If you want to try long-distance, high-speed touring, it's worth the ride to High Level.
The Watt Mountain Wanderers Snowmobile Club, established in 1997, manages 350 kilometres of signed and groomed trails winding through wilderness Crown land around High Level. Located in northwestern Alberta, High Level is way out there—in fact, it’s closer driving to Yellowknife (only 716 kilometres) than to Edmonton (782 kilometres).
SnoRiders spoke with club president Barry Toker, who gave us the inside scoop on several must-ride trails in the area.
Watt Mountain Loop
This loop is a 140-kilometre trail starting at High Level that heads west then circles north and east around Watt Mountain. You travel through a hilly area with ravines, stands of spruce and lots of bush with the possibility of seeing moose. All trails are well groomed and wide, which allow riders to maintain speed.
Toker said Watt Mountain “gives you a good view of the whole area to the north—its pretty much all wilderness area”.
Side trails lead to interesting destinations, including Hutch and Footner lakes.
On the loop, you will find three warm-up rest areas that have firepits with cooking grills, outdoor bathrooms, firewood and covered benches. Two small cabins with wood stoves act as emergency warm-up shelters. One is at Watt Mountain and the other on the northwest side of Hutch Lake.
The Machesis Lake Trail
This trail heads south and east from High Level. There are no rest areas or emergency shelters on this long trail stretching almost 60 kilometres so stop at the washrooms at the lake before you head out.
“If ice conditions are good, you can actually cross the Peace River,” said Toker. “From January to March, the ice conditions are (usually) suitable that you can cross it, and there's an established marked trail across the ice.”
If you don't see the marked trail, then do not cross the river. Once across, riders can connect to hundreds of kilometres of trails maintained by the La Crete Polar Cats Snowmobile Club.
A connecting trail
From the Machesis Lake Trail, you can ride north and east back to the Watt Mountain trail system reconnecting at Footner Lake. It’s a long ride, over 120 kilometres, and requires a fuel stop at the First Nations Reserve. Be prepared because there are no other amenities along the way.
“It’s basically a straight-riding destination trail with no real stop areas along the way,” said Toker.