Sugarbowl-Grizzly Den Provincial Park, a local Prince George treasure, was established in 1999 to protect the old growth cedar, hemlock, spruce forests and sweeping alpine meadows. With nearly 24,000 hectares protected, the park provides necessary habitat for a variety of wildlife, including mountain caribou. It also provides excellent recreational opportunities year-around for outdoor enthusiasts, offering four scenic hikes with spectacular ridge-top views. Adventurers keen to tackle the steep climb to Sugarbowl Mountain, Viking Ridge, Grizzly Den, or Raven Lake will surely not be disappointed while following in the footsteps of First Nations and previous backcountry explorers.
Exploration of this stunning area happened well before it was designated as a provincial park. In the late 1960’s Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd. won the logging rights to the Hungary Creek Area and began pushing an access road up the creek. As operations took off and logging camps sprung up, Northwood employees began to explore the nearby ridges and were amazed by what they discovered. In fact, they were so impressed that Northwood road builders were encouraged to develop the road to a much higher standard, which continues to make access much easier to this day.
With a well-designed road and the employee’s deep appreciation for the surrounding wilderness, they eagerly began convincing Northwood’s president to construct recreational cabins. In 1973 and 1974, two cabins were built and became lovingly known as the Grizzly Den and Raven Lake cabins, respectively. With active logging throughout the winter, the cabins were more accessible, becoming local backcountry hotspots used by hikers and backcountry skiers alike.
Once winter logging stopped in 1976, access was difficult and winter recreation began to decline. In 1977, the Sons of Norway Ski Club, in collaboration with Northwood, constructed an additional cabin – 8 mile cabin – on the lower portion of the Grizzly Den trail to revitalize winter use of the area.
The three cabins have been – and continue to be – an important landmark for the Prince George community. For decades, cabin maintenance and the restocking of firewood was a shared task amongst Northwood, Forest Service Recreation (1980’s and 1990’s; now known as Rec Sites and Trails), and by the mid 90’s the newly formed Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society. Throughout the later 90’s and into the 2000’s, after the area was designated as a provincial park, the society continued to help maintain the cabins and raised money to improve the insulation and install new wood stoves and new woodsheds.
Fast forward to 2019 and the story of the Sugarbowl-Grizzly Den cabins is still being written. This summer BC Parks invested in the construction of a new cabin! Designed by Station Design (Duncan, BC) and fabricated by Onpoint Concrete Forming (Mara, BC), the stunning two-story cabin features a magnificent timber interior finish, a wood stove, drying racks, secure food caches, bunks and foamies, and several windows to increase the natural light.
After weeks of working in challenging subalpine weather conditions, the construction team was successful. Since its completion dozens of eager backcountry adventurers have made their way to Raven Lake to enjoy their first night in the new cabin.
For a modest $10 fee per person, outdoor recreationists can have an excellent backcountry experience and continue the tradition of past adventurers. All fees collected go directly into the maintenance of the cabin and assist the dedicated efforts of members from the Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society.
BC Parks and the Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society are working towards an online reservation and payment system to help ensure that visitors have a quality experience. The new system is expected to roll out in the New Year. Until then, fees can be paid by cash via a drop box at the cabin, or electronic transfers can be sent to the Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make the best of your visit keep in mind the following rules that help ensure campers respect and maintain this wonderful new space:
- Parks are not self-cleaning – Remove all garbage and personal items; Keep all food in sealed containers; Sweep and clean out the cabin prior to departure;
- Nice people make nature nicer – Keep the cabin ventilated while cooking; Do not use any candles; Make sure the door is tightly closed before leaving; Use wood sparingly and only within the woodstove; Do not chop firewood inside the cabin or on the deck;
- Fido can’t always be free – Dogs are not allowed inside the cabin.
- The best thing to inhale is fresh air – Please no smoking or vaping inside the cabin
- Plan ahead and prepare, BC Parks encourages all backcountry hikers to review the AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace principles to help keep your next adventure respectful and safe.
- Whether you are skiing or snowshoeing, risky avalanche terrain may not always be marked. It’s important to get the training, get the gear (and know how to use it) and get home safe this winter. Find an Avalanche Skills Training course near you through Avalanche Canada
- For further information about Raven Lake and Sugarbowl-Grizzly Den Provincial Park, please review the park brochure.
- For more information on the cabin check out the Sugarbowl – Grizzly Den Provincial Park & Protected Area page http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/sugarbowl/
*Thank you to Dave King for sharing the fascinating historical information of the area