I’m going out on a limb here, but hear me out: The best trail in the world is less than two miles long. Yes, I realize how ludicrous that sounds and, yes, I’m completely serious. The trail in question is known as Half Nelson and it’s been said that it’s the most heavily ridden trail in the world. Since it opened in 2010, Half Nelson has seen an average of 120 mountain bikers every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. An electronic counter ticks off the traffic heading down its length.

There’s a reason riders from all over the world stumble into the town of Squamish asking for Half Nelson by name. In fact, there are several reasons and they are as follows: 20 bridges, 68 berms, 102 jumps, and 900 feet of descending-all in just 1.3 miles. In a word, damn.

Half Nelson is a trail, sure, but actually sailing along, jump after jump, corner after corner, berm after berm is something much closer to what you’d experience on a roller coaster. The moment you hit the bottom, I guarantee you, you’ll hang a right and pedal back up the fireroad to do it all over again. This thing is addictive, which is why it draws so many riders.


Perhaps the most amazing thing about Half Nelson? Unlike a lot of the better-known trails in this stretch of the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to possess superhuman bike-riding chops to fully enjoy it. I’ve seen kids on BMX bikes sail down the thing and arthritic types ambling peacefully along its length. I’ve also watched some of the world’s best freeriders levitate over a whole lot of Half Nelson. This trail is the very rare stretch of dirt that appeals to everyone, making it something of a unicorn in the mountain biking world. It’s all just a question of how you choose to ride it.

Clark Lewis and his dog Jackson ride the covered bridge on the Half Nelson Trail in Squamish, B.C.

Clark Lewis and his dog Jackson ride the covered bridge on the Half Nelson Trail in Squamish, B.C.

Half Nelson is located in a former logging town that now bills itself as the Outdoor Capitol of the World. While that’s a gutsy proclamation, it’s not without merit. A constant flood of Vancouverites are moving to Squamish for its world-class climbing and mountain biking. The city of Squamish commissioned a study not long ago that found that a whopping 42 percent of Squamish residents ride the trails. Fortunately, there are plenty of trails to be had here-more than 300 miles of singletrack, in fact. Crowding is not a problem.

Once you’re dialed on Half Nelson, you’re just a short pedal away from other great trails such as Full Nelson (a sort of supersized version of Half), Hoods in the Woods, Pseudotsuga, and Angry Midget. What’s more, if you’ve got the legs and lungs, you can ride from one riding zone in Squamish to the next. This isn’t a place that requires a shuttle vehicle. If you have the time, Squamish has the trails.

So, consider Half Nelson the gateway drug to a larger exploration of some of the best trails on the West Coast. Half Nelson is short-there’s no denying that, but it’s also-inch for inch-the best, purpose-built trail in existence.

You can ride the whole thing without turning the pedals a single revolution. You don’t need a $5,000 bike, a lift ticket, or an arsenal of awesome aerial tricks at your disposal. Just kick off and flow from one perfectly sculpted corner to the next. Feel like catching air? The jumps are perfectly tailored for that. Want to keep your wheels on the ground? It’s still a blast to ride it that way. This is what perfection feels like.

From Highway 99, go right on to Mamquam Road and drive east. You’ll pass Quest University. Mamquam becomes Garibaldi Park Road, which eventually morphs into a dirt road. You’ll soon reach Ring Creek FSR junction on your left and a small parking area on your right-close to where Half Nelson bottoms out. Park here. Next pedal up the Ring Creek FSR, staying to the right. It’s a mellow ascent. You’ll pass a few different trailheads, but you’ll know you’re at Half Nelson when you see the Trailhead Shelter and kiosk. Lower your saddle-it’s all downhill from here. For more information, go HERE.

Photos by John Gibson

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