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Where to ride is a tough decision these days in Prince George.
While trying to decide what trails to ride one day, my riding partner and I mutually commented that there were almost too many choices. Although not a bad thing, I will admit I have a difficult time riding all our local trails in a given season. Prince George has multiple areas to ride, with levels to suit all abilities and interests. Otway has added close to one new trail every year for the past 5 years and I am almost certain the Pidherny Recreation Area has exceeded that.
Along with the growth of our trails, is the growth of the riders. People ask me all the time why I think there has been such a huge growth. My answer is simple and always the same: because it’s fun! As a mountain bike instructor, I coached about 40 brand new riders this past season. When I say “brand new”, I mean people who have never ridden on dirt before. Some of these people literally bring their fresh new bike to the lesson and have not even ridden it yet. And the best part is seeing their smiles when we are finished!
For a beginner starting out, the best place to visit would be Otway. These trails are located in the midst the Otway Nordic Center ski trails on Otway Road and are all single-track trails. There are 2 full green trails, many blue rated options with a few black mixed in for a lot of variety. For a beginner, I recommended doing a loop of Home Run and Tin Can Alley. If you have a little more experience but questionable fitness, take Home Run-Inside Passage-Midway-Karma; and yes, there are maps posted at all the major junctions making navigation a breeze. If you are more experienced and like a good workout, get yourself up to the Doghouse via Curves-Espresso or Karma-Twister-ACDC, all great climbs. You can do a couple loops up top including Java, Cyclone and Cross Cut to easily fill an hour and a half. If you like “old school” technical riding, check out Tree Hugger and Adams! Otway has something for everyone, even some fun little air time opportunities on Cyclone and Tornado Alley.
Pidherny is generally considered a little more advanced than Otway, only because it has some steeper/ technical sections that are not as easily avoidable. If you are a beginner rider, I would suggest parking at the top parking lot on Foothills Blvd., which is directly across from Vellencher Road. A beginner option would be to take the green Foothill Access trail all the way to the Ten Dollar/Flow Job trailheads. Both Ten Dollar and Flow Job are blue rated, but do-able for a beginner; just ride slower your first time so you don’t accidently get air on some bumps or roots. Both these trails take you down to the mid-way point of Pidherny, where you can do repeated loops going back up Ten Dollar. Note that Ten Dollar is the only two-way trail to get you back to the access trail, so caution when going both directions. I would not recommend going much further down if you are a beginner, because you still need to get back to your vehicle at the top. Some people will park a vehicle at the bottom and shuttle up to avoid the climb back out.
If your skill level suits some steeper descents, start with the blue access trail from the top parking lot all the way to the start of Papa Woods. You can then take any of the trails from here including Papa Woods, Carcass and Dixie noting that all have Technical Trail Features (TTF’s), most with ride arounds. If it’s your first time down one of these, ride with caution and check out the features first before attempting them. You can also descend the more advanced Valve Job or New England Clam Chowder (NECC), which both come off the blue access trail before you reach the Papa Woods trail-head. These will pop you out on a quad trail; hang a right, then a left, bringing you down to the start of Ditch Pig, which will take you a little further down. If you need to get back to the top parking lot, you can head back up to the road and then up Ten Dollar and along either access trail. Or you can plan to shuttle and avoid the climb.
Pidherny also has some extremely challenging technical cross country loops that are better accessed from the lower parking lot, and are located on both sides of Pidherny Road. These include Climb It, Pulaski, Front Porch, McLeod on the east side of the road as well as Gus’ Grind, GXC, Peanut Butter, Big Ass Hill, Sidewinder and Ridge XC on the west side. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that most of these have advanced technical sections and some challenging climbs! Note that the east side trails are currently not on the Pidherny Recreation Site trail map, as they are out the previous boundary; this includes the bottom of Valve Job and NECC. The future map will have these east side trails as the boundary has been extended. I highly recommend you have a map on hand as there are currently no trail maps posted within the trail network, only in the parking lots. Even with a map; however, you may still get a little lost. If getting lost if not your thing, I recommend you try to ride with someone local who knows the trails.
Be sure to bring water with you and maybe even a small snack. Also, a spare tube or patch kit, tire levers and a pump may prevent a “less fun” walk out. You can access links to trail maps and other local cycling information at www.pgcyclingclub.ca. Stay safe and have fun!!
PMBI Level 1 Instructor
Fem Bike BC
Anyone with a pup knows that our four-legged friends quickly become an important member of the family and it’s great to bring them along on family vacations. As nice as it is for them to not be separated from the family, travel can be tough on them. With this in mind, I like to know where to stop to let them have a good run and take in some fresh air (among other dog-attracting smells), rather than random stops on the side of the highway. Prince George has some great open spaces where dogs are free to roam.
Ginter’s Field, named for the man whose grand house once sat at the top (but is now just leftover rock walls and stairs), is a beautiful space of field and trees right in town. Park in the gravel lot at the top of Massey Drive, just west of Ospika Blvd. and let the dogs run free in the large field or go for a bit of a hike. Trails run up to the old house ruins, which offers a nice view, and you can even continue climbing up the hill all the way to UNBC for a bit more exercise. The pups will like it either way!
Tucked away off of Foothills Blvd., between Ospika Blvd. and First Avenue is a huge expanse of woods and meadow that is a real treat for people and dogs alike. Trails connect to the meadow from many directions (Foothills and the residential areas surrounding it), but once inside the wooded area, you can easily forget you’re in city limits. The trails are all leashed areas, but as soon as you hit the open area of the meadow, dogs that are under control can run free. This is a surprisingly big area, great for walking or jogging with your pup. Keep in mind that although you’re in the city, it’s still very wooded, so do be mindful of wildlife encounters and how that may affect your canine friend. On my most recent visit to the meadow, I saw a fox bouncing through the grass; I do suggest carrying bear spray, just in case!
If your pup loves freedom, but requires a bit more containment, the fenced-in dog area at Duchess Park is a great fit. With two fenced areas (one for small dogs and one for large), dogs can meet some friends and burn off their pent up energy. Located on Ross Crescent, in the Prince George bowl, the park also features a large accessible playground and bike park, perfect for entertaining the kids while the dogs have their own fun. Pack a lunch or grab something from the nearby Parkwood Mall to make for an enjoyable afternoon with the whole family.
Camping near Prince George is something everyone should experience. Whether you’re looking for a full hook up site, or a remote bush camping experience, the options are endless. Although there are far too many great locations to cover in a short article, I will highlight three of my favourites. These three locations share one main trait – awe inspiring beauty.
Purden Lake is one of the more popular destinations around Prince George for camping. It has everything from a georgeous lake for fishing and swimming, to a hiking trail system where you’re bound to see spectacular views or even some of the resident wildlife.
Located 64km east of Prince George, this location is ideal for a night’s stay if you’re just passing through, or are looking for somewhere to stay for an extended visit. The campground features 78 sites, of which 12 are tent only sites. Reservations are available online to secure your favorite spot in advance, but for the last minute traveler, there are also first come, first serve spots available.
Whiskers Point Provincial Park
Even though this location is a little bit further from Prince George, Whiskers Point Provincial Park should not be overlooked. Located approximately 100km north from the outskirts of the city, this is an ideal location for people heading north on towards the Alaska Highway.
This park is equipped with everything from horseshoe pits to volleyball nets and is sure to have something suitable for the whole family. One of the best parts though, is the sheltered sandy beach – the perfect place for a mid-day swim, or just relaxing in the sun.
There are 59 sites available at this campground with running water in the facilities nearby. Similar to Purden Lake, there are both reservation as well as first come first serve sites available.
Rec Sites near Francis Lake
For the campers looking to enjoy a more rustic, remote setting, there are rec sites scattered throughout the area. One of the most beautiful areas to enjoy is the rec sites near Francis Lake, which is located roughly 40 kilometers south east of Prince George.
Not only is there a great rec site at Francis Lake, but there are also 8 other rec sites in the area to choose from – most of which, are also waterfront on the shores of other nearby lakes and rivers.
These rec sites are located in remote areas and are strictly on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to have a back-up plan in place in the event that they are full upon your arrival. These sites have no services, but there is endless opportunity for the ATV enthusiast or outdoors person to be able to go right from the front door of your tent or trailer.
Although these three locations don’t even begin to touch on the amount of camping opportunity in the area, no matter what the type of amenities you’re searching for, you will be able to find just the place near Prince George. Trailers, tents, full hook up, or remote – you name it, you’ll find it.
Copyright N. Trehearne 2015
Prince George is surrounded by an abundance of luscious forests that are home to many trails,. These trails are maintained by the province, among other parties, and are accessible to the general public to enjoy. These day-hikes vary from Easy to Difficult, and many have the opportunity to become overnight trips. Four well-known Moderate hikes near Prince George are: Teapot Mountain, Fort George Canyon, Raven Lake and Grizzly Den.
There are many types of user groups that want to explore the outdoors. The top 3 accessible trails (trails designed with Boomers, wheelchairs, families and the general public in the forefront of the planning process) in Prince George are: GWL Mobility Trail, The Ancient Forest and Forests for the World.
The Ancient Forest
Dawn Kealing Travel Writer, Life, Love and Adventure
The Northern Lights truly are Mother Nature's beautiful creation. Living in Northern British Columbia in Prince George we have the privilege of experiencing her beautiful dancing Aurora Borealis. This gorgeous performance in the night sky can be seen all year round with the proper tracking. This blog will discuss and answer a few frequent questions on how to see and photograph the beautiful Northern Lights.
Before discussing the best way to view and photograph the Northern Lights, many people want to know what the Northern Lights are and how they are created. After some brief research I discovered they are the result of many collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere and charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. The many, many variations in colour in the Northern Lights are due to the type of gas particles that are reacting with each other. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 322km (200 miles). Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora. The Northern Lights can be seen in many different shapes and forms, ranging from patchy or scattered clouds of lights, to beautiful rippling curtains or shooting rays of light illuminating the sky with and eerie mysterious glow.
Another pair of common questions is: what is the best location for viewing the Northern Lights? and when is the best time? As a photographer I'm always searching for the next best location, but for anyone trying to view or take pictures of the Northern Lights I would strongly suggest a quick drive out of the city. Prince George has light pollution which can make viewing the Northern Lights difficult and less vibrant; it's not impossible but you need a much stronger solar storm for city viewing. A quick drive in any direction out of the city at one of our beautiful lakes would be the best suggestion (Nukko Lake, West Lake, Shane Lake, Tabor Lake, Bednesti Lake, or Purden Lake).
As for the best time, there really isn't one. My suggestions would be to Google an Aurora group and join one that has free email subscriptions for Yellow and Red Alerts. I combine an Email Notification, an iPhone Aurora app with Notification, and many Facebook groups with all sorts of Notifications. To chase the Aurora properly, I have found one must exhaust all options.
To successfully photograph the Northern Lights all you need is a camera and tripod, For a successful night shot you need your camera to be on a sturdy object. Secondly you need a camera; preferably a DSLR camera and some Smart Cameras with the ability to control your Shutter Speed to a minimum of 5-10 seconds. Normally I will zoom my camera out so I can see as much as the night sky as possible, (24-120mm I would use 24mm) For night shots I use between 10-20 seconds for my Shutter Time. Why 10 seconds? You want the camera to let as much light in as possible. This is why you drive away from the light pollution of the city.
It is also important to carefully select your ISO. I normally start off at 800 ISO, if it's too dark then bring your ISO up and vise versa. An easy set up guide for starting is: lowest focal length, 10-20 Seconds, and 800 ISO. Adjusting all the settings for the perfect shot is different every night and every location.
The number one tip I will give everyone is to always have fun and enjoy what you’re doing on your night adventure, regardless of whether you’re taking photos or not. Mother Nature can be tricky sometimes. Don't give up if you’re unsuccessful on your first try. Most photographers will visit the same spot 5-10 times before achieving the photo they want.
Thanks again for your time and reading my blog on the Northern Lights.
If you want to follow any of my recent work, you can find me on Facebook at K.Foot Photography and Instagram @kfootphotography.
I’ve had my share of world travels, but there is no scene so complete, in my mind, as the winding Kitchi Creek, unfurling into the McGregor River from Kakwa Provincial Park, with the towering Mt. Ida presiding over it all.
In October 2015, I took a flightseeing tour with Guardian Aerospace and two other photographers to Kakwa Provincial Park. Our Cesna 172 followed the Torpy River into the mountains east of PG, and on the way we window shopped for what will be years worth of alpine hiking trips. Then, the massive, humbling rock faces of Mount Sir Alexander sprung up around us, and the legendary landscapes of Kakwa seemed just beyond our reach. The park is renowned for its dramatic, mountainous scenery, but also revered for its remoteness. As such, a flight tour in the park is a visual feast for anyone to enjoy, but for a backcountry enthusiast, it’s a must have experience.
It so happens that Kakwa, the Cree word for “porcupine,” has been on my hiking bucket-list for a few years: an endeavour inspired by recent photography from adventurers before me. Like many recreational areas in the region, this one’s modern access was made by mining and forestry activities, then it was established as a park to protect it from those same industries. To give you a sense of the area’s relatively untravelled newness, its highest peak was not winter-summited until 1990, and it did not receive Class A park status until 1999.
If you’re prone to wilderness wanderlust, a flight seeing tour in the mountains is the ultimate tease. In a couple short hours you will see Arctic Lake and Pacific Lake side by side at the continental divide, scarcely trodden hiking routes, rarely touched mountains and hardly travelled waterways. These inspiring elements are all key to the allure of northern BC’s barely explored adventuring frontier.
Whether you’ve visited Prince George once, twice, or a dozen times, chances are you’ve heard of the Otway Nordic Ski Centre- –and for good reason! Conveniently located on Otway road, only minutes from downtown, the ONSC facility has certainly become a hotspot for people looking to get active and enjoy the beautiful outdoors that Prince George has to offer.
Personally, I have grown to know this amazing facility quite well over the past few years. After moving to Prince George three years ago to pursue the sport of biathlon, the ONSC quickly became my primary training grounds and, ultimately, my second home. And how could it not have? There is no other outdoor facility in Prince George as diverse as Otway is; especially one that is open for use all year long! Thanks to the support of the facility’s dedicated volunteer and paid staff, Otway is able to keep over 55 kilometers of trails well maintained throughout the year. And these trails are not only for cross country skiing, aside from the 3-5 meter wide ski trails, the club has also designed a plethora of single track trails that are used for mountain biking, running, and even snowshoeing! And as an added bonus, due to recent upgrades, over 5 of these 55 kilometers are equipped with lights making after-work workouts & evening adventures safe and enjoyable for everyone.
So, were you thinking of trying something new this winter? Perfect! Whether you’re completely new to skiing or snowshoeing, or an experienced athlete looking to improve your skills, I can guarantee that the Otway Nordic Centre has something for you. With a focus on getting its users to stay active for life, the ski centre offers a wide range of drop in classes, private lessons, and long term programs that are tailored for every skill and age level! And if PG is just a stop along your journey and you don’t have your equipment with you while you’re on the road –don’t worry! Otway has an onsite rental shop that would be happy to outfit you with all of the equipment you will need for a snowshoeing or cross country skiing adventure!
Now, as a Prince George resident for three years I may sound biased as I speak about Otway so highly, but, let me explain to you why I’m doing so. After the announcement that the 2015 Canada Winter Games would be held in Prince George, and that the ONSC would be the venue for both the Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon events, the executive directors at ONSC wasted no time in beginning to prepare for the Games. These directors, as PG residents themselves, were passionate about showing the nation the beauty of the city, thus leading to the design of incredible upgrades for the facility that they believed were sure to leave visitors in awe. Over four years these designs became a reality as Otway underwent a major facelift. This began with the construction of a world class biathlon range, two new timing buildings, and some of the most technical and exciting race courses in all of Canada! When the games finally came around the hard work certainly did not go unnoticed. Athletes, coaches, and spectators from across the country left Otway spreading raving reviews and, quite often, vows to return to PG’s trails again in the future.
So, not convinced to go check it out yet? Ok, give me one more shot. Here’s one of the main reasons why I always enjoy my time spent on the trails out at Otway.
As remarkable as the facility is, one of my favourite things about Otway is the welcoming atmosphere that it’s users create. Whether it’s early Sunday morning, or late on a Friday night, you are never completely alone out at the centre; some days you may only have the silent stares of a herd of deer keeping you company, while other days you’ll be sharing the trails with over a hundred young skiers taking part in the ski school programs (but don’t let that scare you off, there’s plenty of room on the trails for everyone!), but each and every visit you will not have to look far to find joy in your adventure. The strong sense of community and friendship that is shared amongst the users on the trails has always been comforting to me, and it will surely keep you returning to Otway over and over again!
Some of my very best memories of Prince George were made at the Otway Nordic Ski Centre, and I am confident that some of yours could be too!
#TAKEONPG Tourism Prince George hit up Powder King with local snowboarder Brad King for some spring boarding. For 365 activities in and around Prince George, visit www.takeonpg.com!
To live in Prince George, you have to like winter. We actually get a bit (or a lot) excited when the snow starts to fly, as we start to itch for our favourite winter activities. Luckily for us, there is a huge array of fantastic activities to choose from in our city; snow covered grounds or fallen temperatures are not reasons to stay away, but an invite to come and play! Here are three family friendly reasons to visit Prince George during the winter months.
Local skiing/snowboarding options
An article about winter activities in Prince George would be amiss if it didn’t mention the opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in our region. There are four different hills, in a range of sizes and challenges, within daytrip distances (and shorter) to Prince George – and the powder, of course, is amazing! The Hart Highlands Ski Hill is a small hill in a suburb only ten minutes north of the downtown core of PG, but it’s fun for the whole family – a great place to bring kids who want to try downhill for the first time or work on finding their groove. Tabor Mountain Ski Resort, only 15 minutes east of PG but with over 20 runs, is where I learned to snowboard years ago, and is great for a whole day or a half-day, being so close to town. Purden Ski Village is 60 km east of Prince George, and is a great option for both a half-day trip and a full day, especially if you take advantage of their shuttle and sleep on the way! There are 25 runs at Purden and the views of the snow-covered landscape and Purden Lake are phenomenal. And finally, Powder King Mountain Resort, found in the Pine Pass in the Rockies, is just over two hours north of PG. Powder King has an amazing 37 runs, boasts over 40 feet of powder every year and a shuttle is also available (a great option to avoid more travel time on our wintery roads).
Local hockey: Prince George Cougars and Prince George Spruce Kings
Locals and out-of-towners alike will enjoy taking in some Prince George Cougars or Prince George Spruce Kings games (or both) every season. I’m not even a big hockey fan (gasp, sorry!) but I enjoy heading to the arena at least once a year. It’s a great excuse to eat popcorn and hot dogs, and cheer for the locals/yell at the opposing team! But real hockey fans will love to see these WHL or BCHL athletes in action. CN Centre can draw in big crowds for the Cougars’ games, making for a very exciting evening, and the PG Coliseum and the Spruce Kings’ games can be a really fun family night too. (And note, the City of Prince George offers public skating times at the Coliseum in the winter too!) What a great reason to spend an extra night in Prince George, especially if the kids are hockey fans, or even aspire to the bigger leagues one day themselves!
Snowshoeing at Ancient Forest
Snowshoeing is one of my favourite ways to spend some of our snowy days, and I love that in Prince George, I can drive short distances in any direction to find some good trails (or places to make my own). Heck, I can even snowshoe from my driveway if I want to. But when I really want to experience the quiet, magical, snowy wonderland of our region, I head somewhere a bit more special: the Ancient Forest. Just over an hour east of Prince George, you’ll find this rare temperate rainforest area with several kilometres of trails, interpretive signs, a beautiful waterfall and some of the biggest ancient cedars you’ll lay eyes on in our region. While I particularly love the Ancient Forest in the winter (it’s just so calm and quiet!), the area is great hiking all year round, especially now that local volunteers, led by the Caledonia Ramblers hiking club, have completed a 1600-foot boardwalk, making the trails accessible to all.
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