs pointed us on the right side of Hyde Creek. We followed Huber Drive for a while before joining a gravel path alongside the creek, crossing it on a metal bridge and turning right to stay with it as the path entered the forest. The creek was an unexpected delight, a little bit of wild running water right next to peoples’ homes, and we enjoyed its sound as we pedalled along upstream. The forest floor was utterly festooned with a verdant carpet of false lily-of-the-valley leaves – really, I don’t remember seeing as many anywhere before!
After an easy few minutes riding through the forest we emerged onto Patricia Avenue, which we followed for a block before diverting into another patch of trees in Wellington Park. Within a few metres I pulled hard on my brakes and yelled ‘trillium!’ to Maria. We pulled over and leaned our bikes against a tall Douglas fir, walking back to the spot where the flowers were growing. What a lovely treat! They seemed to be thriving in this part of the forest and we spent a few minutes walking around taking photos of several different flowers. One had a small bee right in its centre.
As we exited the forest, we had to pedal hard to climb a little hill, joining another road for a short distance before re-entering the forest. It was great fun – easy cycling on mostly flat gravel with very few bumps or obstacles. No wonder this is part of the Trans Canada Trail. It may have been messy second-growth forest (albeit with a few trillium blooming here and there) but it was a beautiful cheerful spring green, and there was hardly anyone around so it was wonderfully quiet and relaxing.
We crossed one last road before reaching the banks of the Coquitlam River again and turned south to cycle the last couple of kilometres or so back to the car, retracing a route we’d walked about 16 months previously on a very dreary December day. It was much more enjoyable in the spring! Back at the car, we dismantled and stowed the bikes, feeling a great sense of achievement at having cycled that little route. The sun had even come out by now and we drove over to Matteo’s to get some gelato, which we soon devoured while soaking up the warm afternoon rays.
Well, it was definitely a good call to go out, despite the weather, and to not turn back when the rain caught up with us. We thoroughly enjoyed the circuit and fully intend to do it again on a warmer day, if nothing else to be able to sit back and admire the view with a cold beer.