Hike/Bike the Lake, Bears or Not!
Easy to demonize, but bears are the reason why I live at the lake. My first visit to Christina Lake was via bike when, swooping down the Kettle Valley Railway on our way
from Castlegar, 3 bear (having a picnic we presumed!) blocked our way. We didn’t try to push inconspiciously by them; an andrenalin-fueled backtrack put us in less bear-friendly habitat – the highway – followed by a breathless blast down into Christina Lake. Continued discomfort about camping so near the sighted bear (a mere 20 kilometres away!) and in the rain, led us to seek safe and dry shelters – courtesy of kind real estate agents who took pity on us – whereupon I found my house.
Nineteen years later, when I hike now I have wildlife repellent devices with me. My favourite is the ‘wildlife deterrent horn’ which keeps wildlife apprised of your presence far more unapologetically than bear bells.
And my favourite hike/bikes? They continue to be the ones that offer the best scenery, views, way-marking and least ‘scream’ value (anybody else out there who likes their trails slow and safe?)
- Kettle Valley Railway
Terrific for both cyclists and walkers. While the trail in the immediate vicinity (Paulson to Grand Forks) is all very doable on bikes or in boots, the most scenic section is from
Santa Rosa Road to the Canyon Gorge Trestle or just past the quarry (4-8 kilometres). Surface is good, vistas of the river, and what was the old townsite of Cascade, are fabulous. If you`ve heading east on this trail, the ascent is steady, and very exposed. Bring lots of water!
- Deer Point Trail
In its entirety, a hefty kilometre long ridge walk along the east side of the lake from the provincial campground to Sandner Creek. Great surface, so cycling to end is very feasible (the challenge being
the relentless ups and downs of this trail). A hike to the first lookout (about 2 kms) is ideal for those with kids, or with limited time.
- Mary`s Lookout (Badger Trail)
Actually, there are three Mary`s Lookouts, and most people get to first one – a good 2 km climb – and call it a day. However, if one is intrepid enough, the trail – albeit a little faded in places – continues to switchback up the hill (at one point becoming the Shenstone trail) until one reaches the top Mary’s Lookout, far above the highway. If you make it to the top, you are following in the footsteps of some legendary characters at the lake – Simon Shenstone – an emigre from England and Anglican minister who first explored and settled the area in a teepee, and Mary, whose penchant for working
outside topless, gained a certain notoriety. If you would prefer to stay on the better marked, and level Badger Trail, it continues past the first Mary`s Lookout, and will take you alongside the lake as far as the campground.
- West Lake and Wheelchair
Accessed on the west side of the lake 6 km up Stewart Creek Road or from the top of Strome Rd off Chase Road, Westlake trail runs parallel, as expected, to the west side of the lake. This summer we found the trail to be well marked at both trailheads, but less so as you
went along. Dovetailing with Wheelchair (so called because that is where you’ll end up if you do this on your bike!) makes it challenging to separate the two trails at the north entrance.
Be forewarned: our trails do not get the use they have in provincial parks, so your patience and orienteering skills are definitely a must-pack. For those desiring a little more challenge, the Christina Crest Trail (trailhead at km 22 up Santa Rosa Road) or the Xenia Lake Trail (accessed via a rough forest service road off Granby River Road) are two I can recommend. Of the two, the Xenia Lake Trail – if you take the extension which brings you to a lookout offering gobsmacking views of the Christina Lake watershed from top to bottom – is by far the
more scenic. Definitely the view that caps my hiking experience here at the lake! And bears? Other than sending a few cubs up a tree (and being glared at by mama) upon disembarking from a canoe at the head of the lake, our days on the trail have been surprisingly wildlife-free. Even on “Badger Trail”!