Access: To get to the start of this segment make your way to the roundabout at the top of the South Access Extension. Exit the roundabout onto MacLean Lake Road heading south towards the rock quarry. The road will turn from pavement to gravel as you head up the hill towards the quarry. Ride through the quarry and turn right at the T- junction immediately after you pass through the gate (which will probably be open).
Description: 7.8 km of classic Whitehorse gravel. Starting at the gate you just rode through, this is gently rolling terrain, with some fast, flowy downhill. Keep your head up for baby heads, but this segment is in great shape and will have you whoopin’ all the way to Fish Lake Road which is where the fun ends.
Elevation: Not quite as flat as a plate of piss.
Bike Recommendation: If it has pedals and 2 wheels, then you should be good to go.
Where to from here: This segment will spit you out where the pavement ends on Fish Lake Road. Turn left here and you’ll be straight onto the Fish Lake Road (Litter Free Zone!) Segment.
Mary Lake Circuit
Access: Proceed to the Alaska Highway. Go south past the Wolf Creek Campground. Soon after, on the right, you will encounter Fireweed Drive. Turn right and head to the T intersection. Turn left and you’re on the Mary Lake Circuit.
Elevation: A bit up. A bit down. A bit around. You end up where you begin, so 0.
Description: The Mary Lake Circuit follows Fireweed Drive all the way round. It has a nice, snappy 1km climb from Salmon Trail up to Buttercup Place and a flowy downhill from there back to the start.
This circuit is intended for use by normally healthy persons only. Prior to use, read all package directions and use only as directed: as fast as possible. Apply liberal amounts of force to pedals in a circular fashion. Avoid contact with the chipseal, but if this happens, flush thoroughly with Winterlong beer.
Some riders may, when on the Mary Lake Circuit, experience one or more of the following: mild bumpiness of posterior, burning sensation in legs and/or lungs, stinging sensation in eyes due to salty liquid extrusion from forehead, shrieks of joy, exaltations of bliss, face numbness, persistent upward inclination at the corners of the mouth. Should side effects persist or irritation occurs or, and especially, if there is no improvement in fun factor following a full treatment of 5.4km, discontinue use and proceed to the Flughafenweg for consultation including full gravel, sand, woodchip examination.
Bike Recommendation: Keep tightly closed when not in use and store away from excessive heat or cold.
Thou Shalt Not Litter!
Access: Segment starts at the bottom of the big climb heading towards the lake on Fish Lake Road. Drive or ride past the Copper Haul/Fish Lake Road junction. Continue down a short descent. When the road turns to the left, the fun starts.
Distance: 3.1 km
Elevation: 211 m (7% avg)
Description: On the first day, God created the bicycle. He took a couple of round-ish rocks, a few twigs and a strip of leather and he said unto the people, “Here. Take what I have created and pedal it. I call it a ‘bike’”
And so the people did. And it was good.
Then God said unto the people, “Now, take what I have created and ride it all over the world. But don’t just ride it on smooth pavement, make sure you ride it up some gravelly, steep shit, too. Spread the word that bikes are rad. But… you know… don’t be a dick about it.”
And so the people did. And it was good.
One of the places these bike prophets visited was Whitehorse, Yukon. Here they found a grizzled bunch of locals who were tired of rollerblading and walking around in Birkenstocks. And these locals took to the bike. And they rode their ‘bikes’ all over the place.
And it was good.
One of the places they rode was up a 3.3 km climb with an average grade of 7% that was gravelly, and pretty steep in places (as God intended). And they continued riding until they reached a sign on the right hand side that beseeched them to not litter, because to litter would be a dick move.
And so the people didn’t. And it was good.
Bike Recommendation: Ride one. God says to.
Where to from here: If you continue in the same direction, there’s still a bit of work to do before you start the short but rewarding descent down to the lake, but there’s no more segments in that direction so you you may want to save your legs, turn around and enjoy a fun descent back towards Copper Haul Rd and eventually the Alaska Highway. Be a bit cautious on the descent, because there’s some loose gravel in a few corners.
Scout Lake Loop
Access: Remember when you would get your road bike out and then just automatically turn south on the Alaska Highway? Right. Well, there’s also another direction. North. Head north this time and keep going. Past the turnoff to the North Klondike Highway, and just past where the buttery smooth new pavement ends. About 4.25km past the 1st entrance to the “Old Alaska Highway” you’ll see the 2nd entrance to “Old Alaska Highway”. Turn left here and you’ll discover what we’ve discovered…
Elevation: You won’t even notice.
Description: …a quiet, unassuming gem of a meandering country road without all the scenic boastfulness of Miles Canyon or the punishing steepness of “Thou Shalt Not Litter”. The Scout Lake Loop is what road riding can be; nay, it’s what road riding should be. If you see a car on this stretch of road you’re probably hallucinating. You may want to just ride back and forth on this 5km long piece of paradise. Do it. We won’t judge. But aren’t you really just procrastinating riding the Vista View?
Bike Recommendation: You’re flying, not riding.
Where to from here: uh, you heard me say Vista View, right?
There ain’t no vista, there ain’t no view, and there certainly ain’t no vista of no view!
Access: Head up the North Klondike highway. About 10 km from the North Klondike/AK highway intersection you will see signs for Vista View Rd, which is on your left. Look up… waaaay up….that radio tower is your destination. Turn left on Vista View and the segment starts a hundred meters or so down the road.
Distance: 6.18 km
Elevation: 385 m (6% avg)
Description: Welcome to the crown jewel of Whitehorse-area gravel climbs. Like Sidney Deane conspiring with Billy Ho in a “White Men Can’t Jump”-esque streetball hustle, the hard-packed gravel and moderate grades at the start of this segment will make you think you’ve got this thing in the bag. As the road gradually narrows and steepens and the surface gets looser, you’re still feeling confident. Anyway, you’ve come this far — you’re committed, right? Then, after a brief respite, the road turns left and all hell breaks loose. There is no “road” beyond a loosely defined rocky… yet somehow also sandy… clearing in the woods dotted with baby heads that points up. Like, straight….UP. You’ve reached “the crux”, and there’s no turning back now. Put your head down. Curse. Snarl. Spit… but don’t stop moving forward.. upwards… somehow.
Make it to the right hand turn after the crux, and you’ve broken it’s back. Enjoy a few hundred metres of false-flat before making a left onto the final punchy kick-up. One last push and you’re there.
Exhausted. Shattered. Unbroken.
The views are worth it. The cold Winterlong beer will taste that much sweeter for the effort. Welcome! You are now a member of the exclusive VVGC (Vista View Gravelleurs Club).
Bike Recommendation: Highly recommended.
Where to from here: Go home. Drink a cold beer from Winterlong Brewing Co. You’ve earned it.
Miles Canyon Loop
Access: This is a loop. You can start wherever you want on the loop. We suggest making your way to the south access pull/out (northbound side of the Alaska Highway, just south of Robert Service Way) and start from there.
Description: California has the Pacific Coast Highway along the Big Sur coast. Italy has the narrow, meandering country roads through the vineyards of the Veneto region. Australia has the Great Ocean Road south of Melbourne. Hawaii has the tropical, undulating velo paradise that is the West Maui Loop. None of these iconic locations can match in sheer grandeur and leg-busting steepness, the majesty that is… Miles Canyon. A 4.7km stretch of the roughest, steepest and most windswept chipseal on the planet. And it’s right at our doorstep.
Beginning at the pull-out, you exit off the highway right and proceed down Robert Service Way, hitting speed in excess of 135km/hr. You’ll want to grab a handful of brake to safely navigate the right turn onto Miles Canyon Road. From there, the pavement gets velvety smooth with nary a pothole in sight as you grind the false flat uphill past the dam.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a rare, 50km/hr south wind to keep your hair out of your eyes as you make your way along the lake to the base of the first climb.
In his 1967 hit single, Cat Stevens distilled the reality of this first climb when he sang, “the first hill is the steepest”. Although measuring a paltry average grade of 8.1%, the climb from the lake has pitches greater than 46% that will probably force you to get off and walk. Fortunately, it’s easy to walk in cycling shoes.
Once you remount and get back up to speed, you’ll taste the headwind again as you barrel down the first short descent before an equally short, snappy climb. You’ll then bomb headlong down the funnest 15 second descent ever to the turnoff to the Suspension Bridge. Unless you’re feeling peppy, bear right, maintain your speed (you’re gonna need it) and find an easy gear that is gonna get you to the top of what feels like the neverending climb back to your favourite highway. Contrary to what every cyclist who’s ever ridden this thinks, this hill does, in fact, end. And after only 500m. See?! That wasn’t so bad. Turn right and finally take advantage of that tailwind all the back to the south access pullout.
All told, this loop is about 8km of virtuous suffering that will purify your soul.
Bike Recommendation: Yes.
Where to from here: You’re pretty central when you start/finish this loop. Continue on north up the highway and loop around to knock off the Flughafenweg segment, or head south to bag Mary Lake.
Takhini + Ponderosa
Access: Head to Takhini North. Turn off Range Road onto Normandy Rd. On your right, immediately past the townhouses behind Takhini Elementary, is paved path. Here begins this segment.
Distance: somewhere around 1.5km
Elevation: somewhere about 7%
Description: This segment is exclusively on a bike path. Normally “bike paths” are to be avoided when riding fast. This segment is an exception however, because, well, uphill. Almost exclusively.
Vibrantly deep grey in colour, linking two deceptively difficult climbs, this path entices you in, beginning with a silky smoothness, false downhill section where you keep right and a faint sweetness of lactic acid dances in your legs, followed by a deep, penetrating ache, intensifying in your quads as you bear left at the top of the first climb and gasp hoarsely for breath.
Oh, it’s not over. A short period of freewheeling respite is punctuated only by a brief re-emergence to consciousness so as to navigate the steel bollards, again staying left to pass over the bridge above McIntyre Creek. Watch for errant disc golfers. From here, the road points upward. Again.
On the nose (of your saddle), the path then greets you with a stiff and vibrant note of 7% and mixed spruce/pine aromas. Downshifting is likely required to maintain the proper balance of horseblanket funkiness and acidity on the palate. The grind to the top of the climb is relentless, but the finish is sweet; for should you have the presence of mind to pause and gaze over your right shoulder, you will be greeted with an unparalleled view over the valley you have just left in your wake, the airport, and (do you dare?!) Grey Mountain beyond. Here, at the big iron gate across the road, ends this segment.
Bike recommendation: Vibrant aromas of summer meadows.
Where to from here: Time for an easy one you say? Might as well drop down to Whistlebend for a little breather on the circumnavigation of Whistlebend. From the end of the path, keep straight and descend Pine all the way to 12th where you can make your way down to the windswept wasteland of Whistlebend.
Grey Mountain Road
Access: Head into Riverdale. Take the left onto Alsek and then your second left. It’s Grey Mountain Road. Take note of the time (and date) on your Timex. It may take you a while to get from here…..to the helicopter pad that’s 11 km away and 635m closer to the sun.
Description: See those tricycles all chained up in the yard of the house at the bottom? You asked, so I’ll tell you; they signify all the victims this beast of a climb has claimed since Bobby Bottombracket first attempted it (unsuccessfully) in 1972.
Vista View might be long, it might be steep, it might be rough. But Grey Mountain is almost twice as long, and the upper stretches are embedded with sidewall-gashing razor blades, loose marbles and glacial melt river-crossings. To get to the top, you’ll be on your bike for the better part of an hour, or more. The view from the top is pretty worth it, but who’s doing this for the f&#%*#g view?
The good news is, if you’re not in for the full meal deal, you can push yourself to heights on this climb that are a little more manageable. Intermediate goals include the Magnusson Ski Trail parking lot (2km, 4% avg grade), the broad lookout at the end of where the road is in “good” shape (6km, 3% avg grade), the Easy Money trailhead (9km, 4% avg grade).
But you didn’t look, steely-eyed, at those tricycles as you turned on to Grey Mountain Road and think, “hey, I think today is not my day, I’m on a ‘recovery’ day anyway…”, did you? No. You thought, “I’ll be damned if they’re going to add a tricycle with my name on it on the chain gang of defeat!” But be forewarned, the higher you go on Grey Mountain, the worse the road gets. The final 100m will destroy you. Just ask Bobby Bottombracket.
Should you successfully stand upon the summit and make your way safely back down, don’t forget to give a nod towards Grey Mountain Cemetery and the final resting place of ol’ Bobby Bottombracket, who paved (kinda) the way for us all.
Bike Recommendation: One with functional front and rear brakes.
Where to from here: If you still have any energy left you could proceed to straight to the couch.
Access: This segment starts at what is widely known as the “Most Scenic Potty Stop on the Planet”. The “Urination Station Destination“. Get to Whistlebend by the less-traveled route of Range Road…just before Range Road intersects with Whistlebend Way… you will see…on your right…the lovely loo location in question. It’s a pull out with a few parking spaces and: a port-a-potty.
Distance: about 3km
Elevation: nada. zilch. zero. nothing. squat.
Description: Leading from the scenic “rest” area, cleaving the split rail fence, is an idyllic paved trail through the woods, perfect for a contemplative spin as you ponder the most recent long form magazine article you read in the Economist. Bear right at your first junction and you will be taken on a circumnavigation of Whitehorse’s newest residential area, just across the river from the sewage lagoons. Beware the north wind.
This trail has one or two short diversions: the first is the pond to your left that you will be able to glimpse through the trees; a loop within a loop if you will. If you proceed past the pond you’ll cross the road to the golf course and eventually be spat back out onto Casca Blvd. At this point you have a couple options.
You can go straight across Casca Blvd and keep on the trail; they seem to pave more and more and more and more of it each day. Or, you can turn right and get lost in the ever-growing maze of streets. Or you can turn left and get outa dodge. Whichever way you choose, you may just end up lost in Whistlebend for several hours. The good news is; you know where to find a bathroom. And not just any bathroom. The best!
Few cars. Tons of space. Lots of new, if short, roads to discover. And a port-a-loo with a view.
Bike Recommendation: Any and all.
Where to from here: They may still be doing construction on Wann Road leading up to Porter Creek so best bet for now is to head up to the roundabout at the junction of Whistlebend Way and Mountainview Drive and decide from there: up or down.
Access: Segment starts just off the AK highway on the same side as the airport. A few hundred meters North of the most southerly entrance/exit road to the airport you will find a modest entry gate leading onto a paved path bordering the chainlink fence that traces the perimeter of the whole airport. Start here and ride the path all the way back to the highway South of the airport, following the fence line.
Distance: 4.65 km
Elevation: Pancake flat.
Description: Joel opens his front door, steps onto the front deck and sets down his guitar case. He seems oblivious to me standing on his lawn dressed in my riding gear, straddling my bike.
Opening the case, he pulls out his vintage 1981 Rickenbacker, in Jetglo, and eases into a bluesy, walking bass riff.
“Uhh… hey, man. Are we going riding?”
He either doesn’t hear me, or is too focused on something more pressing.
“Have you ever been….” he drawls thoughtfully, eyes hidden behind dark Ray Bans, “…to Berlin?”
He shifts smoothly into something that sounds vaguely Lou Reed-ish.
I try another approach.
“Sooo… where do you want to ride today? Like, where should we ride our bicycles?”
He’s slapping now. Yellow ‘Livestrong’ bracelet on his wrist flicking almost imperceptibly as his thumb bangs out a funk groove that brings to mind George Clinton.
I don’t know what else to do, so I press on.
“Like, are you feeling pavement? Gravel? Dirt? Sand?! Woodchips?!?!”
He’s already moved onto a walking jazz line that is surely Jaco Pastorius-inspired, when he suddenly stops.
He lowers his Ray Bans and looks directly at me.
“We’re gonna do it all. But we’re only gonna ride one segment.”
I nod… slowly… as it dawns on me.
“In Berlin, they’d call it ‘Flughafenweg.”
Bike Recommendation: Also, yes.
Where to from here: It’s a short hop South to the intersection of South Access (Robert Service Rd) and the AK highway. From the intersection you can turn left and pick-up the Miles Canyon loop, or turn right, then left at the roundabout and make your way towards Copper Haul Rd. (aka Whitehorse Roubaix).