Go big with bikes, golf and brews in Grande Prairie
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Big country, big skies, big rivers, and big dinosaur bone beds. Up here, escape into lush landscapes, shimmering lakes and raging rivers. There are campgrounds, accommodations and lots of restaurants to fuel your entire day while you #ExploreNWAB.
Grande Prairie, AB - As Eric Zoobkoff flies stylishly off a dirt jump on his mountain bike I can’t help but think, “I can do that!” A few years back I was riding the BC bike parks pretty steadily and I remember that feeling of soaring. Here at the bike skills park in South Bear Creek, within Grande Prairie city limits, watching the little groms roll the berms on Striders and BMXs nearby, I figure this old dude still got game.
A pedal slap to my shin later, I roll over to Eric for some tips. I can’t help feeling a little sheepish but in Grande Prairie there are no egos and if you want to brush up on your bike skills or you just want to crank it out like the old days, this is the place to do it. And if you don’t, well, there’s a golf course across the road, a campground beside that, hiking trails in the South Bear Creek valley and some choice patios and breweries for apres hour. Bikes, clubs, brews, it’s about as good a weekend in Alberta as it gets.
With its venous bike trail network, the South Bear Creek area is lifeblood to Zoobkoff. On days off, that’s often where you’ll find him either riding with his son or out with a friend. Today, Brett Mace has joined him and together they’re making the most of a day off.
“South Bear Creek is a great place to learn, you want to jump, you can jump, you want to ride flats, you can do that, if you want to go uphill, you can do all of that,” Zoobkoff sums up.
“I ride these trails on a regular basis with my kid and it doesn’t matter where you are, you can get pretty much everywhere.”
For the next step in your riding progression, Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park lies just 17 kilometres south of town. Formerly lift-accessed riding, the park is undergoing a rebuild following a landslide in 2020, but has re-opened to riders for pedal-powered riding for the season. With limited volunteer maintenance, Nitehawk encourages riders to pre-ride and re-ride trails before letting loose (visit the Nitehawk website for all the details.)
But back to Bear Creek. The South Bear Creek area is part of a nexus of recreational sites operated by Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park. Laid out in a spoke-and-hub configuration (see what I did there?) is the bike park, where Nitehawk offers bike courses for all ages, the campground, driving range and Bear Paw Par 3 Golf Course.
The latter is the guys’ next stop. In the span of less than a couple hours, we make our meandering way around the nine-hole course, arriving at the ninth with the trash talking in full effect. It’s a short drive off the tee box on Hole 9, but Zoobkoff is taking no chances. He and Mace are down to a few strokes and this could decide it… which would matter if anyone was keeping score.
With short holes (maximum 150 yards), no course marshalls, Jack Nicklaus-designed astro-turf greens and tee-off boxes and a laid back atmosphere, this is the opposite of the country club experience. For those who want to kick back and enjoy just clubbing a few balls around, learn the sport or even introduce the whole family to it, Bear Paw is the place to do it.
“It’s short shots, which is challenging but it’s a good place for someone who doesn’t know too much about the sport to get out there,” says Mace.
“Even for someone who has been around for a while, it’s got some challenging spots that will make you second guess yourself,” Zoobkoff chimes in. “You can bring the family out, pound out nine holes in a couple hours. There’s no one behind you to rush you, no marshall. Just come have fun, get outside and enjoy yourself, that’s what the sport is all about.”
How do you cap a day of riding bikes and swinging golf clubs in Grande Prairie? With some patio time, of course. An overflowing platter of potato skins, wings and chips and chili dip greets the guys at Jax’s Grill and Lounge. From there, they wind the day down with a brewery tour and a patio beer at Grain Bin Brewing’s new patio, complete with shrubbery and a funky yellow and purple sunrise mural.
“There’s a lot going on in Grande Prairie,” Zoobkoff reflects. “I’ve lived here five years, but I’ve never been to some of these places and it’s great to get outside your routine. Makes you think. There’s a lot more to the city than meets the eye.”
With South Bear Creek as a basecamp, there’s no need to look any further for adventure in every direction.
WHEN YOU GO
- Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park offers bike skills courses, refreshers and programs for all ages, from the groms on up.
- Settle in at South Bear Creek Park's Bear Paw Campground and enjoy easy access to biking, golfing (pro tip: ask for the RV Park guest discount), the driving range and hiking trails.
- When it’s time to chill, patios are springing up everywhere in Grande Prairie - check out Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association’s listings for more info.
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