Cultus Lake to Chilliwack Lake on the TCT
The weather forecast was good, especially for late September/early October on the South Coast, so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and explore the Trans-Canada Trail between Cultus Lake and Chilliwack Lake. This section of the TCT is referred to as the Chilliwack River Valley Trail. The trail goes through dense forest crossed by creeks, and consists of sections of singletrack trail, old gravel roads and paved road. The total length is 65km if you go to the junction with the next section, the Silverhope Creek Trail, which is apparently not suitable for bikes.
We set off mid-afternoon on Windy Knob FSR, a gravel road that parallels the Chilliwack River alternating between smooth, flat gravel and rough, challenging climbs and descents. There are many intersecting dirt bike and mountain bike trails and there were lots of people out on their motorized vehicles. We came out at Tamihi Recreation Site, which was packed with RVs and huge trucks, so we continued to Thurston Meadows Recreation Site, which was a little quieter and nicer ($17 per night, no water available other than from the river). We decided to stay two nights so we could leave our gear set up and continue to Chilliwack Lake a little lighter.
The trail changes from one side of the road to the other and was generally good, with the occasional overgrown section and a few washouts. Bridges ranged from sketchy hand-made structures to durable aluminum pre-fabs. Hoping for salmon, the fishers were out in full force, many camped along the roadside and on the trails. Some had even set up semi-permanent structures that occasionally impede travel on the trail. We stopped for lunch at Riverside Campground, a small, quiet site by the river.
The sky was definitely smokey from the forest fires and nearby campfires, but not enough to cause breathing issues. Nights were on the cool side, but still nice enough to sit around in a light jacket (though it was nice to have a small campfire one night). The huge campsite at Chilliwack Lake was quite empty, and we stopped for a snack and a walk by the river. Overall a pleasant ride with moderately technical sections, easier done with flat bars and wide tires.