Many visitors stop in Quesnel for lunch on their way to Barkerville, or overnight en route to the Alaska Highway. These folks are missing out! Smart travellers know the Quesnel area is full of trails to explore, all year round. Plan a longer stop in Quesnel, and get out for a walk, run, hike, bike, ski, or snowshoe!
If you’re in Quesnel for business, or passing through on a long road trip, the Riverfront Trail is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll to stretch your legs. A 5 km paved trail loops around downtown, with an additional 4 km crossing the Fraser River to circle the West Village. The Fraser River Footbridge is a landmark in itself. Heralded as the longest wooden truss bridge in the world, the bridge is lit with a colourful light display at night. Make sure to catch the historic “horses at walking pace” sign on the east side of the river. Along the trail, several signs highlight other historical vignettes from the community’s past. “KM 0” is Ceal Tingley Park, at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers, where you will fi nd a restored antique steam shovel. A Cornish water wheel dating from the Cariboo Gold Rush, a restored centrifugal pump and boiler used in early 20th century hydraulic mining in the area, and logging equipment dating to the 1930s can also be found along the trail, making good photo opportunities. Patty Morgan, Manager of the Quesnel Visitor Centre says, “Visitors are always impressed with our Riverfront Trail. It’s perfect for all ages and abilities. Who doesn’t love a walk along the water?” If you stop in at the Visitor Centre before you go, you can borrow a gold pan to try your luck at the Gold Pan Reserve on the Quesnel River.
Those wanting to get away from the road, but with limited time, can explore wilderness trails within city limits. Several trails of various lengths and difficulty loop through West Fraser Timber Park. Candace Miller, owner of Reason 2 Run located in Downtown Quesnel says, “ The condition of these trails is great year round. The network of trails from the park extends all over Quesnel, and I’m always amazed how far I can go without seeing a road.“ Many life long residents and long term runners are still discovering new trails in the area. Reason 2 Run offers year round running groups that visitors can join for a small drop-in fee. Stop in at the store at 424A Reid Street for the schedule and meeting point. www.reason2run.ca
Pinnacles Provincial Park, located just 10 minutes from downtown, offers a short trail with magnificent views. Bring your camera to capture the hoodoos, a unique geological formation, and a bird’s eye view of the city below. The trailhead is located at the top of Pinnacles Road, where a small parking lot leads to a 2 km trail.
A little further removed from town, the Deserter’s Creek (Deep Creek) trail is a local favourite with more strenuous sections. The scenic 6 km trail ends at a small waterfall and canyon that can be explored with careful footing.
Brenda Beatty, co-owner of Rocky Peak Adventure Gear in Downtown Quesnel recommends packing snacks and a bathing suit on a hot summer day. “This pretty, shade-covered trail winds along the river to a secret waterfall and is just one of countless beautiful and unique trails in our area that can be enjoyed all year round.” Rocky Peak is a great place to pick up any gear you might have forgotten at home. Stop in at 337 Reid St for hiking boots, packs, bikes, outdoor clothing, camping equipment, or skis and snowshoes for winter sport enthusiasts. www.rocky-peak.ca
Quesnel is also home to a growing network of mountain bike trails. Many of the trails are still unmarked and require a local companion to navigate, but more signage is being added all the time. The trails at Dragon Mountain are well-signed and provide a great ride. Amber Gregg, Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce Manager and mountain bike enthusiast says, “The mountain bike trails in Quesnel offer a variety of terrain, distance and some spectacular scenery. There are some steep, technical uphill sections for cross country lovers, some fun, fl owy downhill sections for adventure seekers and a lot in between. Literally something for everyone.”
Of course, you haven’t really been to the Cariboo Region until you’ve ridden a horse in the area! Triple J Ranch, just north of Quesnel on Highway 97 offers trail rides spring through fall. Visitors can get a real cowboy experience from a short, beginner ride, to multi-day pack trips with a local guide if booked in advance. www.triplejranchbc.webs.com. Co-owner, Julia Dillabough says, “The Quesnel area has a vast number of trails for horse enthusiasts. Riding the historical sites around Barkerville, or around the lakes and rivers are just a few of the options to be enjoyed. You can go for days without getting in touch with the hustle and bustle of city life.” If you need to gear up before you ride, stop in at Circle “S” Western Wear at 323 Reid Street to pick up your cowboy boots and fi nd out about local equestrian events.
The 75 kilometres of recreation trails at Hallis Lake were developed as non-motorized year-round trails in partnership with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. They are used extensively by snowshoers and cross-country skiers in the winter, and are frequented by runners, hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers through the rest of the year. In 2014, a 700m accessible trail leading to a wildlife-viewing platform was completed. In the winter season, a rental shop is open daily as long the snow is on the trails with snowshoes, skate and classic skis in all sizes. A lodge and small concession offer a cozy place to warm up and meet some locals.
Brian Black, president of the Cariboo Ski Touring Club that maintains the trails and lodge says, “I recommend the Canis Lupus Trail. It is a wonderful route through birch forest and rolling terrain. The trail is one of two constructed by the Cariboo Ski Touring Club where dogs are allowed. My Labrador and I often enjoy this trail with bluebird skies on a winter’s day.” Hallis Lake trails are located on Quesnel Hydraulic Road, 15 minutes from downtown Quesnel. www.caribooski.ca
These are just a handful of the many trails in the Quesnel area. For local residents, it seems as though it is possible to explore a different trail every weekend of the year without visiting the same terrain twice. For more information and maps of the Quesnel area, stop in at the Quesnel Visitor Centre and pick up the Quesnel and Area Walking and Cycling Trail Guide. The friendly staff can also provide you with information on where to eat and stay as well as other activities in the area. You may also want to check out the Quesnel and Area Hiking and Snowshoeing Facebook Group to join a group excursion or learn more about the trails in the area. You will also find more information on the area on the Tourism Quesnel website www.tourismquesnel.com
By Amy Reid