When asked what your favourite thing about Prince George is, it’s common to hear long-time locals respond with, “Access to great hiking”, “Being close to nature”, “Amazing close lakes”, or something along those lines. These are all true for this girl (I’ve lived here almost two decades now), but I still wonder if this actually resonates with the visitor or newcomer. Do they truly understand just how close to the wilderness we are, or just how easy it is to pack up and hit a lake or a trail within a half hour? I have my doubts, so I wanted to put together a little mash-up of the best places to visit for your favourite outdoor pursuits, grouped by time it takes to just “get outside!”
This is the time of year we all start to get a little itchy to get back to our kayaking, camping, and other outside fun, so here is a list of some of the best options! (Note: All times are estimates from the downtown core of PG.)
Nature Walks & Biking Trails in 15 Minutes or less
Yes, I said 15 minutes or less! And seriously, some of these are closer to five minutes from downtown. I’ve gone for beautiful walks – almost hikes – on my lunch hour before! There are gorgeous systems of trails right in town, like Moore’s Meadow, a series of wooded trails surrounding a huge and secluded meadow for the dogs to run free in, located off of Foothills Blvd; and Cottonwood Park, a large system of trails along the Nechako River and connecting with Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. A hop over the Yellow head Bridge on Highway 16 East brings you to LC Gunn Park, off of Guay Rd, a quiet and peaceful trail at the top of the cutbanks of the Fraser River, popular for walking and biking. And finally, a small drive up University Way brings you to a trail head for over 25km of wonderful solitude in the Cranbrook Hill Greenway.
Kayaking in 30 Minutes
It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s entirely possible to go for a paddle at the end of a full day of work. Have your boat already loaded on your vehicle, or in my case, I live five minutes from where I work, and have swung by home to get my gear and been at a lake within a half hour, with plenty of time to paddle with the sun up and catch a beautiful sunset. My favourite for this is West Lake, about 20km from downtown, past College Heights – it’s the perfect after work getaway. And if you want to head north, Eena Lake is another excellent option, about 25km northwest, off of Chief Lake Road. Hot tip: there’s also great fly-fishing opportunity here! Find more options here, in one of my past posts.
Hiking, Camping & Lakes in 45-60 Minutes
Imagine being able to get off work on a Friday afternoon and be set up in your weekend camping spot within 45 minutes. That has to be the best! Purden Lake Provincial Park, 62km east, and Crooked River Provincial Park, 75km north, both have great camping sites and beautiful lakes. Bring your boat to Purden for some water skiing or tubing, and bring your hiking shoes to the Bear Lake campground at Crooked River to trek around a couple of small lakes. Within 45 minutes, you can also find great hiking locations, such as Fort George Canyon, a beautiful 4.8 (one way) hike down to the Fraser River and a nice beach area, and Teapot Mountain, a 30-minute steep hike that is so worth it when you see the panoramic views on top.
This list is by no means complete! And if you add a bit more time, you can start to find opportunities for epic hikes and overnight adventures, like hiking and tenting in Sugarbowl – Grizzly Den Provincial Park (only 95km east of Prince George). So when we (us locals) say we love Prince George for the proximity to wilderness and adventure, you can see that we truly mean it!