The view from the top of the Tall Trees Recreation Trail may arguably offer the best lookout in the area.
The new trail officially opened last Friday, and on Sunday — when the sun finally turned grey skies blue — the trail was a hiker’s highway.
Families, groups of friends, and pets were out exploring the cleared path that zig-zags straight up a 450 metre gain after the first winding kilometre.
“It was worth it,” one woman said, slightly out of breath, when this reporter saw her at the top of the trail sitting beside her companion on one of the newly installed benches. In front of them, a stunning view of Kaien Island, the city of Prince Rupert, Metlakatla, Butze Rapids and the harbour.
The trail itself was built in 1991, but over the years it became overgrown with fallen trees blocking the route at points. In 2005, the trail was decommissioned — although that didn’t stop some Rupertites from exploring it.
When Pacific NorthWest LNG applied to build a liquefied natural gas facility on Lelu Island, the proponent also began investing into the community, spending $125,000 to support the project to re-open the trail.
The Provincial Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations oversaw the construction and the proponent’s funding went toward the design, removing and replacing stairwells, bridges and boardwalks, clearing the overgrown brush and replacing sections of the 4.6km trail. They also installed signs and benches.
“We heard from the community that there was not enough access to nature in the Prince Rupert area, and that a number of the local trails had not been adequately maintained,” said Tessa Gill, head of external affairs for Pacific NorthWest LNG. “The restoration of the Tall Trees Trail creates increased access to nature for the community and First Nations, as well as education and informative environmental activities.”
The trail is located across from the Butze Rapids trail, and parking is currently alongside Highway 16. There were at least eight cars parked in a row when I arrived to hike the trail on Sunday. A parking lot is one of the last pieces in the project to be completed. The community relations advisor for Pacific NorthWest LNG, Derek Baker, said that after the parking lot is grated it will have dual use for Tall Trees, and for people who park up the road to take the Butze Rapids shortcut.
The trail itself is complete with a 4.6 km grind up to the lookout that gets the blood pumping. In total, with a rest at the top to enjoy the views, it took about two hours to hike in and out.
Ankle supporting hiking boots are recommended for the sloppy areas, especially after a few days of rain. There were some slippery spots near the top, but it was all part of the adventure.
For most of the trail, the views are limited to vibrant rainforest, creeks and slivers of sunlight piercing through the brush that change to sub-alpine wetlands and meadows near the lookout.
Board member of the Kaien Island Trail Enhancement and Recreation Society, Steve Milum, is excited about opening public access to this trail.
“It’s a great component of the trail network that adds an element for people looking for a nice steep trail with good views in comparison to a stroll you may take on Butze Rapids. It’s a more challenging trail, less curated with more wilderness,” Milum said.
He added that the society is looking to continue working on the Oldfield Trail next, a network that joins with the Tall Trees Trail at the lookout and ends up by the Oldfield Hatchery.