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25km Smallwood Night Ride

Nelson MTB Rides
Stats of the Day
Time Riding: 
4 hours
Elevation Gain: 
Average Speed: 
Max Speed: 
Clear, Night
"The start of Vallelujah is a little schizophrenic and seems to go nowhere particularly fast."

Back at the end of August I was chatting with one of my friends from the shop, Con Diamond, about getting out for a night ride. Con is an awesome riding buddy for a few reasons; he likes to do random missions of rides that most people wouldn't be into, and he's retired so he's pretty easy to schedule a ride with. (He's also just a really cool guy in general)

Our mission for this ride was decided to be the Vallelujah loop out at Smallwood just outside of town but at night.

Trail Info

The ride links up a few trails in a row to become a roughly 25km loop with somewhere around 900m of climbing. There are two notable 'summits' with the fist being near the beginning of Vallelujah that gives you views of the Valhalla range and the second being at the bench near the top of the Big Wood descent which overlooks Nelson and towards Castlegar in the opposite direction.

After parking at the 2km point on the access road and riding up to the 3km point there is a trail on the left that joins up with the Crows Nest climb. Sticking to the right and passing by the one junction in the trail will take you to the bottom of Sweet Sally.

Sweet Sally climbs pretty relentlessly up to the road. Going left on the road and riding for probably a kilometer will end up at an obvious parking area with a fairly large sign to enter Vallelujah.

Vallelujah is a self explanatory trail with no intersections or places to get lost. I probably shouldn't say that but I can't remember anywhere that somebody would get confused.

At the end of Vallelujah the road goes down to the left for maybe another kilometer and meets up with the top of Antler on the right. At the end of Antler, go across the road, to the left a tiny bit, and you will hit the trail to climb up to Big Wood which is also signed.

Big wood descends down to the road right near the 2km parking area.

At a decent pace the ride takes under 3 hours.

Our Ride

We left from Gericks around 6:30 with Con, Chris, and myself. At the parking lot and riding by 7pm we still had some light for the initial climb up the road and most of Sweet Sally.


Chris and Con riding up right before the 3km point.


Chris heads into the trail at the 3km sign on the road. This links up to the bottom of Crows Nest and takes you to Sweet Sally


We didn't quite make it to the top of Sweet Sally before the lights came on for the other guys. I booked it up ahead to try to get some pictures but didn't get many due to some crappy flash batteries and screwing around with camera settings.

Con climbing Sweet Sally


By the entrance of Vallelujah it was obvious that it was night time and my lights came on. The start of Vallelujah is a little schizophrenic and seems to go nowhere particularly fast. It twists all over the place and really milks the clear cut. It's definitely an experience at night and would probably be pretty disorienting if it was your first time riding the trail. It was cool riding off ahead on my own and stopping to watch the lights of the other two guys going back and forth all over the place.

Con in the clear cut with me struggling to figure out how to take blind photos.


Chris rolling through


The clear cut section eventually gets back into the woods and has some pretty good climbing up to the peak. There are two climbs that I always think about when I'm doing the trail that I have decided should be known as the escalator and the elevator. The escalator is one where you come around a nice mellow left hand corner and are faced with a steep pitch that grinds up to what you think is the top only to turn to the right and continues only a little less steep for a good ways. The elevator is one that similarly surprises you after a left hand corner but seems to go impossibly steep and is often muddy as shit at the bottom. It's one of those climbs that on a bike with a 'fun geometry', as in not a low XC bike, your bike wants to flip over backwards. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of either of these climbs because I was too preoccupied with trying to clean them. Which I did.

Chris somewhere between the Escalator and Elevator


After the Elevator climb the trail mellows out and mostly rolls along with a few ups and downs before the descent for this section. The descent is a fun twisty fairly low angle rip. There isn't anything technical on it but its fast and fun. It finishes with a high speed traverse through some bushes in the woods and spits you out at the road. Right after the Elevator, Chris' light totally died on him. Thankfully Con has two, one on his helmet and one on his bar, so he gave the bar light to Chris for the rest of the ride.

Con at the height of Vallelujah before the descent.


Chris on the descent right before the traversing section through the slightly overgrown bushes.


It was getting pretty cold by the time we hit the traversing section so I put the camera away and we cruised down to the road. Down the road then to Antler we continued back into the single track. Antler is a short section that only takes probably 10 minutes and is pretty fun because you can rip the entire thing in your middle ring. I thought that it was getting mean to keep hitting the guys with my camera flash so I took one more photo on Antler and retired the camera for the night.

Con on Antler


At the end of Antler, Chris was feeling a bit shaky so he took off down the road to meet us at the car. Con and I continued up to the bench and hung out there for a bit taking in the blackness. It's always cool to kill the lights at some point just to remember how dark it actually is without them.

A satisfied Con on the bench with our bikes on either side.


After a 5 or 10 minute break we carried on down the Big Wood descent and back to the car to meet up with Chris again. The ride was definitely a long mission at night and took about 4 hours from car to car. It sure didn't feel that long though and was definitely one of the highlight rides of my season.