Forests, mountain vistas, groomed trails and snowmobiling: They have snowmobiling in Whitecourt, AB

Some of the best snowmobiling in the world can be found in northwestern Alberta

by Nowell Berg

Trailblazers take a break along the Golden Triangle
Trailblazers take a break along the Golden Triangle. Photo courtesy Don Price

Some of the best snowmobiling in the world can be found in northwestern Alberta. The Whitecourt Trailblazers Snowmobile Club and its army of volunteers build and maintain a network of trails over 460 kilometres long. This trail system lies north and southwest of Whitecourt. The whole trail system can be accessed right from town or from two staging areas.

The North trail system access is at Eagle River staging area located eight kilometres northwest of Whitecourt off Highway 43. Access to the South trail system is from the Groat Creek staging area just 18 kilometres southwest of Whitecourt off Highway 32. Staging areas all have warm-up shelters, outdoor bathrooms and picnic tables. You will find a water well at Eagle River.

The trail system is definitely designed for family use. Three warm-up shelters with bathrooms make for a comfortable day in the outdoors. Trails are well marked with signs, and detailed maps are available on the club’s website. Club president Dan Guenette talked about three trails that stand out from the rest.

The Goodwin Lake Trail

Located on the South trail system, it can be accessed from either the town staging area or Groat Creek.

From town, the trail runs 22 kilometres along a scenic route with twisty turns through a large old growth forest. The Goodwin Lake spot includes a fire pit, firewood, a picnic table and an outdoor bathroom. With no road access to that location and only snowmobile access during winter, “it’s a beautiful trip, a gorgeous location,” said Guenette.

Continue on the trail another eight kilometres past Goodwin Lake and you will reach Summit Warm-Up Shelter. It’s a large log cabin with a stove and wrap-around deck, a fire pit, firewood, an outdoor bathroom and picnic tables. It is for day-use only because overnight camping is not allowed on Alberta Crown land.

The Golden Triangle

This trail gets a lot of buzz from local sledders. It is a remote, long-distance trail covering over 350 kilometres connecting Whitecourt, Fox Creek and Swan Hills. It is advisable to use the GPS marker points supplied on the Trailblazers’ maps because this long trip through remote locations can pose difficulties. Local sledders who've done the trip strongly suggest being prepared with extra gear, fuel and supplies because it is over 100 kilometres between communities.

“You’re out there with the birds and squirrels so be prepared mechanically and mentally for the trip,” said Guenette.

The Golden Triangle trail is groomed and maintained from mid-January until mid-March and includes log shelters along the route.

Whitecourt to Silver Summit Ski Hill

If you've already done the Whitecourt to Goodwin Lake and Summit Warm-up Shelter, then you may want to stage from Groat Creek. Either way, you'll see lots of forest and mountain vistas.

From the Groat Creek staging area, take the Canyon Trail 16 kilometres up to Summit Trail and stop at the warm-up shelter. Then go southwards 59 kilometres to Silver Summit Ski Hill and the brand-new Shining Bank Look-Out.

According to Guenette, the look-out is “available for use now” and is “one of the prettiest look-outs in the province.” At a 305-metre elevation, you can see all the way to the Rocky Mountains with “absolutely breathtaking views,” said Guenette.

The trail is groomed but has no bathroom or picnic table yet. The club plans to install these this spring or summer.

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