Now that the snow has arrived, it’s time to check out Snowy Owl and Snowy Shortcut, two new snowshoe trails at West Bragg Creek. Built by volunteers from the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association this addition brings the total trail network at West Bragg Creek up to 106 km.
Snowy Owl trail makes a large arc to the west and then traverses the north-east flank of Ranger Ridge. Along the way, it links to several other all-season trails, providing opportunities for a variety of snowshoe loops. Each leg of Snowy Owl has it’s own character. I’ll describe the trail in the counter-clockwise direction.
West Bragg Creek parking lot, west to Blue Bridge (1.3 km)
Start from anywhere in the parking lot and follow the snowshoe markers around the north edge of the parking lot, heading west. A short section through an aspen grove gets to Mountain Road, which is groomed for XC skiing. Cross Mountain Road and follow the well marked trail along the gentle meadows between the creek and Mountain Road until you get to the blue bridge over Bragg Creek. It’s an easy, scenic start.
Blue Bridge to Snowy Shortcut (1.8 km)
After crossing the blue bridge, there is a junction on the south side of the road. Snowy Owl trail goes right (west), while Snowy Shortcut goes left (south). The main trail curves around the margin between a spruce forested slope and a frozen marsh bordered with alders. You come back out to Mountain Road to cross a fence-line at a cattle guard, then head back into the woods and up a short slope onto a gentle bench. After crossing Moose Connector XC trail, continue through pine forest for a short distance before turning south to enter a logged cut-block. This area was logged 2 years ago as part of a fire break to protect the Bragg Creek community. This break is not being re-planted with trees, so it will remain mainly open and grassy for many years. The open terrain provides the opportunity to wander around and just explore the area. As the trail climbs up and over the low hills, you are rewarded with increasingly expansive views of Moose Mountain, Ranger Ridge, Boundary Ridge and Telephone Ridge. You’ll cross the new Mountain View XC ski trail, then start a gentle descent to a junction with the west end of Snowy Shortcut trail. It’s a 5.4 km loop, if you return to the parking lot via Snowy Shortcut.
Snowy Shortcut to Ranger Summit (2.0 km)
Continue south across the open cut-block from Snowy Shortcut and make a sharp left turn (east) as soon as you re-enter the forest. A lovely, gentle trail wanders through the sheltered forest. A short, steep uphill takes you to a higher bench and another pleasant section along an old cart-track. After about a kilometer, the trail turns south and winds it’s way over to the Ranger Summit trail. At this junction, you have the option to return to the parking lot on 1.8 km of Ranger Summit trail, for a 6.6 km loop (or 6.1 loop, if you used Snowy Shortcut). Or you can turn right, to add the 4.9 km Ranger Summit/Strange Brew Loop to your trek.
Ranger Summit to Strange Brew (1.2 km)
This section continues south, from Ranger Summit trail and crosses alternating meadows, old spruce and young pine forests to reach Strange Brew trail. This is one of the snowiest parts of the trail, except for one short side-hill. The return trip to the parking lot follows Strange Brew and the north end of Boundary Ridge trial.
Snowy Shortcut (1 km)
The Snowy Shortcut trail can either be used in conjunction with the north and west legs of Snowy Owl to make a 5.4 km loop, or it can be used to short-cut the NW corner of the Snowy Owl trail. It’s an pleasant route, through a surprisingly open pine forest, with several meadow openings. It crosses Moose Connector XC trail about half way along.
With these new trails, snowshoers now have multiple route combinations to explore!