If you have not visited West Bragg Creek in a while, you will immediately notice one big change, and once you get out onto the trails, you will notice many other improvements throughout the 150 km trail network. These improvements have enhanced the equestrian opportunities at West Bragg Creek.
West Bragg Creek Parking Lot Upgrade
The first thing you will notice as you approach West Bragg Creek is that the road is now paved before you arrive at the huge new paved parking lot. Government of Alberta invested 2.5 million dollars in 2017 to expand and upgrade the trailhead parking facilities at West Bragg Creek.
There are actually four parking lots, a large one on the north side of the access road and three smaller ones on the south side of the road, with a total capacity for 485 vehicles.
The first lot on the south side the 8-rig angle-parking Equestrian lot, with it’s own separate entrance and exit. The Equestrian Lot has washroom facilities, a trailhead kiosk, hitching rails and is adjacent to water access for horses.
A four metre wide perimeter trail connects all the trailheads around the parking lot. This allows riders to get to all of the trails, without crossing any of the busy parking lot areas. The equestrian lot provides direct trail access to the south half of the trail network. A quiet trail connector including Bunny Loop, Chickadee Loop and an equestrian only connector provide separate equestrian access to the north half of the trail network, while avoiding the busy trail centre and trailhead areas around the larger north parking lot. The start of Braggin-Rights and Whitetail were re-aligned to reduce trail grades and align with the new trailhead location along the larger parking lot.
Trail additions and upgrades
The big change to the trail network is that the Trans-Canada Trail through West Bragg Creek was substanitally completed in 2017. In fact, the route includes both high-ridge and low-valley options in a number of places.
Starting from the hamlet of Bragg Creek, there is now a 10 km high-standard trail along West Bragg Creek Road and Range Road 54. The surface of the trail is made of an engineered “trail mix” material which will form a durable surface after a number of wet/dry cycles. The surface material was installed and compacted in the late fall of 2017, so the GBCTA is requesting that equestrians avoid using this trail until the summer of 2018, in order to give the tread an opportunity to firm up. Once it has set up, you are welcome to use the trail.
The generous 2017 Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF) Trail Supporter Grant of $5,000 funded the construction of the Iron Creek segment of the Trans-Canada Trail between Range Road 54 and Iron Springs/Boundary Ridge trails. This starts from a swing-gate at Range Road 54, then initially follows a one metre wide trail over 3 bridges at a small wetland area, then continues up the wide Iron Creek trail. The high option follows a new 600m connector to Boundary Ridge trail and then along Boundary Ridge to the West Bragg Creek parking lot. The low-valley option follows Iron Springs Trail to Sundog West to the WBC Equestrian parking lot.
From West Bragg Creek parking lot, the high option follows Braggin Rights to Merlin View and then on to the new Kestrel trail. The low option from WBC parking lot follows Mountain Road/Snowy Owl to Old Shell Road, to Moose Loop, to Tom Snow Trail.
The new Kestrel trail continues along a ridge-top, north from Merlin View Loop. 5.6 km of the trail has been machine built. Two kilometres has been hand finished. The remaining tread will be hand finished during the 2018 construction season, so the trail in not recommended for use until fall of 2018.
The flood-damaged section of Tom Snow trail between the north Kestrel junction and Spruce Woods Day Use Area in the Jumpingpound Valley was rebuilt onto a higher alignment in 2016/17 by Alberta Parks and is now ready for use.
A number of smaller projects were completed in 2017 to improve trail drainage, tread repairs and brushing of encroaching vegetation on the single-track trails. This included reroutes on Braggin Rights, Boundary Ridge and Whitetail, tread work on Ranger Summit and Snakes & Ladders, drainage work on Demi-Tel and brush clearing on Long Distance and Tom Snow trails.
The Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association has allocated considerable donated funds and volunteer labour towards the upgrading of the cross country ski trail network, over the past five years. The work has focused on improved drainage, raising and smoothing tread and re-seeding the tread surface to make it sustainable for summer equestrian use.
In 2017, this included significant drainage work on East Crystal Line, West Crystal Line, and a portions of Hostel Loop and Iron Springs trail. The bridge deck on Loggers Loop was widened and repairs were made to the South Moose Loop bridge deck.
Several hundred kilograms of approved native grass seed mix was tilled into the surface of most of the recently upgraded ski trail network to speed the green-up process. The remaining ski trails were brushed and mowed to provide a safe, double-width trail for equestrians and other summer users.
The West Bragg Creek trail network has been transformed from a quiet, little used network of unmaintained XC ski trails to a highly used, year round hub for multiple outdoor activities on over 150km of trails. The generous support of the AEF has funded the construction and upgrading of a number of links in this network. This support is recognized on a plaque at the Trails Centre and signage at the Equestrian trailhead. The GBCTA continues to work with equestrian representatives to ensure that the West Bragg Creek area provides great opportunities for riders.