North of the border, a wondrous land awaits adventurous horsemen. An area known as the Shuswap Country, or simply “the Shuswap,” is filled with beautiful trails and user-friendly horse camps.
The area, which refers to the environs of Shuswap Lake, is in south-central British Columbia, near the town of Salmon Arm. It’s an excellent destination if you enjoy nature, friendly locals, and an impressive array of activities and wineries.
Last July, we hitched up our living-quarters trailer and took our Missouri Fox Trotters, Cowboy and Nate, to the Shuswap to camp and trail ride. Here’s a report of our Skimikin Lake camping experience and trail ride, plus a photo gallery of our trip.
(For a complete write-up of our visit to this region, see the May 2015 issue of The Trail Rider. To subscribe, click here.)
Our good friends, Ian Hutcheon and Colleen McMechan, invited us up to Canada. Ian was professor of geology at the University of Calgary for 25 years and acted as a consultant for mining companies worldwide.
Colleen also has a degree in geology, and is a multifaceted bundle of energy and talent. Needless to say, we had great narrators for the area’s rock formations and geologic structures.
After distinguished careers in geology, Ian and Colleen established an expansive cattle ranch in southern British Columbia. In recent years, they’ve spent summers at the ranch and winters riding in Arizona.
Skimikin Lake Camping
Early next morning, we trailered to the town of Salmon Arm, in the heart of the Shuswap, then on to Skimikin Lake Equestrian Camp.
Some of the highways to Skimikin Lake Equestrian Camp are narrow, winding, and have miniscule shoulders to accommodate any wayward vehicle.
To reach Skimikin Lake, take the Trans Canada Highway west from Salmon Arm for about nine miles to Tappen Valley Rd. Turn left on Tappen Valley Rd., follow it for about 2.5 miles to Skimikin Lake Rd., turn left, and go almost five miles to the camp.
The equestrian campground offers 21 corrals, 48 campsites, and two trailheads. Most campsites have two corrals, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Our horses shared a large water tank. For cleaning up, we used the campground’s wheelbarrow and manure bin.
Camp caretakers Rick and Jean Sanford and their daughter, Linda, were particularly kind and helpful. Rick gave us trail maps and offered us firewood.
This shady camp is thickly fringed with fir and cottonwood trees. We found it to be an ideal place to camp and ride on a hot summer days. In the heart of this delightful setting is Skimikin Lake, a sparkling emerald.
Some of our most precious moments here occurred in the early morning when we took our coffee down to the lake. We quietly watched stately cottonwood trees admire themselves in nature’s mirror. Sunlight stretched and yawned as it rose and relaxed across the cool, still water.
Our morning silence was broken only by the haunting call of a loon and the raucous honking of Canada geese as they skimmed the water, looking for morning snacks.
An osprey dive-bombed for a fish. A duck family waddled by. A majestic eagle perched on a snag.
Rick told us that the fish-filled Skimikin Lake is a magnet for wildlife. In addition to our sightings, he’s seen rabbits, coyotes, bears, and even the occasional cougar.
Skimikin Lake Ride
Time to hit the trails! Map in hand, we rode across the road to Trail #2, then took Trail #16 over to Trail #22. Ian and Colleen rode their trusty ranch horses — Junior, a Paint Horse gelding, and Gaylord, a Quarter Horse gelding — both 16 years old.
The trails were mostly abandoned logging roads that wound uphill and went through coniferous forest. It was easy riding, even though we gained 1,700 feet in elevation on Trail #22.
We stopped to admire intermittent views of Shuswap Lake by Salmon Arm. Most of the riding was in the trees, and we welcomed their shade on a hot summer day.
Trail #22 intersects with Trail #32. We picnicked here, then decided to ride Trail #32 to the historical site mentioned on the map. We gave it a good shot, but called it quits when the trail deteriorated into a brushy quagmire with no end in sight.
We later learned that the historical site was an old trapper’s cabin, but an old stove is all that remains.
Since we couldn’t continue forward, we headed over to Trail #30, intending to make a loop. We came upon a private-property sign, so we backtracked our way to camp. Our ride was about 11 miles total.
Upon arriving back at camp, we met a young woman heading out for a ride. She’s a competitive trail rider who’s participated in the endurance rides hosted here. She told us that if we would’ve gone to the right when we came to the private-property sign, we could’ve completed our loop.
We learned that competitive trail riders, including endurance riders, hold competitions here. The EQ Trails Association, which manages the equestrian campsite, helps to create and maintain the trails.
From camp, another interesting riding destination is to a nearby winery. You can take Trail #10 to Platt Rd. for a partial return loop. We didn’t do this ride, as the winery had burned, but there are plans underway to rebuild it. This would certainly be a fun ride!
You can also take a short ride around the lake. When we were there, parts of it were submerged due to a recent rainfall. In spring and early summer, this scenic trail is a favorite hangout for mosquitoes, so be forewarned and prepared!
Kent and Charlene Krone combine their interest in photojournalism with a passion for horses. They’ve sold photographs to magazines, books, calendars, postcards, and video producers for more than 20 years. (For a sampling, visit www.superstock.com, and type “supplier:1314” in the search box.) They enjoy sharing their horseback adventures in the United States and Western Canada. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
British Columbia Travel and Tourism Guide
Canadian Border Services Agency
EQ Trails Association
Horse Council British Columbia
Online Trail Guide
Skimikin Lake Campground