Swan River is built for sledders. “All but one of the hotels are trail-side or trail-accessible,” said local snowmobile club insider Leona Sweetser.
With plenty of accommodations and dining options as well as two neighbouring snowmobile clubs, Swan River is a snowy paradise near Manitoba’s Saskatchewan border. The valley between the Porcupine Hills and the Duck Mountains promises perfect sledding conditions year after year.
Twenty kilometres of two-lane sled highway separate riders in town from the main trail area. From here, trails wind through the hills. A series of loops allow sledders to take on as much (or as little) frosted ground as they want. All trails lead back to the same sled highway from town. With 450 kilometres of groomed trails and eight warm-up shelters along the way, Swan Valley has ample room to play.
“I love them all,” Sweetser said, when asked to pick her favourite trail. “They cover various terrain. Some very windy in old growth . . . some are more open and straighter.”
Local sledders love all of their trails, but Trail 552 between Bellsite and the Fish Road shelter is a popular gathering spot. Beautiful views stretch for miles from the marked lookout point day and night. There is no shelter at this spot, but a fire and moonlight keep the local riders warm.
Getting there: Beginning in the town of Bellsite, head west on Trail 552.
Distance: The Fish Road shelter is about 22.5 kilometres from Bellsite. The marked lookout point is no more than eight kilometres from Bellsite.
Parking: The town of Bellsite offers snowmobile parking.
Another great spot is Pete’s Cabin near Bubble Lake. Situated between the junction of trails 558 and 549 and Moose Range Lodge, the trails surrounding Pete’s offer openings full of deep powder to play between the bush and frozen swamps. “All your troubles just seem to melt away once you get to the bush,” Sweetser said.
Getting there: Beginning at Moose Range Lodge, head east on Trail 549.
Distance: Pete’s Cabin is about 16 kilometres from Moose Range Lodge.
Parking: Parking is available at Moose Range Lodge.
Trails 550 and 554
The Faye Corbett Cabin offers shelter where trails 550 and 554 intersect. Faye’s provides the perfect picture of Birch River Valley after winding through the steep hills of the North.
Getting there: From Birch River, head west on Trail 554.
Distance: The intersection of trails 550 and 554 is about 14 kilometres from Birch River. Faye’s shelter is only one kilometre past the junction.
Parking: The town of Birch River offers parking.
All trails are easily accessed through Swan River. Parking in the Town of Swan River is the best option to take advantage of the sled-in accommodations, but there are a few staging areas accessible by road throughout the trails: Whitefish Lake campground, North Steeprock Lake or the nearby towns of Birch River, Bowsman and Bellsite.