One of the reasons people move to Abbotsford is the array of hiking trails and opportunities for outdoor fitness that can be found within the City limits. While Sumas Mountain offers the largest expanse of wilderness within the Fraser Valley some of the nicest hiking can be found on the Matsqui prairie.
Matsqui Trail Regional Park is located on the south shore of the Fraser River, and boasts a level dike trail that runs for over 6 miles (10 km) beside the Fraser River. The trail offers good views of the Fraser and the quiet farms that border it, as well as the snowcapped Cascade Mountains.
There are several access points to the trail along the length of the park, but first-time visitors are advised to go to the main park entrance which lies under the south end of the Mission Bridge. From Highway 11, take the Matsqui Village Exit, travel north on Riverside Street and watch for the green and yellow park entrance signs.
If you’re exploring Matsqui Trail on foot, the round-trip walking time will be about two hours. The trail is flat for its entire length, which makes it an ideal destination for those who like to chat with friends while walking along. The most interesting time to visit is in late spring when water levels in the Fraser are at their highest.
There are always a few fisherman here casting from a nearby sandy fishing bar. Industries crowd the riverbanks west of Mission, but thin out as the trail leads east of the bridge. Several old riverboats are tied up at the Canadian Pacific Railway dock. Nearby fields are dotted with black-and-white Holsteins. The trail runs beside these fields and has long stretches where the full capabilities of a bike can be tested. Paths lead down off the trail to picnic spots beside the river.
Rounding the last major bend before the trail reaches Sumas Mountain and the Page Road trailhead, you finally look out at wilderness on all sides. Mission’s famous Westminster Abbey presides on a ridge to the northwest. The town of Hatzic is directly across the river. Strawberry Island is the large sandy expanse to the east on the far side of the Fraser. All signs of industry are beyond view downstream. This is the mighty Fraser as it should be: big river, big landscape, big fun.
The Matsqui trail ends at an old quarry on the side of Sumas Mountain. Riding time both ways from the Mission bridge is about one hour. With so many places to pull off and watch the river flow, it just might take you longer. In fact, you can expand your ride by tacking on the 4-mile (6.6-km) round trip between the west side of the bridge and the park’s Glenmore Road trailhead. This stretch leads past Gladwin Pond, and it’s rougher in places than the dike trail’s skinny tires will definitely be a disadvantage here in wet weather.
The backroads that lead west from the Glenmore Road trailhead pass through Bradner, Glen Valley Regional Park, Fort Langley, and Derby Reach Regional Park. The Pemberton Hills present a smoldering challenge to cyclists along the way.
Matsqui Trail Regional Park has picnic tables arranged beside the Fraser River. Most of the year these are on high ground, but during spring runoff the tables may be covered by several feet of muddy water. Fortunately, the tables are well secured and should still await you once river levels recede. Here on the Matsqui prairie youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll find many grassy areas between the river and the dike where you can spread a blanket and let the Fraser lull you with its slow but steady rhythm.
The main cycling trailhead can be a little tricky to locate. It sits under the south end of the Mission Bridge, which links Hwy 11 in Abbotsford and Matsqui with Hwy 7 and Mission to the north. Turn west off Hwy 11 onto Harris, then north on Riverside, which will take you right to the park’s Mission Bridge picnic area.
Editor’s Note. Most of this article appears on the britishcolumbia.com website.
For the original article on which this review was based and more on hiking in British Columbia click here and search for ‘Matsqui Trail Regional Par’