The short days and long dark nights of winter can sometimes make it feel tough to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. Long days of heading to work in the dark and then getting back home when it is dark can give me the feeling of cabin fever. A short stint outside with some fresh air and nature always helps me recharge and reset.

Here are three of my favourite places you can immerse yourself in nature when you have a limited time frame. Each of these spots are a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet close enough to be utilized on a lunch break.

Top three winter hikes

  1. Moore’s Meadow: Moore’s Meadow has a vast network of trails winding around a large meadow. Once you enter into the parks picturesque forests the city sounds and sights completely fade away. The forest rises up along each side of the meadow, sheltering and enveloping its inhabitants into nature and It is not uncommon to see a multitude of animals in the park. The many trails can be connected together to make a quick scenic walk or an adventurous journey if you have extra time. Moore’s Meadow can be accessed from First Avenue or from the Parking lot on Foothills Boulevard.

  2. Cottonwood Island Park: Nestled into the junction of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers, Cottonwood Island Park is a true gem for its scenery and flora/fauna in the park. Wide and easily accessible trails are surrounded by giant Cottonwood trees and the soothing sounds of the passing river will melt your worries away. A wildlife and nature lover’s dream, this park is full of animal encounters including foxes, eagles, ducks, deer, blue herons, and even black bears. There are also a number of beautiful carvings in the cottonwood trees made by local artist Elmer Gunderson. You can access Cottonwood Park just off the east end of River Road near the Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum.

  3. LC Gunn Park: The LC Gunn trail borders the top of southern cut banks of the Fraser River. This hike has some moderately steep pitches in places but they are worth scaling as it provides spectacular views of the city and the Fraser River. This hike winds between large pine trees and over stream crossings with city wide views at nearly every step. LC Gunn trail can be accessed from Highway 16 East from the parking lot off Guay Road or from Highway 97 South in the gravel parking area just south of the Simon Fraser Bridge.

Winter hiking safety tips

Winter hiking is a great way to get out and enjoy nature and a fresh dusting of snow can make old favourites seem brand new again. Here are a few tips to keep it safe:

  • Let people know where you will be and when you plan to be back; accidents can happen and letting people know where to find you in case of an emergency is important.

  • Ice cleats – Slippery sections of ice can easily be hidden by snowpack and cause a fall or injury. Ice cleats are relatively inexpensive and can make impassable sections of an icy trail no problem. Available at places such as Stride and Glide Sports or Atmosphere in the Parkwood Mall.

  • Dress for the weather – Winter weather can change quickly. Make sure to pack appropriate clothing in case of a weather changes. This includes proper footwear/boots. The snowpack can be much deeper in the shelter of the forest.

  • Take some form of communication with you, whether it’s a cell phone or other device, and make sure it is charged and that you are able to call someone if the need for help arises.

  • It doesn’t hurt to get a guide book/map book for reference. A great resource I have found is called Hiking North Central BC, written by local Author Rob Bryce and available at Books & Company.

One of my favourite things about living in Prince George is the fact that we have so many green spaces within our reach right in the city. I hope that one or all of these places can help you get outside and embrace the winter season that I love so much.

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Unlike other spring break holidays, this year I found myself not sure what to do with

my little family of 3. In years past we would travel from our home In Prince George,

BC to Calgary, Alberta to visit family, but this year the family members were busy

elsewhere. I knew I wanted to get the kids out of the house to see some new things

and keep them away from their screens as much as possible. The question was

where? How could I find something exciting without travelling to one of the bigger

centres like Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton? It seemed like an impossible task,

and then it came to me, let’s go to Jasper! Mountains, wildlife, waterfalls, pristine

lakes, hiking, and even some shopping could be done. It seemed like the perfect

solution and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I would soon learn that

the real fun was to be had in simply finding Jasper.

Road trips always have a bittersweet taste to them as a photographer because along the way there are always things we see that NEED to be photographed, but often

time does not allow us to stop at all those places. Packed and ready to roll onto the highway we headed out armed with cameras in hand. In no rush to arrive at any particular time, I decided that this would be the trip of stops, no rushing, no need to hurry and drive, a literal stop and smell the flowers type adventure. Usually, there is always a sense of urgency to get to “the destination” no matter the distance, but this time I chose to do it differently. Our first stop was a quick turn onto a simple forestry road only because of the inevitable call from the back seat…”Dad I have to go to the washroom!” Around the corner of the road, we hopped out and watched a grouse cross directly in front of us with apparently the same attitude we had of not being in a hurry to go anywhere.

We watched quietly taking photos as he went on his way. As we got back

in the truck we marvelled at how beautiful the morning mist was as it climbed up the forested walls of fir trees lining the road.

Back in the truck, it wasn’t long before we pulled up to one of my favourite little spots just before the entrance to the Viking Ridge Hiking Trail. The roadside is lined by thick looming cedar trees and willows creating what appears to be an impenetrable wall against the

forest. We discovered that with some persistence and will to push through the thick willows, the forest opens its arms and invites you in. Once past the barrier of willows, our eyes are met with a wide open space of moss-covered wonder. Our feet cross the soft carpet

of the forest floor and the sun filters through the high branches of the cedar giants creating a glow around the entire scene. The kids squeal in excitement “ it’s like a fairy world Dad!! ” and I agree as we delve deeper. Less than a minute walk and we are met by a three

metre high waterfall feeding a crystal clear creek winding through the mossy forest floor. We stop to sit and take it all in. Not another soul is in sight as the kids and I marvel at our surroundings.

Hard pressed to leave but wanting to see what’s next we jump back into the our adventure. It isn’t far along the road that we find the Ancient forest, another amazing place so close to Prince George yet so different from our accustomed scenery. A number of hikes are

available to us among the giant cedars, creeks and waterfalls which seem to lay in wait around every other corner. The feeling of being “elsewhere” is unmistakable as the trees tower over the walking paths and our surroundings slowly convince us we are on a coastal

hike somewhere far from northern BC. Hours upon hours could easily be spent at the Provincial Park but with views of snow-capped mountains in the horizon, we decide to move on, eager to see what is next.

Morkill Falls comes to mind as we pass the turnoff to Crescent Spur and onto the Morkill Forest Service Road, but I realize there is simply too much to do in a single trip. I choose to take the adventure of Morkill Falls on another journey not far into our future. We drive through to Mcbride where we are witness to herds of deer and elk grazing in farmers’ fields. The mountains surround the valley and every view seems like a painting of an epic landscape. It isn’t long before we are at Tete Jaune Cache. Our favourite camping spot isn’t open but there is still plenty worth stopping for. We pull off the highway and park at the old one lane bridge built in 1953 that crosses the Fraser River. At this point in Fraser River, the proximity to glacial feeds and a rocky river bed keep the waters of the river a beautiful aqua tint and crystal clear. We venture down some walking paths exploring the sights as we go. The kids find trees to climb, rocks to throw, and we all take pictures of our incredible surroundings.

Piling back in the vehicle

we drive just a few

minutes up the highway

and then stop again to

hike into the beautiful

Rearguard Falls. A

five-minute walk into the

forest and we are at the

falls. There is still a bit of

snow and ice, so we have

the entire place to

ourselves. Our voices are

nearly drowned out by the

rush of the crystal clear

aqua water falling over the

rocks. In August you can

witness Mother Nature’s

work at its finest as the

spawning salmon return

up the Fraser River to their

birthplace to spawn. The

sight of 15 to 40 pound

salmon launching

themselves up and over a

rocky waterfall that is

approximately five metres

high is truly a sight that

one must see in person.

Even though we are all having the time of our lives, it’s getting late in the day and my preference is to arrive at our hotel before it’s completely dark. We reluctantly leave Rearguard Falls behind us, but to my delight, everyone is still smiling, joking with each other and laughing. As we pull back onto the

highway for the last leg of our adventure, I eavesdrop on my kids as they talk giddily about all that they have seen and done in one day. Their conversation makes me reflect on how much I have enjoyed my day as well without the pressure of “getting there” looming over me. Even more enjoyable was the opportunity to watch my kids immerse themselves in the

outdoors and come to appreciate all that our little world of Northern BC has to offer. As I look in my rearview at the journey behind us, I realize that the best part of our adventure wasn’t going to require getting to Jasper but was actually the experience in simply finding Jasper.

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