Sun Peaks trail running 101

Sun Peaks has a wealth of trail running options, including in the high alpine. Photo courtesy of Tourism Sun Peaks.

If you’re looking for a way to truly challenge yourself, get fit and enjoy all of the natural beauty Sun Peaks has to offer, there are few better past times than trail running. 

“It’s an incredible form of exercise and a great way to connect with nature,” said Arlene Schieven, chief executive officer and president of Tourism Sun Peaks. “For example, on my run today, I encountered a deer, several grouse. It was just such a pleasant, peaceful experience.” 

The tranquility and challenge of trail running has kept Schieven, one of the resort’s top running athletes, at it for over thirty years. It represents a core element of her fitness and wellness routine. 

Lucky for those who want to lace up and give it a go, Sun Peaks has an excellent array of trail runs to appeal to every level. These runs often toggle between gravel backroads and the picturesque single-track most often associated with the sport.  

Schieven said which trails are best is dependent on the time of year  and how well things have dried up, with the highest lift-accessed routes in best shape in July and August. 

It’s also important to note the future looks bright for the local trail running scene.

The Sun Peaks Recreational Trail Association is currently developing three multi-purpose, intermediate trails on Mt. Morrissey.

According to Schieven, these trails will be a welcome asset to the resort’s  network, as they will be extremely well built and will therefore dry out earlier in the season than other area trails. 

Looking forward, Schieven said it would be great to eventually see a trail built straight up to the top of the Sunburst Express. 

“It would be single-track all the way up, like the Grouse Grind, or the Blackcomb Ascent Trail,” said Schieven. “A lot of people like that type of running and hiking, because they don’t have to worry about coming down, which can be hard on your knees.” 

And if you find yourself walking part of the trail, don’t sweat it. That’s part of the beauty of the sport. 

“The good thing about trail running is that if you are just getting started, you can start by hiking and gradually add in more running,” said Schieven. “Or hike the steeper parts – it is still a great workout!” 

Please be sure to bring trip essentials—such as extra food and water and a first aid kit—when trail running, as well as let people know where you’re going. More information on safe backcountry travel can be found via the Adventure Smart website. 

SPIN asked Schieven to share a few of her favourite trail runs: 

– A challenging alpine trail running experience: Catch the Sunburst Express up the mountain. Run the Top of the World Trail, up Tod Peak trail then over to Tod Lake then down Gil’s trail. In total, the loop is approximately 9 kilometres. 

“It’s a really nice loop with no repeated terrain,” said Schieven. Please consult Sun Peaks Resort LLP’s hiking trail map for more information. 

– A moderate jaunt to McGillivray Lake: Start at the P5 trailhead, run along the undulating Vista trail and then take the McGillivray Lake trail. This will take you all the way to the McGillivray Lake Outpost. With this run, there are options to veer off into little bits of single track as well (on what are snowshoeing and dog sledding trails in the winter—aptly named “Dogsled” and “Snowshoe”).

– A relatively easy run east of the Village: Head east and get on the SunBurf and new Family Man trails. This is definitely a shorter run, but is a good option for when you are pressed for time.

– Up Mt. Morrisey via Packhorse Climb. This one isn’t for the faint of heart, though it’s often good in the early season as it tends to dry out quicker than other trails. Leave from the village, take the covered bridge, and go up the Packhorse Climb right to the top of Morrisey. From there, you can come down where you came from, or go down the backside of Morrisey for some more advanced options. Please see SPR’s XC Trail Map for more information. 

– The Embelton Skyline hike, near Heffley Lake, is also a good option for someone looking for a challenge. For more information, check out distance is about 6 kilometres, but straight up and down.

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