The Summit Trail Makers Society will be improving access to Azure Lake with support from Columbia Basin Trust’s Trail Enhancement Grants. Stunningly blue Azure Lake is tucked in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere. (Photo credit: Joe Lucas)

Columbia Basin trails to see improvements

The next intake for the Trust’s trails enhancement grant program opens April 4

New trail development near the Silver City will soon be underway with a $10,000 boost from Columbia Basin Trust.

The grant for Kootenay Columbia Trails Society will be used to increase accessibility to the existing Bluffs trail network by developing the “Aspen Loop” as a beginner-level trail.

The funding was part of the latest cycle from Columbia Basin Trust’s Trail Enhancement Grants.

Around the Columbia Basin, 29 projects will be adding to or improving the region’s trails, with over $484,000 from trail enhancement program.

“Trails connect our communities, take us to spectacular locations and provide fresh-air opportunities to get moving,” the March 14 announcement read.

“Active, outdoor lifestyles are a prominent part of Basin culture, and we’re fortunate to be able to recreate in such beautiful natural settings,” said Tim Hicks, Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits.

“Basin residents told us it’s a priority for the Trust to support projects that make getting out into these areas even better, so that more diverse recreation opportunities are available for residents.”

This three-year, $1.5-million program helps build new trails or rehabilitate existing ones that, for example, were damaged in storms or have aging infrastructure like bridges.

The aim is to make trails more accessible and user-friendly to a wider variety of users, incorporate Indigenous cultural or heritage values, reduce environmental impacts or connect existing trails.

Funding may also go toward amenities like signs and benches.

Here are a few of the successful projects from around the region:

~ An Easier, More Accessible Route

Stunningly blue Azure Lake is tucked in the Purcell Mountains near Invermere. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to access because of all the trees blown down across the trail, which forces hikers off the path. To improve the hiking experience, the Summit Trail Makers Society is leading the project to reroute and upgrade the trail, which is managed in cooperation with Recreation Sites and Trails BC, build bridges and add trailhead amenities like toilets and signage.

“This project will add a high-quality trail to the suite of trails in the Columbia Valley while protecting its wetland areas,” said President Brian Wesley. “Many groups will benefit, including hikers of all abilities, birders, biologists, geology enthusiasts, photographers and even local businesses.”

~ New Ways to Enjoy the Views

The trail system on Mt. Thompson is known for its epic views. Thanks to a project by the Creston Valley Forest Corporation, spearheaded by Board member Jerry Bauer, there will soon be new and improved ways for hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers and horseback riders to enjoy this awe-inspiring landscape. The project will upgrade four current trails and construct two new connector trails.

“Hiking and associated outdoor activities are a fundamental part of the culture of the Creston Valley, and Mt. Thompson is an iconic local feature and landmark,” said Forest Manager Daniel Gratton. “This project will provide trail users with a variety of difficulties, distances and terrain. By tying all the trails together, users will be able to start from the valley bottom and head to the top of Mt. Thompson: a distance of 11 kilometres.”

~ More Places to Zoom

Over two dozen trails meander, switchback and criss-cross through the Valemount Bike Park, located only minutes from the Village of Valemount. Soon this number of options will go up, as the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association undertakes a project to add three new intermediate-level trails: two downhill ones and a climbing one.

“Recreation opportunities are the reason many of our residents live here and why visitors choose to come here,” said General Manager Curtis Pawliuk. “The more we are able to provide quality recreational experiences, the more people will be drawn outside and into physical activity. Members of our community young and old have begun to jump on bikes and get back outside.”

These 29 projects mark the first intake of the program. The next intake will open on April 4.

Learn more at

The Trail Enhancement Grants are one of the ways the Trust is addressing its strategic priority to support recreation and physical activity in the region. The Trust also offers Basin PLAYS, which supports youth sports and physical activity in communities and schools. In addition, the Trust previously offered the Recreation Infrastructure Grants, providing $9.4 million to 153 projects over three years. Learn more at

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit


The Mt. Thompson trail system offers beautiful views like these. The Creston Valley Forest Corporation will be improving this network with support from Columbia Basin Trust’s Trail Enhancement Grants. (Photo provided by the Trust)

The Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association will be adding trails to the Valemount Bike Park with support from Columbia Basin Trust’s Trail Enhancement Grants. (Photo provided by the Trust)

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