Your Guide to Winter Hiking in the Shuswap | January Edition

By Sarah Tokarek

www.shuswapadventuregirl.ca

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Welcome to Secwepemcúl’ecw Territory.

The Shuswap is located on the traditional unceded territory of the Secwépemc Peoples.

As the new year rolls out and long winter days are upon us, we turn to welcome new routines, fresh goals, and activities that we can enjoy peacefully and safely.

Keeping up with cold-weather activities comes with challenges, especially when gearing up for outdoor adventures or knowing exactly where to go.

We’ve rounded up the best information for getting you and your family outdoors, enjoying our trails, all while keeping safety in mind. With a few extra pieces of gear, you can comfortably venture to some of the same trail destinations as you can in the summertime.

Get ready to hike the trails of the Shuswap this winter season!

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Where to Go

The Shuswap is commonly known as a summer destination, and hiking is often considered a fair-weather activity. But with some preparation, know-how, and a helpful guide, winter months are often the perfect time to hike and enjoy nature. The trails are quiet, the views are large, beautiful sunsets welcome you early in the day, and the need for outdoor connection is strong.

Here are our favorite winter trails across the Shuswap.

In Sicamous, The North Fork Wild and The Eagle River Nature Park are easy and oh-so scenic. On the Sicamous side of the acclaimed Larch Hills Traverse, the Hyde Mountain Lookout is a challenging route for experienced hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers. Top of the Sic and the Sicamous Switchbacks trails lead you high up Hyde Mountain to epic snow-covered views.

The infamous waterfront Raven Trail in Salmon Arm is excellent for all levels and provides the perfect family outing. For an epic nighttime hike, try the Little Mountain Trail System. And for a pretty forested trail, the Shuswap Memorial Cemetery Trails are great for kids and dogs.

If you are in the South Shuswap, plan winter hikes at Mount Baldy Lookout and the White Lake to Balmoral Traverse trail. The traverse is best done as a two-car system at each trailhead and takes you from White Lake to Blind Bay. Mount Baldy provides one of the best views in the Shuswap and is about an 8 km return hike, making it a challenging yet rewarding route.

Nothing beats walking along a scenic river, and Tsútswecw Provincial Park has the best of all worlds in the North Shuswap. Here you will find several flat, short trails along the river or more challenging historic routes that lead you along Bear Creek.

How about a frozen waterfall? Here at Shuswap Tourism, we have the perfect winter waterfall itinerary, complete with a map. Check it out here: Winter Waterfall Tour

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Gear Guide


We love to shop locally, and here in Salmon Arm, our local shops offer everything from technical outdoor gear to fashionable hiking accessories and even gear for your furry friend.

We recommend three pieces of equipment for winter hiking to make the experience safe and enjoyable.

Ice & Snow Grips

Hiking in winter usually requires extra foot traction to prevent slips on ice and snow. A good pair of snow grips can give you confidence, security, and peace of mind while adventuring in winter conditions. There are a couple of options for ice and snow grips: crampons, microspikes, snowshoes, or Yaktraks.

Here is a great blog post explaining the differences: Spikes, Crampons vs. Snowshoes | What to use for winter trails

Gaiters

Keep snow out of your boots, and your feet will stay warm and dry. Gaiters are made of nylon or Gor-Tex and typically go over your footwear and cover your calf area.

Hiking Poles

Don’t make your legs do all the work! Instead, get your upper body involved, and you’ll save energy. Poles are also crucial for the protection and assistance of your knees and back and may prevent slips and falls.

For more gear tips, what to wear, and wear to purchase locally, check out Salmon Arm’s Gear Guide: The Best Cold Weather Gear for the Whole Family.

Kids and Pets
Keep your pint-sized adventurers nice and toasty, too, with specialty kids’ gear from Skookum Cycle and Ski, Johns Ski Shack, and Hartty Clothing in Salmon Arm. In addition, Westside Stores in Salmon Arm carries kids’ size ice cleats to go over their winter boots.

Protect your pup in wet, windy weather and keep them warm in the Carharrt chore and hiking coat from Hartty Clothing.

*Remember that pets’ paws are also susceptible to slipping and injury on the ice.

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Other Ways to Enjoy the Trails

If hiking is not your preferred winter workout, why not try Snowshoeing, Skiing, or Fat biking to get out on the trails?

Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is a popular choice and is a great beginner’s sport because it takes minimal experience and is easy to learn.

Snowshoes have two functions: they provide flotation, so you don’t sink as deeply into powdery or deep snow. Snowshoes have integrated crampons on their undersides that help provide traction on ice or packed snow. For tips and tricks on snowshoeing, check out this blog post: Tips and Tricks for Snowshoeing.

In the Shuswap, Larch Hills Nordic Society and Skmana Nordic Club are the best places to snowshoe for well-marked, designated snowshoe trails.

Don’t have snowshoes, don’t worry! You can rent snowshoes for the whole family at John’s Ski Shack or Skookum Cycle & Ski in Salmon Arm.

The BEST Snowshoeing spots in the Shuswap:

Shuswap XC Ski and Snowshoeing Guide
Shuswap Trails: Snowshoeing

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Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiers of all levels will appreciate the variety of skiable terrain and quality of track-set trails at our Nordic Clubs. Larch Hills Nordic Society is home to some of BC’s finest courses. With over 170 km of ski trails, 57 km of which are regularly groomed and illuminated trails, there is no shortage of variety for the outdoor enthusiast.

Skmana Ski and Snowshoe Club in the North Shuswap offers 18 km of track-set classic ski trails. All are well-marked and cover many natural forests, lakes, and streams.

For a more backcountry feel, Skimikin Lake is also known by locals for its snowshoe and cross-country skiing trails, including short looped Nordic trails near the lake and longer, more backcountry-style courses. A perfect place for beginners and children!
Plan your route: Skimikin Trails Map

Additional  Cross-Country Ski Trails:
Crowfoot Mountain and Mobley Lookout | North Shuswap | Rated most difficult | Ski on the old road/trail that was once part of the Old Big Bend Gold Rush Trail built in the 1800s.
For more information: Back Road Map Book Adventures

Around the Hill Greenway Loop | Larch Hills, Salmon Arm | Rated difficult | Ski a complete loop backcountry venture off-track or stay on connecting track set trails.

North Fork Wild | Malakwa, Sicamous | Rated easy to difficult | A designated conservation park where you can explore a short section of the old 1924 Pack Trail north of the park into older growth cedar hemlock forest.

Mount Rose-Swanson | Enderby, Armstrong | Rated easy to difficult | Ski a variety of forested loops. The trails are very well-marked.


Fat Biking
With massive tires giving incredible traction on snow, fat biking opens up a whole new world of exploring the trails on two wheels. Some of our best fat biking trails are found at South Canoe Trail System, where courses are groomed specifically for fat biking. For a complete list of track set trails and current conditions, Shuswap Cycling Club is the best resource. Skookum Cycle and Ski carries fat bikes and technical gear to get you biking all year around.

Winter Hiking Quick Tips

– Check the weather forecast, and know the terrain and trail conditions.
– Be prepared and always pack the ten essentials.
– Always leave a trip plan.

– Bring the right gear. Read more: Hiking 101 blog post

– Dress in layers. Be bold; start cold.

– Stay hydrated and keep your water from freezing.
– Bring a thermos with a warm drink and plenty of snacks.

– Keep your electronics warm. Batteries die in the cold quickly.
– Watch the time. Hiking and snowshoeing in the winter can take much longer.

– Be avalanche safe. Read more: Avalanche Canada.
– Plan your route here: Shuswap Trails


Know Before You Go
Shuswap Tourism strives to ensure Shuswap region visitors have the information and resources they need to make informed decisions while traveling in the Shuswap. 
We have compiled the list below to help ensure the utmost safety and information resources for our visitors and locals alike.

Please explore respectively. Plan ahead and prepare.

 

Make a trip plan and tell someone responsible where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Visit Adventure Smart: Get Informed on how to Stay Safe Outdoors

The Shuswap Trail Alliance: Trail Saftey and Etiquette
Be Adventure Smart:  Adventure Smart
Shuswap Tourism: Know Before You Go
Be Avvy Savvy: Avalance Canada
Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society: Trail Users
Wildsafe BC: Keeping wildlife wild and communities safe
Wildsafe BC: WildSafeBC Bear Safety When Recreating