Westlock, Alberta, is a small town with a big love of sledding. Located about 90 kilometres north of Edmonton, Westlock boasts three main trails that offer miles and miles of relatively flat or gently rolling terrain, scenic lake views and toasty warm-up cabins or firepits on each.
Cliff Bromberger, president of the Pembina Drift Busters, said these are bush trails that peek-a-boo in and out of the trees, meander the edge of several lakes and weave through grazing reserves where riders can get off trail and have some fun in the powder.
The club has permission to run trails through the grazing reserves and grooms the trails as often as the snow calls for, depending of course on snowfall and usage. “The club owns its own groomer and skid,” said Bromberger, “and we usually do the Main Loop and the West Loop at the same time and the North Loop on its own, because it is about 80 kilometres. At five miles an hour, that takes a long time.”
Westlock’s Main Loop is about 40 kilometres of rolling hills and lakeside scenery through the bush and across several grazing reserves. A warm-up area with the club’s main cabin can be found about eight kilometres in and is fully loaded with a firepit, firewood and an outhouse. The Main Loop offers some of the best off-trail play areas—grazing reserves, which are used for grazing cattle in the summertime, but in winter offer slightly hilly, powdery play areas where riders like to open up and have some fun.
Winding around Black Bear Lake and offering lovely scenic views, the West Loop is about 30 kilometres of gentle hills and easy riding. The trail offers a picnic area with firepit, firewood and an outhouse about 10 kilometres in. There are grazing areas just off the trail along the West Loop, but watch for signs in some of the grazing reserves warning of rocky areas unsuitable for riding.
The longest and most scenic of the Westlock trails is the North Loop—an 80-kilometre lollipop through forested and open areas that wander close to Francis and Banana lakes. Bromberger said this trail’s remoteness means it is the one most likely to host game sightings, though moose and deer are abundant in the entire area. A fully loaded warm-up cabin at the north end, marking the half-way point, offers a firepit, firewood and an outhouse.
All three trails in Westlock will suit most levels of sledding, said Bromberger. “The land is fairly level and runs about 2,100 to 2,300 feet (640 to 701 metres) above sea with rolling hills,” he said. “It is good for all abilities and there are spots with some really good snow at times.”
Getting there: All three trails begin at the staging area on Highway 801. Take Highway 44 north from Westlock about 23 kilometres to the Dapp Corner Store. From there take Highway 801 about 11.5 kilometres, and the staging area is right on the highway.
Parking: The staging area can comfortably suit 50 to 60 vehicles and is maintained by the County of Westlock so is ploughed regularly.