As the dog days of summer howl a last pitiful yelp before giving way to the cooler breezes of autumn, it’s time to start planning your next camping trip to take advantage of the Northwest’s beautiful fall weather and colors. So on your next trip consider this— instead of parking at the trail head and pawing your way into the back country, go deeper into the wilderness on the fat tires of your own Fat Bike.

Fat Bike
Fat bike meet-up at Ocean Shores (Photo courtesy of Ward Whitmire)

For the uninitiated, fat biking is similar to mountain biking except that a fat bike has extra-wide tires inflated to just 4–10 psi and is made of a light poly-carbon frame. The wide tires and low tire pressure make the bikes more stable in normally hazardous conditions and let bike-packers go deeper on backcountry trails traditionally reserved for hikers.

Fat Bike
It takes a lot to stop a fat bike (Photo courtesy of Pat Sprute)

The Northwest Fat Biking Bike-Packing Community

About three years ago, fat biker Ward Whitmire from Yakima met Shawn Pederson from Seattle and together started looking for other fat bikers in the Northwest to ride with. Now Pederson and Whitmire, along with the help of resident fat biking trail expert David Nelson of Spokane, run the Fat Biking Northwest club and Facebook page (facebook.com/northwestfatbike). The group has 500 Facebook likes and around 25 active members that meet several times a year in different parts of the state to ride and discuss all things fat biking. Members come from both sides of the mountains, Canada and Oregon. Be sure to catch the group’s annual Ocean Shores meet-up September 27-28, more information about the event can be found on the club’s event page.

Fat Bike
Loaded for bike-packing (Photo courtesy of Pat Sprute)

Where to Go

Fat biking is just taking off, so it’s wise to call ahead to make sure that bikes are allowed where you are going and to make reservations if you are renting— bikes go fast. The friendly folks at Northwest Fat Biking can also give you tips for great places to ride as well as riding contacts in your area. Whitmire recommends the Colockum/Quilomene Cannon Traverse, what he calls Washington’s Outback, as a great place to bike-pack with a fat bike. Whitmire has posted a YouTube video of the area and bike-packing route. For more information on regional bike-packing highlights, see the expert recommendations below.

Fat Bike
Making camp (Photo courtesy of Pat Sprute)

Washington/Idaho

The Methow Valley has the most fat bike access of any area in the region. The Methow Valley Sports Trail Association (MVSTA) allows fat bikes on most of their trails, and Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop also allows fat biking. Check with the MVSTA for trail pass information. Rentals are available at Methow Cycle and Sport and Sun Mountain Lodge and will cost about $45.00 for a full day— reservations are recommended. For an amazing Washington bike-packing trip, Kristen Smith of the MVSTA recommends the Methow’ s famous Rendezvous Huts. “There is a great single-track ride around all the huts or you can ride the roads to the huts with all your gear and bike from there,” says Smith.

White Pass Nordic trails are fat bike friendly with trails running through the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but you will have to bring your own bike.

In the Spokane area, Nelson says that you can find the best sand riding in the area at the dunes south of Moses Lake and Frenchman’s Coulee near George. Fat bikes also handle loose gravel and ballast rock well, so the Columbia Plateau and John Wayne Pioneer Trail are also great options.

Fat Bike
Frenchman Coulee, Columbia River Gorge (Photo courtesy of Ward Whitmire)

Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho has opened several trails to fat biking and offers bikes in their rental shop for around $30 for three hours. Whitmire recommends the St. Anthony Dunes in eastern Idaho. In the Coeur d’ Alene area, try Vertical Earth bike shop— they carry a full line of fat bikes and accessories.

Oregon

Bend is the center of fat biking in Oregon, and T.J. Jordan of The Hub Cyclery in Bend says there are a number of trails for all riding conditions and skills. Jordan says the great thing about fat biking in Bend is that it allows people to bike all year and in all types of conditions. He recommends the Wanoga Sno-Park, Dutchman Sno-Park and Tumalo Falls. These areas are on U.S. Forest Service land, so check for parking and land use permits before arriving. Summer/fall riding possibilities are nearly endless, but try the bike park at Mount Bachelor; the park will offer downhill biking for the first time this season. Besides Bachelor, Jordan recommends Phil’s Trail managed by the Central Oregon Trail Association.

Whitmire includes the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the Oregon coast and Christmas Valley Dunes about 100 miles south of Bend in Oregon’s high desert on his list of epic fat bike rides.

Several bike shops in Bend stock fat bikes. The Hub Cyclery carries a full line of Surly bikes and accessories and rents all sizes of fat bikes for just $25.00 a day.

Canada

Rachelle Colthorp, media relations for Kootenay Rockies tourism in British Columbia, says “Fat biking is definitely something that is becoming more and more popular throughout the Kootenay Rockies region of B.C.” Colthrop recommends Fernie, B.C., Nipika Mountain Resort with over 100 km of maintain trails, the east and west Kootenay fire roads, and the Hector Gorge and Dolly Varden trails in the Kootenay National Park.

Diana Ducs of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism suggests Mountain Station above Nelson, B.C.. The area has trails for all abilities with locals favoring Espresso, Rez, Badger and Raccoon. Ducs’ says you can’t miss the Giveout Creek Forest Service road with its great views of Nelson and Kootenay Lake and, for those looking for a workout, try the Kokanee Glacier Road up to Gibson Lake. For a mellow cruise, try the Rails to Trails, while the more adventurous can follow any Forest Service road into the vast unspoiled backcountry. Your rental and accessory needs can be met by Gerick Cycle & Ski in Nelson.

Fat Bike
Bike-packing wild places on a fat bike (Photo courtesy of Ward Whitmire)
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