Founded as a bike rack brand in beautiful British Columbia, Swagman has always been passionate about not just creating the best way to transport bikes, but also about the rides themselves. Nestled in Penticton, BC, we’re fortunate to call one of the greatest biking destinations our backyard.
And what good are our local mountain bike trails if we can’t share them with the world? That’s why we partnered up with Visit Penticton and some of our favourite local breweries to put together this series: Swagman’s Backyard Ride Guide.
We’ll be showcasing the different riding zones on offer, giving you an insider’s guide on some of the best local lines, epic climbs, and scenic routes. Each Backyard Ride Guide piece will dive into a specific riding zone, sharing a little of what to expect, suggesting some routes, sharing our favourite trails, and of course, pairing up with a local brewery for the best spot to enjoy an apres pint.
So join us for Swagman’s Backyard Ride Guide, where every ride promises an adventure, and every adventure ends with a brew.
Words & Photos: Evan Wishloff
The tale of Skaha Bluffs is that of a phoenix. Once a Penticton jewel, the Bluffs suffered a scarring blow from the Christie Mountain Fire of 2020, but like all legends, rose from the ashes.
Today, it offers not just a thrilling mix of trails, but also an unmatched ecological journey on two wheels. From arid forests with large ponderosas to the dramatic, haunting beauty of the fire’s aftermath, this is a ride that tells a story.
Are you ready to ride the Bluffs?
Swagman’s Recommended Ride - Skaha Bluffs:
Distance: 10.8 km Vertical Ascent: 470 m
Skaha Bluffs is a world-renowned rock climbing area, so the area is very well served, with a large parking lot and outhouses. Park your car anywhere in the Skaha Bluffs parking lot, or make your ride Fuel Free, and pedal from downtown along the Lake-to-Lake bike route and famous roadie-heaven Eastside Road.
As you set forth, remember: Skaha Bluffs isn’t just a mountain biking playground, it’s a protected Provincial Park. Stick to the Gillies Creek corridor, our sanctioned mountain bike section of the park, and let the blend of double and singletrack guide you upwards as you climb Gillies FSR to Smythe FSR.
After only around 250 metres of ascent, our ride heads onto Rock Oven Turn-Off, which is where the ecological journey gets interesting.
Skaha Bluffs weaves stories not just in its trails, but also in its ever-evolving flora. Amidst the charred remains from the Christie Mountain fire, the vibrant fireweed emerges, a symbol of nature’s resilience.
This isn’t just post-fire growth - the fireweed lining the trail existed before the fire, hidden by the forest's thick canopy and brush. The natural cycles of fire breathe new life into the forest, and in the absence of a thick, overgrown forest, fireweed seizes its moment, soaring taller and finally getting the chance to display its vibrant purple blossoms.
Don’t just chase those Strava segments - take a breather and immerse yourself in this natural wonder.
A short pedal on Rock Oven Turn Off leads to Ward 1, where you’ll ride through more scorched trees, enjoy some very beginner-friendly small rock slabs, and descend back down towards the parking lot.
As soon as the trail intersects Smythe FSR, it’s time to climb right back up again. Since you’re already familiar with the climb, it should be a breeze the second time around!
This time, our route takes us a bit further up the FSR. The reward? Sauerkraut. The trail, not the food…
A few punchy climbs await in the opening stages, but they’ll open up to big views that make the struggle worth it.
As the trail winds down, bringing today’s story of Skaha Bluffs to an end, you can expect some flat and dusty corners, plenty of flow, and a few misshapen rocks to test your skills.
Finally, after completing Sourkraut, you’ll get the chance to ride the final segment of Ward 1 that we skipped earlier, exiting back down to the parking lot for the completion of yet another stellar South Okanagan ride!
Every ride deserves a liquid encore, and for this Ride Guide, that comes from the taps of Slackwater Brewing, one of Penticton’s many craft breweries.
Conceived mid-cast amid a mountain stream, the ethos of Slackwater is all about those moments nestled between life’s adventures. Slackwater makes beer for people who love nature. And beer.
The friendly taproom features two bars, two patios, and an amazing interior with decor paying homage to their nature-loving roots.
Cheers to another South Okanagan adventure, now tip back that glass!
Have you ridden our recommended ride? Let us know in the comments!
Stay tuned for more of Swagman’s Backyard Ride Guide, where we continue to explore the best that our local trails and breweries have to offer. For more information on mountain biking trails, craft breweries, and to plan your vacation to Penticton be sure to check out www.visitpenticton.com.
Help Maintain the Trails
The trails we ride and recreate on in Penticton are developed and maintained by community members, dedicated volunteers, and passionate bikers. It takes thousands of hours and incredible effort to keep trails open and safe for all bikers. When visiting or riding in a BC community, consider donating to the local trail club – through Trail Karma or directly to the club – and support those who work tirelessly to maintain the trails. Learn more and donate to the Penticton and Area Cycling Association (PACA) here.