Bonnyville, Alberta: The land of lakes and northern lights, and a hidden gem for many snowmobile enthusiasts. This booming oil town is host to an almost endless trail system, which meanders through the boreal forest and among numerous lakes. There are three main trail systems that keep enthusiasts rolling throughout the winter months.
Bonnyville to the North Cabin
Considered the most scenic, this trail goes north of town along the Iron Horse Trail and through the Foley Pits ride area, just north of Dupre Road off Highway 660. The route takes riders through the beautiful boreal forest, just south of the Beaver River. There is a variety of terrain; from trees, creek valleys and river banks to pasture and muskeg, this destination finds you at the Snowdusters' North Cabin. The cabin hosts a nice wood stove for warming, with wood graciously supplied by the Bonnyville Snowdusters club. Considered the best ride for families, this 50-mile loop is fun for everyone.
Bonnyville to the South Cabin
From Bonnyville, there are a series of ditch-banging trails, along Highway 659 to Highway 657 South to the access point of the South Trail. This was about an 80-mile round trip if you followed the old trail system but due to lack of membership to maintain the trail systems, the trail has been shortened to follow the pipeline trail that leads you to the South Cabin. From the South Cabin you can continue to Garnier Lake, which then hooks up to the Elk Point Trail System. There are many opportunities for playing in pastures and slough bottoms.
Bonnyville can be cold, but with that comes nice, dry powder to play in, which is every rider’s dream.
Bonnyville to Bangs Lake
Crossing Moose Lake to the southwest corner, this unmarked trail system can be a bit tricky to find. It is recommended that you ride with locals for this system, since it is not clearly marked. From Moose Lake, you cross through the area known as The Pines to Franchiere Road and continue on to Thin Lake Creek. After following the Thin Creek Trail, you end up at Thin Lake. There is a road allowance to Highway 28, ditch-banging close to Kennedy Flats, then following a road allowance to the northwest side to Bangs Lake. On the shore of Bangs Lake is the club cabin, which offers a warming hut, firepit and outhouses. This is a fun trip—with lakes, fun powder play and awesome scenery.
Reasons to ride
The Bonnyville Snowdusters club is a hard-working organization with a backbone of individuals who keep it going. Membership numbers have decreased in the last few years, resulting in fewer trail systems being maintained. It takes club dollars and participation to keep these trail systems alive.
A very real threat for enthusiasts is the loss of land. According to Ron Charawich, who is the trails chairman for the Snowdusters, if riders don’t use the trails in the Bonnyville area, they could very well lose them. Charawich works hard as an advocate for these trail systems. He acts as a liaison between oil companies and the Snowdusters when their trails are encroached upon from oil exploration. He also keeps abreast of the regulations set out by Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development to ensure the integrity of the Bonnyville ride area. People can be their own worst enemy, be it because of ignorance or complacency, and it doesn’t take much to lose valuable ride areas.
Know before you go
The Wolf Lake/Seibert Lake area is another favourite ride area, but again, it is not clearly marked so you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. Often lost far into the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, these riders not only put themselves into harm's way, they could be charged with trespassing—something the Canadian Air Force base does not take lightly. Again, know before you go.
No matter where you go in the Bonnyville ride area, you are certain to find adventure, beauty and excitement. Wolves, lynx, moose, elk and deer are regular sights, along with northern lights and fresh dry powder. Is it any wonder that people choose Bonnyville as their Northern Alberta ride destination?