One of my favourite things about Prince George is the fact that you can drive for an hour (or less) and be in “the middle of nowhere,” surrounded by vast stretches of forest and mountains, yours for any adventure you crave. My husband and I recently went for a day hike in one such area, to Raven Lake, in the Sugarbowl – Grizzly Den Provincial Park.
The park is located about 95 km east of Prince George on Highway 16 and is used year round for hiking and camping in the summer, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. There’s a main trail loop in the park, about 17 km in total, with three cabins along the way – one only about 1 km from the Grizzly Den side parking lot called 8 mile cabin, one 6.5 km from the parking lot, and 4.7 km past that, the Raven Lake cabin.
Intending only a half-day hike, we started on the Raven Lake side, which is a 9.4 km round trip hike up to the cabin and back, with a 450 m elevation gain. Taking the name of the park into consideration, I made sure to keep my bear spray within easy reach. As with any hike in northern BC, this is a very important step when prepping your pack!
The day was overcast and slightly rainy – perfect for a hike that would be extra tiring in the heat we’ve had this summer! The climb to Raven Lake is a true climb uphill nearly the whole way, even though they cut switchbacks into the mountain several years ago. The old trail was straight up, and is still visible and tracked down in places. In a moment of overconfidence, we decided to take some of it as a “shortcut” – after about two minutes, my legs and I regretted the decision big time. Sidestepping the roots, it’s basically like climbing a never-ending flight of stairs, but we trudged on.
Eventually the trail evens out and opens up to beautiful alpine meadows. When the sun’s out, it’s truly stunning, but on this cloudy day, it grew noticeably chilly when we got up there, even though it’s the middle of summer. Amazingly quiet, the only sounds we could hear were the wind blowing skiffs of cloud through the trees and the warning squeaks of the resident gophers. The clouds were low and there was moisture on the flowers – still beautiful in its own right.
We reached the cabin and promptly set about lighting a small fire in the wood stove to dry out a bit while we ate lunch. The cabin sleeps several people comfortably and is stocked with firewood and an axe, playing cards and other random things people leave behind for the next group. There’s even a box with a donated sleeping bag and pillow for the unprepared. Our offerings today were some matches and a roll of toilet paper. Outside the cabin, there are also tent pads to camp overnight if the cabin is already occupied. The other option would be to hike on to the next cabin.
Raven Lake – a large alpine “bowl” – is always freezing so taking a quick dip was out of the question, and the clouds were socked right in, so we decided against hiking to the hill above. On a clear day, the view from the top is phenomenal, but we’ll be back again.
The trek down was less hiking and more slipping and skipping down the mountain, which required a certain amount of agility, as we tried our best to avoid the wet, muddy roots and rocks. A great day of both exercise and relaxation, the Raven Lake hike can’t be beat. I’ve hiked the Grizzly Den side before to the middle cabin and back (the huge mountain meadows up there are breathtaking!) but never the whole loop. That’s an overnight adventure for another weekend!
Hiking in Prince George, BC