Lots of Improvements to the West Bragg Creek Trails in 2016

In 2016, The Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association focused on upgrading existing trails, adding new winter trails and enhancing the visitor experience at the West Bragg Creek trail network. Significant investment and actions by Alberta Parks/Government of Alberta resulted in a number of important enhancements to the trail network and to the planning for even more improvements next year. The 141.3 km trail network offers opportunities for just about every type of non-motorized trail user!

All-Season Trails Brown on the map
Are meant for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians in the summer. In the winter, they are packed and “groomed” for fat-biking after every major snowfall, and are available for winter hiking and snowshoeing. The exception is Fullerton Loop, which is hiking/snowshoeing only.

The big news for 2016, is that Alberta Environment and Parks approved official designation for the 3.5 km Sugar Mama and 3.9 km Sugar Daddy trails. This fills in a big hole between Fullerton Loop and the Elbow Trail in the southern half of the West Bragg Creek trail network. About 300m of tread work and a re-alignment of the Sugar Daddy/Elbow Trail junction was completed, and materials for a new bridge on Sugar Mama were moved to site, in preparation for construction in 2017.

Sugar Daddy. A pleasant, gradual hike up a ridge to Strange Brew on the lower summit of Ranger Hill. Photo Gillean Daffern

Sugar Daddy. A pleasant, gradual hike up a ridge to Strange Brew on the lower summit of Ranger Hill. Photo Gillean Daffern

A 300 meter segment Snakes & Ladders trail was re-constructed by Spray Lakes Sawmills. The trail had followed a portion of a log-haul road, which was being reclaimed back to the original terrain contours. An interesting new trail was built into the re-contoured terrain by SLS and hand-finished by volunteers.

A sustainable, all-season tread was constructed on 1.5 km of Snowshoe Hare (west) trail. This included some trail re-routes, plus drainage and tread reconstruction.

The extended rainy weather from mid-June into October highlighted some drainage problem sites and entirely new wet areas appeared. Drainage work, tread repairs and ongoing maintenance was completed at 15 sites on Braggin Rights, Long Distance, Boundary Ridge, Ranger Summit and Strange Brew trails. 

SLS constructed a sun/wind shade berm and upgraded the tread on Mountain View as part of their logging reclamation.

SLS constructed a sun/wind shade berm and upgraded the tread on Mountain View as part of their logging reclamation.

Cross Country Ski Trails Blue & green on the map
These trails are for XC skiing. Hiking, Biking & horses are not permitted during the ski grooming season. Once the grooming has ended, all of the ski trails are available for summer use… except West Telephone, because of extensive wetland areas.

A 4.6 km portion of Spray Lakes Sawmills log-haul road that was test groomed in the 2015/2016 ski season was converted into Mountain View West (3.8km) and an upgraded portion of Moose Loop (0.8 km) XC ski trails. Spray Lakes Sawmills reclamation crew replaced 16 culverts with new ones provided by GBCTA. SLS placed concrete block abutments for two bridges, installed one steel bridge frame, constructed a sun/wind shade berm and upgraded all of the tread, as part of their logging reclamation. GBCTA volunteers constructed two bridges (20’ X 12’ and 40’ X 12’) and added signage. The new ski loop is now ready for grooming!

Constructing a new bridge on Mountain View.

Constructing a new bridge on Mountain View.

Another new addition is the 1.9 km Iron Creek trail. This segment of the Trans-Canada Trail is an out-and-back trail, extending east from Iron Springs Trail. A great addition, if you are making a loop that includes Iron Springs.

Several existing ski trails were extensively upgraded for improved drainage, better snow capture/retention and a smooth tread. This includes 3.5 km of Iron Springs Trail, 0.5 km of Loggers Loop, and 4.6 km of Elbow Trail. The entire ski trail network was brushed and mowed to make it skiable, even with minimal snow coverage.

Alberta Parks invested in a number of important improvements to the trail infrastructure. The Crystal Line/Sundog bridge and Moose Connector bridge were replaced with new, stronger ones, a small West Telephone Loop bridge was replaced, and about 500m of Elbow Trail was re-routed, complete with a substantial new bridge, at the Fullerton Loop Junction.

A Snowy Owl re-route across one of the cutblocks improves an exposed section of the route.

A Snowy Owl re-route across one of the cutblocks improves an exposed section of the route.

Snowshoe and  Winter Multi-User trails Pink on the map
In addition to the All-Season trails, West Bragg Creek has a number of winter trails that are cleared, signed and marked with blazes, but without a constructed tread. They are intended to be used when the ground is frozen and snow covered. While we can’t recommend them for summer use, in reality, they are mostly pretty good for hiking. Three trails are for snowshoe and winter walking use only, while the rest are designated as “Winter Multi-User”, for snowshoers, hikers and fat-bike riders.

The 2.9 km east half of Snowshoe Hare trail, plus the new Old Hostel Road (0.8 km)   and Fisher Link (0.2 km) trails on the east side of Telephone Loop are for snowshoe/hiking only. No bikes allowed. Old Hostel Road links the Hostel Meadow with the Kananaskis Country entrance at West Bragg Creek road. The side trip down a big bend in Bragg Creek is lovely addition to a Snowshoe Hare trip. The Fisher Link is a shortcut from the 1.8 km mark on Snowshoe Hare, across Hostel Loop XC ski trail and onto East Telephone Trail. The purpose of the link is to provide an attractive, short loop option back to the parking lot and to keep snowshoers and hikers from walking on the Hostel Loop ski trail.

A winter multi-user trail was built alongside West Crystal Line for walkers and fat tire bikers to keep them off the ski trail.

A winter multi-user trail was built alongside West Crystal Line for walkers and fat tire bikers to keep them off the ski trail.

The Winter Multi-User trails are for snowshoeing, hiking and fat-biking once the ground is frozen. We may use the ROKON 2WD motorcycle to pack the main alignment after the FIRST snowfall of the season. This is to establish the best route, in places where the trail may be unclear. There will be no further packing after subsequent snowfalls.

The new 1.1 km Crystal Line Winter Multi-User trail runs parallel to the existing West Crystal Line XC ski trail. It shares it’s start with Snowy Owl trail, just west of the parking lot. At the Chickadee Loop Meadow, it goes southwest, crosses a bridge and immediately heads south to loop around a small hill. It crosses the West Crystal Line ski trail at Crystal Link #1, then stays north of the ski trail, all the way to bridge and a junction with Snowy Shortcut. This allows non-skiers to make a loop with Snowy Shortcut and Snowy Owl, while avoiding travel on the groomed XC ski trail.

Building the new Crystal Line Winter Multi-User trail.

Building the new Crystal Line Winter Multi-User trail.

A couple of re-routes were made to Snowy Shortcut, to avoid sensitive wetland areas.

Snowy Owl also has three re-routes totalling almost 1 km of new alignment. One avoids a wind/sun exposed slope that was often snow free. The second re-route replaces a stump-filled sidehill segment with a smooth, sheltered contouring route. The third one replaces an overly steep cut-line, with a pleasant, gentle route in a mossy forest.

All of Telephone Loop is now designated as both an XC Ski Trail and as a Winter Multi-User Trail. It will be groomed, with a single classic XC track on the outside of the loop and space for snowshoers, fat-bikers and hikers on the inside half of the tread.

A final Winter Multi-User Trail is Old Shell Road (1.3 km). This trail starts with a crossing of Bragg Creek, so you’ll have to wait until the creek freezes over. From the Snowy Owl/Mountain Road intersection, this trail follows an old wellsite road to get to Moose Loop/West Telephone Loop. It allows non-skiers to connect Snowy Owl with all-season trails Telephone Loop and other trails north of Mountain Road.

Working on Whitetail, a winter multi-user alternative to Braggin Rights.

Working on Whitetail, a winter multi-user alternative to Braggin Rights.

Mountain Road
Is a year-round all-purpose trail. In the winter, it is groomed full width, with a classic track on the north edge, a ski skate lane in the middle, and space for hikers, snowshoers, fat bikers, dog sledders and even horses along the south edge.

Trail Centre/Warming Hut
An oilfield service company donated a 50’ X 12’ manufactured “tool-push” building to the GBCTA. This has been converted into a warming hut and trail centre and is located near the washrooms in the centre portion of the West Bragg Creek parking lot. It will be used as a pilot project to determine the viability of a future permanent trail centre building.

Trails Centre interior.

Trails Centre interior.

1 comment… add one
  • wes armitage Dec 10, 2016, 10:19 am

    cannot say enough about the work going into the west bragg creek trails. the time and effort being put into this ‘jewel’ is much appreciated and a source of pride for local (and visiting) trail users. it is great to see different user groups being accommodated and all of them (in my experience) getting along.
    all of the people and groups involved in this evovling project should be very proud of what they are accomplishing.

    a heart felt thank you.

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