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
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.
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.
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.