Try the West Bench Trail

The West Bench Trail is a great option for families heading to Golden, B.C., this winter

by Kirsten Armleder

A group of snowmobilers parked alongside a trail.
The West Bench Trail features groomed, low-elevation riding with scenic views of the Dogtooth Range. photo courtesy Kim Bernasconi

There has never been a shortage of epic mountain sledding in Golden, B.C. The most popular zones—Quartz Creek, Gorman Lake and Silent Pass—have more than enough terrain to please every mountain rider out there. But when it came to safe, maintained, lower elevation riding, the town was definitely in want. That changed, however, in 2013 when the Golden Snowmobile Club, along with the Golden Snowmobile Trail Society, finished their work on the West Bench Trail.

Essentially an old logging road, the West Bench Trail skirts the base of the Dogtooth Range. It offers splendid views of alpine terrain without actually having to set foot—or track—in it, which means there’s zero risk of avalanches.

For obvious reasons, the West Bench Trail is the ride of choice for families visiting Golden. The trail, which is 38 kilometres long, stays flat for most of the way and crosses a number of drainages.

Accessing the West Bench Trail is easy. Because it connects the Gorman Lake trailhead to the Quartz Creek trailhead, riders can stage and ride from either direction. Staging from the Gorman Lake trailhead is a better choice, though, as the trailhead is only five minutes from town.

To get there, follow the Kicking Horse Road over the Columbia River bridge, and then turn right on to Golf Course Road. Stay left when you get to the golf course, and then follow the road until you reach the Gorman Lake trailhead.

The West Bench Trail utilizes part of the Gorman Lake trail so riders will have to follow it for about eight kilometres until they reach the turnoff to the West Bench Trail. The trail is signed, so it won’t be hard to find.

As in all maintained zones in Golden, a trail pass is required to ride the West Bench Trail, but there are toll booths at the Gorman Lake trailhead and the Quartz Creek trailhead where you can purchase a pass. It’s $20 a day, per sled.

The money, of course, goes to the grooming efforts of the Golden Snowmobile Trail Society, whose members work hard to make sure the trails stay smooth throughout the winter. So far, the West Bench Trail has only needed to be groomed twice a month. According to Aaron Bernasconi, who is president of the trail society, it’s because traffic is so low.

“We only started grooming it mid-season last season, so as far as a trail goes, it’s a baby,” he said.

Bernasconi and his wife, Kim, have two young kids who are just learning to ride. The West Bench Trail is good for their family because there are spots along the way to have a fire and open areas where their young ones can be introduced to off-trail riding techniques.

For Bernasconi, the best part about it is that he gets to share the sport he loves with his family.

“Whether it’s riding around or hanging out by the fire pit, as long as we are all together, it’s perfect,” he said.

Grooming of the West Bench Trail begins at Christmas and usually runs until mid-April. For more information on other zones and a list of sponsors who kindly support the sledding efforts in Golden, visit the Golden Snowmobile Trail Society’s website.

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