Nestled in the Bulkley Valley, between the Babine and Hudson Bay Mountains, is the small riverside town of Smithers, BC. After a short walk down Main Street, you immediately notice the town’s particular alpine charm. With its beautiful mountain ranges as a backdrop, you may even think you were wandering though a small town in the Alps. The locals are friendly folk, genuinely interested in your plan for the day, and happy to provide an insider’s tip. Smithers is an ideal year-round destination; it’s even listed as one of National Geographic’s top ten best “secret” ski towns in North America. Recently I had the chance to revisit this northern BC community and explore all it has to offer with BC Transit.
We arrived in Smithers late at night, but after a solid night’s sleep, and a hearty cooked breakfast from the friendly staff at the Storks Nest Inn, we were well prepared for our first day of adventure. Our initial destinations were the river trails south of Smithers in Telkwa and Lake Tyee Provincial Park, but not before a little visit to the Bugwood Bean Co. After refueling at this quaint espresso cabin in the heart of town, we were off to the bus stop only a few blocks away. A hallmark of small towns is the close-knit community, and Smithers doesn’t disappoint. Our bus driver was warm, welcoming, and very helpful. After a short ride down the highway, we arrived at the small town of Telkwa to explore the river and Aldermere trail network. The trails meander along the riverside before heading over towards Lake Tyhee. The recent prolonged cold spell had caused some fascinating ice formations. After only a couple of kilometres we arrived at the lake; though frozen for our trip, I can imagine it being a great spot for a swim in warmer weather. The locals swap their swimsuits for hockey sticks this time of year!
Real Food Café at the Midway service station
I think the expression ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ applies perfectly to this little lunch spot. Located just north of town, the 20-minute walk from Lake Tyhee is well worth it for this little gem. It’s a vibrant café with good coffee, an assortment of delicious baked goods, and arguably the best BLT I’ve ever had. It was the perfect refuel before catching the bus north to Moricetown Canyon.
The 35km trip on the northbound bus from Smithers to Moricetown winds up the Bulkley Valley, offering great views of the Bulkley River and Hudson Bay Mountain Range. Our destination in Moricetown was the Canyon, located a short walk from the bus stop. This narrowing of the Bulkley River creates a turbulent narrow gorge. We got to see its impressive winter coat, with the river completely disappearing as it rushed under the ice into the canyon. This is a bustling fishing spot in summer, and especially during the salmon run. It has been feeding the Wet’suwet’en people for centuries, with evidence of inhabitants dating back over 5000 years ago.
We rounded off our day with a wander round the town of Smithers, taking in the scenic surroundings and exploring the various shops. We headed to Local Supply Co to pick up some last minute supplies and collect advice before tomorrow’s adventure on the mountain. Then after a treat at Paul’s Bakery, it was off to the Alpenhorne to retell the day’s stories over a pint and some fine pub fare.
Hudson Bay Mountain
Our weekend’s final adventure was to hit the slopes of the Hudson Bay Mountain. The scenery was beautiful as we climbed up the mountain road in the Moose Mountain Shuttle. It conveniently dropped us off at the Panorama Lodge, right by the ticket sales booth and lift. After receiving some mountain info and orientation from customer service, we headed off for a snowshoe to Crater Lake.
The Crater Lake trail starts at the edge of the ski boundary, just a short walk up the road from the lodge. The trail first ascends through the Prairie Mountain Cabin community, a network of beautiful little ski-in, ski-out cabins with views of the valley floor below. After leaving the cabins behind, we continued through the snow-clad trees for a while longer before hitting the alpine. We were lucky to get some nice views of the valley below before the weather closed in. I look forward to returning to hike these meadows in the summer.
After a quick snack and gear change we were ready to hit the runs. The resort’s tag line is, “It’s all about the powder”, and they’re not lying. With cold temperatures and over 20cm of snow falling over the last couple of days, we came at just the right time. The ski hill has 2 T-bars and 1 triple chair with over 315 acres of skiable terrain – more than enough to find fresh tracks all day long. The mountain is known for its bounty of fantastic tree runs, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The Seven Sisters Glades are not to be missed! We rounded off the day with a pint and a monster plate of nachos in the lodge, before returning on the Mountain Moose. (Still feeling fresh? Skip the shuttle, as there is a run that will take you all the way back into town.)
Smithers, you were fantastic; it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend! I’d like to say a huge thanks to BC Transit for the opportunity to explore this area. Thanks to the friendly Smithers locals, and especially the hospitable staff at the Storks Nest Inn, the late check out was a lifesaver!