There are plenty of places in the outdoors near Prince George where you can play in the snow. One of my favourite places in the winter is at Sugarbowl – Grizzly Den Provincial Park and Protected Area, which is located approximately 85 kilometres (53 miles) southeast of Prince George. While there are a few great hikes in the park in the summer, there are also excellent opportunities to enjoy the area in winter on skis and on snowshoes.
In the winter, there is access to two different mountains in the park: one is up to Viking Ridge, and the other is to Sugarbowl Mountain. They are both accessible just off the side of the highway and both can offer spectacular views from the top! In late November, I joined a couple of friends on one of their regular Saturday snowshoe trips in the area. On this particular trip, they had planned to snowshoe up the Sugarbowl Mountain trail. The trail up to the ridge is 5 kilometres (3 miles) and you go up to 900 metres (3,000 feet).
As we started to snowshoe up the well marked Sugarbowl Mountain trail, we were surrounded by beautiful cedar trees. As we climbed higher, we left the cedar forest and were soon surrounded by spruce and fir trees.
After climbing up for a few hours we finally reached the ridge above the steepest section of the trail. It was so beautiful on the ridge, as all the trees were covered in fresh snow! But, we were not yet at the highest point on the trail; from here on though, we would be climbing more gradually. While walking along the ridges, I thought that we would not see much, but for a short bit, you could see the valley below with the Fraser River meandering through, and some of the majestic peaks of the McGregors on the other side. But soon the clouds covered the valley and it began to snow.
It was only the beginning of winter in the mountains, and already there was already almost 2 metres (6 feet) of snow on top! We kept going up, trying to make it as far as we could, but soon with more sub-alpine ridges ahead in view, we began to sink in the deep snow with every step. It was no use – as it was early in the season, there was no base yet, so when we sank, we sank down deep!
We had no choice but turn around. But we still were having a great time and enjoying what views there were. Before we knew it, we were going back down the steep climb to the parking lot.
This trip is a popular one with outdoor enthusiasts, and when we arrived back down at the parking lot, it was full of vehicles. What’s nice about the trail being very popular is that there is a good chance that there is a broken in snowshoe trail, especially later on in the season. Another great thing is you don’t have to go all the way up to the actual Sugarbowl Mountain to enjoy the views.
Remember that even though the trail is in a Provincial Park, it is considered back-country and as such, it is very important to be prepared by having the proper equipment, being in good shape, and having some back-country experience in dealing with avalanche conditions, etc.