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Seymour Lake may not be on everyone's recreational radar, but this natural lake just outside of the town of Smithers, British Columbia certainly delights those who find it. Smithers is noted as a winter sports haven midway between Port Rupert and Prince George in the Bulkley River Valley. The area draws a considerable number of visitors year round for hiking, mountain climbing and wildlife watching amid beautiful scenery. What they often see from many hiking trails is serene Seymour Lake.
A bit over 200 acres in size, Seymour Lake is one of a series of shallow lakes pooled in the Bulkley River Valley. Several natural inflows, including some as underground streams, carry run-off waters from the nearby mountain slopes into the lake. Seymour Lake is well-supplied with wetland areas along much of the shoreline, preventing an influx of housing development on the lakefront. A couple of informal swim areas are located along the northeastern shoreline where the water is accessible near the highway. The shallow lake is usually ice-free by May and warms quickly. In winter, locals use the lake for ice skating and the surrounding slopes for downhill sledding.
There appears to be no public boat launch on Seymour Lake, but that doesn't stop locals from launching canoes, kayaks and smaller row boats from the areas adjacent the road. Leisurely boating here is rewarding both for the many types of waterfowl and shore life seen at the lakes margin, and for the views of nearby Hudson Bay Glacier shimmering between nearby peaks. Fishing is usually limited to rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, although several varieties of coarse, non-game fish also inhabit the waters. All British Columbia fishing regulations must be observed and a provincial fishing license must be carried.
Seymour Lake's major claims to fame are the many hiking trails that criss-cross the surrounding area. A large area of public land called the Smithers Community Forest encompasses 11,416 acres of woods and mountain slope that serves as a recreational preserve and an opportunity to educate the public into best-practices forest and wildlife management by a local community. All of the trails in the area are accessed from Hudson Bay Mountain Road west of Smithers. Seymour Lake Trail is the first trailhead encountered while heading west toward Hudson Bay Mountain. The Seymour Ridge Trail is a relatively easy trail across several switchbacks to spectacular views of Seymour Lake and nearby Bigelow Lake. Some uphill hiking is involved, and the trail can often be muddy. Most trekkers take about an hour to reach the viewpoint at 2,461 feet elevation. The Seymour Ridge Trail includes geological features called sackungen, which are cracks caused by the weight of the ridge itself and, although not truly fissure-sized, are interesting to visit.
Farther up Hudson Bay Mountain Road, one can park at the Nordic Center and join the trail system via the Nature Trail or take the spur to the Goldeneye back-country trail. The Nature Trail is maintained by naturalists who repair boardwalks, maintain interpretive signage and produce brochures describing the local ecosystems in detail. From the Nordic Center, hikers can follow old logging roads to the Dahlie Creek trailhead. One trail off Hudson Bay Mountain Road that is not clearly marked is the Waterfall Trail, a steep climbing shortcut to the top of the ridge. Most experienced trail hikers in the area can tell visitors how to identify the trailhead. In winter, the more level and easily accessed trails get heavy use from cross-country skiers, snowshoers and winter adventurers. The logging roads are likewise used during summer for mountain biking and horseback riding.
Hudson Bay Mountain Road leads winter ski fans to facilities for all types of alpine skiing and snow sports. A ski resort offers specialized lodging to those on a ski holiday, with more than 30 ski runs and four chair-lifts to accommodate every expertise level. The ski area near Seymour Lake is so popular that several lodging options in the area are open in winter to accommodate visitors. Skis aren't the only way for snow lovers to enjoy the Bulkley Valley area. The Smithers Snowmobile Association grooms miles of trails in the area and encourages visitors to join them in their efforts to practice a safe sport. Local outfitters in the area sometimes offer snowmobile trekking with experienced guides leading their guests into seldom-seen back-country areas.
Many first-time visitors to Smithers stop here on the 600+ mile trip between Prince Rupert and Prince George. When they find that accommodations are outstanding, both for friendly casual atmosphere and spectacular views of the nearby glacier, they often come back to visit the Smithers area to indulge in their favorite outdoor activity. For a small town Smithers offers plenty of lodging choices ranging from chain hotels, small motels, bed & breakfasts, small family inns, guest cabins and resorts. A couple of RV campground also can be located nearby (and can usually handle tents).
There are a number of outfitters in the area that specialize in such things as back country fishing, pack horse trekking, snowmobiling or snowshoeing. Following the tourism boom, artisans have opened shops to sell their wares, while eateries and services have blossomed in the area. Smithers is now a 'big' little town set among some of the most spectacular scenery in British Columbia. And although not all visitors have yet discovered lovely Seymour Lake, it can't stay hidden forever. Located over 700 miles north of Vancouver, the area is seldom crowded.
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