Distance: 3.1 km (+ 850 m for PRO line)
Time: 25 – 1 hr
Elevation Gain: 58 m
Elevation Loss: 411 m
Technical Rating: Advanced – Expert
Physical Rating: Moderate
Season: May – October
Permit Required: No
PHD is an advanced to expert downhill trail, best ridden on a big rig (downhill bike). It’s not for the inexperienced rider as it’s full on and will challenge you every step of the way. Expect extremely steep rock slabs with challenging run outs and technical rock faces that leave very little room for error. Make sure to bring armour, a full face helmet and your A game. Word of caution; if you’re not use to riding in the area (Pemberton or Whistler) consider warming up to this trail by riding only the lower section of PHD, which is rated advanced. Anything above that is expert/Pro. Only consider riding the other sections of PHD if you can comfortably clean the last section.
PHD is split up into three sections by the Rutherford South FSR and only two of these sections are ridden regularly; the middle and lower part of PHD. The very top of PHD is best left to the expert/pro rider with a solid health insurance plan. I will refer to the very top as the “PRO” line due to the extremely technical moves down rock faces that leave no room for error. The PRO line begins near the top of the Rutherford South logging road (marker 0) and is tricky to find. There are no ride around options on this leg of the trail and getting down the long and extremely steep rock walls while pushing your bike is not an option. The PRO section is extremely committal and for most mere mortals not worth the risk.
The second section of PHD, known by many as the original trailhead, is found to the right of the 4 km marker on the Rutherford South FRS. It begins with a quick pedal uphill before beginning to descend. This section is rated expert (double black), but is much more manageable than the PRO line if you’re an advanced to expert rider. A downhill rig is still preferred and so is armour. However, if you have the skill level, an all-mountain bike will do you just fine (with slack geometry). The second section has three big moves with some optional not so committing lines. It is sure to leave you exhausted physically and mentally as you make your way down it.
The last section of trail, lower PHD, is found 3 km up the Rutherford South FSR from the parking area and Hwy 99. This section is rated advanced (black) and is much more manageable, as it mellows out quite a bit when compared with the prior sections of trail. Again, don’t get too overzealous as there are still plenty of moves that can result in injury. The final leg of PHD spits out at the gravel pit near the parking area. Be cautious of the machinery working away during the week.
So why is it called PHD? Apparently the amount of time it took the builder to build this trail, in that time he could have acquired a PHD.
TRAILHEAD | N50 15.544 W122 53.316
10 km south from Pemberton and about 20 km north of Whistler on Hwy 99 you will find the turn off for Rutherford South FSR. Turn west onto this road and drive past all the machinery and work trailers to park at the well-defined pull-off just before Rutherford South FSR begins to climb. From here you will pedal up the FSR, passing the lower PHD trailhead and the original trailhead if heading up to ride the PRO line. You can shuttle, but please do not leave a vehicle up top as this is a recently activated logging road.
When riding up the Rutherford South FSR keep to the main road and stay right at the first intersection. At the 3 km marker you will pass the lower part of PHD; dropping down to a creek crossing to your left. At the well-defined second fork, stay right and continue to climb up to the 4 km marker. This is the original start to PHD and where most riders begin. For those looking for the PRO line, continue on up the road for another 2.2 km to the hidden trailhead on your left just past the 0 km marker.
N50 15.569 W122 52.685 (lower)
N50 15.544 W122 53.316 (main)
N50 15.419 W122 53.834 (PRO)
bikepirate rating: 4 Skulls