Hiking under the Sun in Northern Sunrise County
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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.
Northern Sunrise County, AB - Hiking as a curated activity, the kind of hiking you’ll find on certain trails in Banff, or Kananaskis, doesn’t exist in the northern part of Alberta. Here, where the horizon clings to the dawn seemingly forever, you’ll find some of Canada’s newest hiking trails. Depending on where you go in Northern Sunrise County, you might find an undisturbed fly fishing hole, or a serene place to hang your hammock in secluded boreal forest or the most Instagrammable picnic spot ever (where is that, you ask? Stay tuned.).
For the most part, what you won’t find are crowds, fences or barriers, or any sense of limits. As yet untarnished by millions of feet, they are trails best explored early or late in the day, which is perfect in the land of long summer days.
Early morning finds Alyssa Rygersberg with her friend Kaitlyn Regal down by the Smoky River at Murphy’s Flats, in the shade of whispering aspen and birch. Down off the point of a sandbar, they spy Remi Pariseau casting a fly into the narrows, his two dogs frolicking in the water nearby.
In the shade of a birch grove, the friends skip rocks and share laughs. The sun is already climbing in the sky, but the cool breeze off the water and the early morning shadows make for a relaxing spot for the friends to (literally) chill a bit.
The access road into Murphy’s Flats is new for 2021, and the County is continuing to put in trails and amenities over time. (Access to the day use area is via Range Road 821.5, find directions and a map to the spot here.)
Like many places in the Peace River region, it’s a little off the beaten path, but that’s what makes it exciting for certain types of explorers. Just up the road, more hiking trails lead to viewpoints above the valley.
All the region's best hiking and nature spots are within short drives from Rendez-vous RV Park. Using the campground as the base for their explorations, the two girls pop over to Cecil Thompson Park for some afternoon fun with family, including Regal’s little nephew. The park is a great place to connect and spend time with family, with a sand volleyball court, a bouncy mat, playground and fish pond.
Another great family-oriented experience in the County is the Nampa and District Museum just down the road. With a completely restored 19th century log home, a church, train car and antiques from the early settler era, it provides a substantive survey of local history and culture.
Right next door, the Farmers Restaurant crafts fresh sandwiches, wraps and iced drinks perfect for a picnic or a cool off mid-day.
With the long days up north, afternoons can stretch out. Mossy, pine-shaded Harmon Valley Park Campground makes the ideal place to hang a hammock and enjoy an afternoon forest reprieve, just a 20-minute drive from the RV Park down a secluded dirt road. From the look of content on Rygersberg's face, it’s clear she is feeling the calming effect of forest bathing.
"The nature and the scenery around here is just unreal." says Rygersberg afterward. "I had a really surreal moment, just looking up at the trees, I felt like I could stay here forever and be happy."
Meanwhile, Kristen St. Arnault and her niece Kenzy Laboucan have the run of the campsite playgrounds, before eventually rousing their friend to join them for a picnic.
With a basket of goodies from Farmer’s Restaurant filled with their signature chicken pesto wraps, watermelon feta salad, fried bannock and haskap berry lemonade—the trio head off to the County’s most iconic location, the Twelve Foot Davis Gravesite.
Named for a local legend who struck gold with shrewd measurements to secure himself a rich 12-foot plot between two bigger claims, the site lives up to its namesake by claiming the best view of the entire Peace River valley. This is by far the most Instagrammable picnic spot for hundreds of kilometres around.
"It's like a scene out of the movie!" Rygersberg exclaims. "It's breathtaking!"
Today, emulating Twelve Foot Davis, Rygersberg and her friends are the shrewd ones who have grabbed the prime spot. With a large parasol, white linens, soft pillows, furniture and place settings, K's Popup Picnic elevates the picnicking experience from a “sit on the grass” affair to a five-star soiree.
With the sun slowly reclining in the western sky, teasing the long grass and painting the valley in gold, few things feel as lavish as this moment. Eat your heart out, Twelve Foot Davis.
WHEN YOU GO
- Numerous campground and RV sites populate the county, including Rendezvous RV Park and Harmon Valley Campground. Visit Mighty Peace Tourism for a full list.
- To curate your own pop up picnic experience, book ahead with K’s Pop Up Picnic. It’s BYO food and drink, so either pack your own or order ahead from a local restaurant.
- Want to put yourself in the centre of Northern Sunrise County, a short drive from all the best hiking and nature areas in the county? Book your stay today with RV Peace River.
HIKING AND NATURE SPOTS IN NORTHERN SUNRISE COUNTY
Murphy's Flats https://mightypeace.com/places/murphys-flats/
Cecil Thompson Park https://mightypeace.com/places/cecil-thompson-park/
Harmon Valley Park Campground https://mightypeace.com/places/harmon-valley-park/
Twelve Foot Davis Gravesite https://mightypeace.com/places/twelve-foot-davis-gravesite/
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