Outdoor living and activities be it boating, hunting, quadding, mountain biking, skiing or my favourite, hiking, are quintessential parts of the Cariboo lifestyle.
Yet the daily grind can often sap your time and strength on a weekday making a trip up a mountain or down a canyon unlikely if not impossible at best. Thanks to Williams Lake’s unique setting along the shores of the lake and its corresponding river valley there are ample trails and routes right in our own backyards. Some are even accessible from our downtown core, a rarity in many larger cities.
Take, for example, the ever popular and beautiful Scout Island. Located in the heart of Williams Lake roughly a 20 to 30-minute walk from anywhere in the downtown, or a simple five-minute drive, this well-cared-for nature preserve is a true gem in the Williams Lake tapestry of trails and green spaces.
Perfect for a sedate walk or a light hike depending on the speed you set, the entirety of Scout Island can easily be done in an hour but as the Scout Island Nature Centre proves, you may want to stop and smell the wild roses. A wide variety of flora and fauna call the island and surrounding waters home, making it the perfect place to do some easy nature watching and photography.
Those looking to cool off on a hot summer day can also enjoy one of Williams Lake’s only public access sandy beaches after a nice vigorous spin around the island.
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike uphill, look no further than above the Tourism Discovery Centre. Just past the TDC parking lot is an entire network of trails for bike and foot traffic running across the mountain parallel to the Cariboo Highway on Fox Mountain.
Yet the route that is easiest and closet to town is the ascent up to Signal Point that offers a commanding view of the entire lake. If you’re newer to the area like me, don’t worry, a detailed map is available at the Tourism Discovery Centre and extensive signage will quickly point you in the right direction.
The hike up to Signal Point itself, is only slightly challenging with proper footwear and be sure to bring bug spray and water if you’re heading up later in the day. Once you reach a grassy clearing with paths branching off in three different ways, take the path running towards the lake.
At the top, you’ll be able to enjoy a cooling breeze, a great photo opportunity and a truly majestic view of pretty well all of Williams Lake. Be sure to use the trail you came up to return, keeping off private property.
Finally, for those looking to run, ramble or bike towards the Fraser River, the city also boasts the well-maintained Williams Lake River Valley trails that wind along the banks of the small river as it makes its way to the Fraser. What’s nice about this walk is the way nature quickly envelops you in its sounds and beauty.
Besides the occasional passing car heading closer toward the Fraser River or the Ashtray, Williams Lake fades away behind you leaving you with nothing but the trail and scenery.
As parts of the main trail are big enough for cars and trucks, the route to the Fraser is perfect for a bike ride with the family, an early morning run or an easy ramble to take in the sites. Whatever you chose, be sure to pack a day lunch and plenty of water. It’s about 20 km to walk to the river and back.
Currently, the best point of access to these trail systems is across from the graveyard off Mackenzie Avenue. The access point located at Frizzi Road is not accessible by vehicle, only walking, so using the other access point is safer and the most common way to get to the valley.
As it turns out, J.R. Toilken said it best in The Fellowship of the Ring.
“You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Here in Williams Lake, we’re blessed to have one of the best backyards Canada has to offer just waiting to be stepped into.