Most Williams Lake residents may already have some of their favourite biking and walking routes but, if you’re thinking of expanding your hiking routes or are providing information for visitors, where should you start looking?
I first started at the CRD office in Williams Lake and talked to Kathleen MacDonald who provided me with information on their vision of creating a wheelchair accessible trail network in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Since 2006 various community groups have been involved with developing the Cariboo Chilcotin as a world leader in accessible outdoor recreation, tapping into niche tourism markets for people of all abilities.
To date, 16 accessible trails have been established throughout the region. These sites are not only valuable for people in wheelchairs but would also be good for families with young children in strollers. For more information about these trails visit the CRD website at cariboord.ca.
My next stop was the Williams Lake Tourism Discovery Centre (WLTDC) where I had previously picked up a variety of pamphlets on areas of interest for the region and the province.
My request this time was for information on local hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails. Karla Elefson and staff provided me with lots of pamphlets for the entire region including Quesnel and 100 Mile House and the surrounding communities. For the hiking enthusiasts they also provided instructions for many of the trails listed in the pamphlets including how to get to the trailhead. There were also details of what you may encounter along the trail, as well as directions at intersections if there were not marked.
Another good source is the Guide to Williams Lake and Area published by the Tribune. There was an introductory section on mountain biking along with maps showing the general layout of trails. The maps were quite small so I would suggest you visit the local mountain bike shops, Cycle Logic and Red Shred’s Bike and Board Shed. Their staff keep up to date on trail conditions and which areas might suit your abilities and interests.
For cross-country skiers Bull Mountain (15 kilometres north of Williams Lake) is a good start with a wide variety of skill levels as well as lit trails for night skiing. There are also ski trails at Gavin Lake and some new trails at Chimney lake.
Karla from (WLTDC) was kind enough to pass on some of her thoughts to make your hiking adventure safe and enjoyable.
Please remember almost all the people working on the trails are volunteers spending their own time and money, so help keep the trails clean by packing out what you pack in and clean up if someone has misplaced something on the trail. Some places have outhouses but Karla also packs toilet paper and doggie droppings bags. Some of her safety tips: let someone know where you are going and time to expect you home. If walking alone leave a note with your vehicle so people know whether to be concerned or not.
When walking with kids or as a group talk about staying together or, if you walk separate, to know when to stop and wait for others. On some of the longer hikes, think about taking along a whistle, space blanket and small first aid kit. In future articles I will discuss the basics about navigating and some of the latest devices to find your way in the woods.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.