Bikepacking Salt Spring Island: Mount Maxwell and Ruckle Provincial Park6 min read

Salt Spring Island is part of the Gulf Islands archipelago in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Island has a lot to offer to an avid traveller: from the most exceptional environment for cycling in the region to beautiful scenery and the provincial parks. Likewise, the leisurely pace on the island helps to rest from the city bustle. As the weekend approached, we were ready for our next adventure – bikepacking Salt Spring Island with overnight camping in Ruckle Provincial Park.

Little house on the island
On the way to Salt Spring Island

Things to see while bikepacking Salt Spring Island

Due to a low environmental impact and support to the local tourism industry, cyclists here are more than welcome. Indeed, many of the visitors (and locals) chose to cycle instead of driving. This cycling trend on Salt Spring sailings is growing by approximately 12% each year, while motor traffic has declined.

Salt Spring Saturday Market

After arrival, we opted to visit the biggest village of the Ganges where famous Salt Spring Saturday Market took place. It’s a worthy place to visit. In the market, you can find local organic produce such as farmstead cheeses, homemade snacks and food, world-class pottery, jewellery and fine art. Additionally, vendors must make it, bake it, or grow it themselves, and all products must be vendor produced and sold. Moreover, the event offers live music and other entertainment.

We were lucky to listen to a great local Ruwadzano Marimba Band. You can too enjoy a little bit of their performance by watching the video below.

Some pictures from the Ganges village:

Baynes Peak

Baynes Peak in Mount Maxwell Provincial Park is one of the island’s highest points (602m). It offers breathtaking views of Vancouver Island, the surrounding Gulf Islands and the mainland of British Columbia. One of our top picks of bikepacking Salt Spring Island was this point. Consequently, we wanted to find out if it is doable.

After a short consultation in Salt Spring Island Visitor Information Centre we found the most efficient route. The total length of time needed to bikepack from the Ganges to Baynes Peak is roughly 2 hours of constant riding up the hill with the elevation of 602meters. The last section of approximately 5km is gravel road with some very steep slopes. Briefly stated, it is a very challenging endeavour, and a proper level of preparation is needed.

In case you’d like to repeat such trip, go South from Ganges village on Fulford Ganges Road for about 1.6km, then take a right on Cranberry Road and cycle for 3.7km until you see community farmstand in front of you (halfway). Then turn left on Mount Maxwell Road and cycle for the remaining 5.5km up the hill until you reach spectacular Baynes Peak.

Ruckle Provincial Park

Before leaving Baynes Peak, we quickly reviewed our camping options in the Salt Spring Island. Even though we were a little tired, we knew that one of the biggest and most beautiful campgrounds is at Ruckle Provincial Park which was supposed to add another 24km to our trip.

Ruckle Provincial Park is famous for 7km of shoreline, rocky cliffs, tiny coves and bays. It is considered to be one of the best places for productive wildlife viewing areas. However, despite seeing few deer, snakes and a bunny (they are all ubiquitous) we didn’t notice any other wildlife that day.

Our trip to Ruckle Provincial Park was probably more challenging than going to Baynes Peak. Strangely enough, instead of going downhill on the bumpy gravel road for 5km we decided to take a doubtful shortcut. Even though it was supposed to be only 1.3km downhill and save us 7km of the total remaining trip it took us roughly two hours. On the other hand, we were able to visit less accessible Baynes Peak viewing areas.

In short, we realized we were on a hiking trail but it was too late to go back. Cliffs, thick bushes, stumps and narrow path was on our further way. Also, we partly broke one of the bike racks and had to distribute pannier bags on other bikes. When eventually, 1.3km was over, we were feeling a little bit stressed, bruised and exhausted. Lesson learnt. Never take a doubtful shortcut on your own bikepacking Salt Spring Island trip.

Appropriate directions from Baynes Peak to Ruckle Provincial Park campsite are as follows: go down the same way as you came through Mount Maxwell Road, take right onto Cranberry Road and ride for 3.7km. Then take a sharp right on Fulford Ganges road and continue touring for 2.3km until you see Cusheon Lake Road on your left. Continue on Cusheon Lake Road for 2.2km, then turn right onto Stewart Road and go another 3.5km until you reach Beaver point Road on your left. After riding final 6.9km, you will reach Ruckle Provincial Park campsite.

In case you’d like to review other camping options before you bikepack Salt Spring Island, please refer to a list below.

Other excellent places to visit

On the way back we visited Salt Spring Island Cheese company and Salt Spring Wild Cider House – two locations that are worth checking in. For additional places of interest in Salt Spring Island be advised to refer to this map.

In case you have more time and will to explore the Gulf Islands, it’s worth to visit Galiano Island – another attractive cycling destination!

Transportation from Vancouver and ferries

We were travelling to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal by car and parked it at long-term parking next to the terminal. What you should know, there are few options you can choose from. Option number 1 is parking at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal which is very convenient and costs $16.00 for 24 hours. Make sure to arrive early, as parking spots may fill up quickly. Option number 2 is Translink Park and Ride. It is free parking at Ladner Exchange with 200 parking spots available. It is a less convenient option as it is further away from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Option number 3 is to take your car with you onto the ferry or find other means of transportation to get to the ferry terminal.

Take note that summer is the busiest time for BC Ferries sailings. For this reason, the surefire way to get to ferry of your choice is to book tickets online beforehand. It doesn’t cost anything and gives you peace of mind!

Some stats from bikepacking Salt Spring Island trip

Total distance: 40.04 km
Max elevation: 579 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 1137 m
Total descent: -1139 m
Average speed: 15.07 km/h
Total time: 08:41:53
Total distance: 30.76 km
Max elevation: 196 m
Min elevation: -5 m
Total climbing: 670 m
Total descent: -690 m
Average speed: 15.02 km/h
Total time: 05:10:57

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