Exceptional sledding in Alberta’s Golden Triangle

Connecting Whitecourt, Fox Creek and Swan Hills, the Golden Triangle trail has a bit of everything

by Danielle Cameron

Whitecourt is known as Alberta’s sledding capital. - Dave Bradley photo
Whitecourt is known as Alberta’s sledding capital. Dave Bradley photo

Stretching for 350 kilometres, Alberta’s Golden Triangle trail runs between Whitecourt, Swan Hills and Fox Creek. With five cozy shelters along the way and award-winning terrain to play on, you can’t ask for a better snowmobiling destination.

The landscape is variable with hills, winding, tree-heavy trails and flat ground where you can really pick up some speed. Sledders of all skill levels can enjoy themselves here, so you are good to bring the family if they are up for a lengthy ride. However, make sure you stock up before heading out, as there is a significant distance (approximately 110 kilometres) between communities. Bring along fuel, survival gear, a cell phone and GPS to be safe.

Most sledders opt to take this route over the course of two or three days, so they can enjoy the scenery at an unrushed pace.

You can pick up an Alberta Snowmobile Association trail pass for $20 per day or $70 for the year.

Whitecourt offers rolling hills and boreal forest

Whitecourt’s trails are lovingly tended to by the Whitecourt Trailblazers, who are working on improving signage and keeping the area accessible and fun for sledders. They groom portions of the trails weekly, and the entire Golden Triangle route is normally groomed by February 1.

Access the Whitecourt trailhead via the Eagle River snowmobile staging area, which can be found 10 kilometres northwest of Whitecourt. Take Highway 43 from Whitecourt towards Fox Creek and travel for eight kilometres. Turn right onto Highway 32, north towards Swan Hills. The staging area is situated two kilometres north along Highway 32.

The difficulty level of Whitecourt’s trails ranges from beginner to intermediate.

Golden Triangle maps can be obtained on the Whitecourt Trailblazers’ website.

Scenery and snowfall in Fox Creek

Managed by the Northland Sno-Goers, the western part of the Golden Triangle connects Fox Creek to the network. Family riding is popular here, and there are hundreds of kilometres of trails to investigate.

One of the best places to go near Fox Creek is out to Eagle Tower, then on to Herald’s Hut. Or you could venture out to Trappers Cabin (an authentic restored trapper’s cabin that was given to the club), a common spot for sledding families to gather.

If you’re looking for a staging area, you can access the trails either via the Fox Creek arena and community hall parking lots or on Iosegun Lake Road, just outside of town. You are permitted to ride your sled on the roads within Fox Creek—as long as you stick to low speeds—so you can ride from your hotel straight to the trails if you wish.

Swan Hills boasts unbeatable views

The terrain around Swan Hills is managed by the Swan Hills Snow Goers. The trail between here and Fox Creek is blessed with the most snowfall in the Golden Triangle route. No matter which direction you take from town, you can head out for an amazing ride. Stop at the Athabasca Lookout to get a gorgeous photo of Whitecourt and the Athabasca River. Alternatively, you can get a great shot from one of the forestry lookout towers along the way (Goose Tower is well-known).

There are forestry cutblocks that open up the area, but be aware that stumps can exist in these seemingly cleared-out meadows, so be careful.

To access the sledding zones from Swan Hills, head to the tourist information booth and turn south to enter a multi-purpose space with a motocross track and baseball diamonds. You can park and ride your sled to the trails from there.

For a map of the Swan Hills riding trails, including access to Goose Tower, call or visit Kelm’s parts and repair business, Wilderness Playground Tours, at 780-333-2800.

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