Let your feet wander:

🕔May 22, 2008

The great thing about a day hike is that it actually doesn’t have to take all day. Mind you, we’re not saying day hikes are for wimps (trust us—we know some hardcore spots where an eight-hour outing can turn into an epic!)—but some prefer a more leisurely pace. So sit back, enjoy another cup of coffee, and leave the loved ones in bed for a minute or two. Make some breakfast, pack a lunch, and then head out on Northword’s pick of northwestern BC’s best day-hikes.

The Pesuta Shipwreck, Tlell
So many choices on Haida Gwaii: sandy or rocky beach? Forest? River? Mountains? Northword recommends a classic hike that combines a few key elements. The Pesuta—a 75-metre lumber-transport ship that grounded in the sand during a storm in 1928—is the goal, but getting there is half the fun.
The trailhead starts on the north side of the Tlell River bridge and leads hikers through lush green rainforest along the world-renowned fly-fishing river. Delicate pink fairy-slipper orchids line the path as the meandering trail follows a ridge along a steep cut-bank, then descends mossy slopes to burbling Geikie Creek. Once over the creek, the trail hits the mudflats along the tidal course of the Tlell.
The walk along the river’s tidal zone offers stunning vistas in both directions—but watch the tides, as anything higher than 21 feet will force hikers on a scramble through the dunes and woods inland. Don’t stop at the prow: just 100 metres past it, the hull still peeks above the sand.

Butze Rapids, Prince Rupert
Go high or stay low? It’s a tough choice, but Frances Riley suggests two great day-hikes near Prince Rupert.
The five-kilometre trail to Butze Rapids is for everybody. From the well-marked parking area on the highway east of town, the hard-packed gravel path winds through forest and down to the beach where young ones in strollers and grandparents alike can watch the reverse tidal rapids in action. The rapids may be most impressive a half-hour after high tide, but the trail, which loops back through muskeg and more trees, is fun at any time. The entire hike should take about two hours.

Mount Hays, Prince Rupert
The hike up Mount Hays is more of a commitment, but astounding views toward Haida Gwaii and Alaska await, says Riley. Turn south off the highway at the Performing Arts Centre and follow the old road; park when it starts to get steep. It’s about two hours to the top, but after 45 minutes a view towards Dodge Cove and Metlakatla breaks up the climb.
The site of an old ski resort, Mount Hays is still well-used by recreation lovers, summer and winter alike.

Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park), Nass Valley
The massive lava fields in the Nass Valley tell the tale of the volcano that erupted 250 years ago. To reach the cinder cone that it all flowed from, and find out how the eruption affected the Nisga’a, hikers must take a three-hour guided tour. The walk meanders through old-growth forest, and the creeks and rivers flowing from the rock formations are an otherworldly green. Book a space by calling 250-798-2466, or email nwescapesbc@telus.net.
For those who want to go it alone, five short interpretive trails—Crater Creek, Beaupré Falls, Tree Mould Trail, Vetter Creek Trail and the Fish Wheel Trail—provide easy access to several of the park’s special features.

Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers
With too many good choices to mention, Northword picks the instant alpine rewards of a hike up Hudson Bay Mountain.
A road leading to the winter ski area (at 1,500 metres) helps with some of the elevation gain. The summit, at 2,550 metres, is a sustained but straightforward climb, but a hike across the ridge (locally known as the Prairie) to Crater Lake is also popular, especially when the alpine flowers are in bloom. Spectacular views unfold in all directions.

Buck Flats, Houston
Cross-country ski trails can become great summertime leg-stretchers too, and guidebook writer Vivien Lougheed says a trail through Buck Flats near Houston is one of her favourites.
Several loops of varying distances meander through wetlands and pine forest, leading towards Beaver Pelt and Silverthorne Lakes. The trails start at the Morice Mountain Nordic Ski staging cabin, 12 km along Buck Flats Road from Highway 16.

China Nose, near Houston
Just 20 minutes east of Houston, another half-day adventure awaits. China Nose, with a colourful name of uncertain origin, is a rocky outcrop prominently visible from Highway 16 near Topley.
The landmark is accessed via McKilligan Road (about 10 minutes east of Houston off Highway 16). Keep left at all intersections until crossing a small bridge into a wide clearing. The trail leads up the slope towards the rock face, and hikers must squeeze up through a wide chimney-like crevice before reaching the flat top of the “nose.”

Fraser Mountain, Fort Fraser
This hike is great not only for those who live in the Vanderhoof/Fraser Lake area, but for anyone driving through who needs a break, says Mike Nash, author of Exploring Prince George. The parking area is on the highway west of Fort Fraser, and the trip can be as long or as little as you want. Nash says it takes half an hour to get to a decent viewpoint overlooking beautiful Fraser Lake, but those who go higher may see west to the Coast Mountains too.

Mt. Pope, Fort St. James
Both Nash and Lougheed are fans of this more strenuous trail, but hikers must make the effort to go all the way to the top because that’s where the stunning views are.
The seven-kilometre trail leads through a series of switchbacks to 360-degree views of the historic area’s surrounding lakes—Stuart, Pinchi, Tezzeron and Trembleur—not to mention the vast wilderness of the Omineca Mountains.
It’s about a five-hour round trip up the mountain, but a visit to Fort St. James is not complete without a stop at its National Historic Site, which recreates life in a Hudson Bay Company fort circa 1806.

Cranbrook Hill, Prince George
In the heart of the city, a forest and greenway provides 300 hectares of natural environment and 25 kilometres of trails. Nash says the area offers dead-easy, five-minute walks to Shane Lake, or a half-day walk on well-maintained trails through birch, Douglas fir, spruce and pine.
The area is close to UNBC and contains the city’s centennial area, Forests for the World. This demonstration forest is used by UNBC researchers, and Nash says one of its picnic sites was once voted “top picnic site in the province.”

Ancient Forest Trail, Dome Creek
One of the hottest day hikes in the region is 110 kilometres east of Prince George, near Dome Creek. The Ancient Forest Trail winds through a grove of thousand-year-old cedar trees in a unique inland rainforest. Locals built the trail in 2006 after they realized many of the huge cedars were slated for logging.
Other walks near this short loop include Driscoll Ridge, Viking Ridge and Sugarbowl, all among Nash’s favourites from his book.

Other great hikes can be found in these books:

Trails to Timberline in West Central British Columbia, by Einar Blix
Seasoned hiker Einar Blix wrote this classic in 1977, with a revised edition in 1989 and a supplement in 1995. Resource activity means directions have sometimes changed, so check with local sources too. (Einar and his son are working on a new revision: look for it this fall.)

From the Chilcotin to the Chilkoot, by Vivien Lougheed
Designed for rubber-tire travellers who want to explore the outdoors instead of driving past, even hardcore walkers may find this insatiable hiker’s musings on wilderness areas like the Tatshenshini worth a look.

Exploring Prince George, by Mike Nash
People who’ve lived years in PG think Nash must be talking about a different place. His enthusiasm for the outdoor recreation opportunities surrounding his home town is unbounded.

Backroad Mapbooks also offers a great outdoor resource for northern BC with back-roads, trails and hiking areas marked on topographic maps.