Now that I’ve written about all the snowshoe trails I’ve done on the North Shore, it’s time to move on to Manning Park! There’s a lot to explore in Manning Park in the winter and it almost always have great snow. Unlike the North Shore, Manning Park reliably stays below zero for most of the winter, so you don’t get the same freeze-thaw cycles as the North Shore. I think I’ve snowshoed there 4 or 5 times and only once did I not get fresh powder.
I’ve only done the beginner trails in Manning, but there are lots of more advanced trails for backcountry skiing and a nordic trail that extends right through the park. To date, Shadow Lake is my favourite winter trail in the park. The trail leaves from the strawberry flats parking lot, meandering through the forest to the lake and ending at the bottom of the downhill ski resort. Strawberry flats is a large parking lot with the nordic trail running parallel, so make sure to enter the trail at the outhouse. From there, you just have to cross the nordic trail once and then you should see the trail continuing into the woods (don’t follow the nordic trail). The first part of the trail winds through the trees and is the most beautiful winter wonderland! I’m sure it would have a different feel without fresh snow, but both times I’ve done this trail it has been snowing, making the snow covered boughs of the surrounding trees extremely scenic.
Most of the trail is in the forest, but there are a few small meadows along the way where you can jump off the trail if you want to frolic in the snow or cut fresh tracks. It’s only about 4.5km from the parking lot to the base of the ski hill and back, so it’s a short trail, probably around 2 hours in length. The trail crossing the nordic trail once more, just before the ski hill, but you should see the trail continue into the woods on the other side. I prefer to stop and have hot chocolate at the lake, so we usually spend closer to 3 hours on the trail. Shadow Lake is located shortly before the end of the trail and depending on the time of year you may be able to walk out onto the lake and get beautiful photos of the surrounding mountains. The first time I did the trail was in January or February, so we were able to access the lake, but the second time I did it in December and the river running into the lake hadn’t quite frozen over yet, so we couldn’t cross the marsh to get over to the lake. Either way, there’s still a nice view even if you can’t get on to the lake.
From the ski hill, it is possible to extend the trail if you’re looking for something a little longer. If you cross the bottom of the slope, you’ll see a narrow trail going back into the woods along 3 Falls Trail. In the summer there are 3 waterfalls that you can view from the trail, in the winter you can still see the first frozen waterfall, but depending on the conditions you may not be able to see the other two. It’s not a difficult trail, but it does run along a very steep slope on the North side of the trail, so you do have to be careful and prepared along this trail as it does run through avalanche terrain. The first stop along the trail is the Shadow Falls viewpoint, which was in my opinion the best viewpoint, so you could just go as far as the first lookout. When we went we couldn’t even get to the third viewpoint because the snow conditions were too sketchy and we turned around instead. If in doubt, just stick to the Shadow Lake Trail. If you do extend to include 3 falls, you’ll double the trail length to 10km round trip.
The important thing to note about the Shadow Lake trail is that it is one of the trails in the Park that is managed by the resort. Most of the trails are free to snowshoe on, but there are a collection of trails that are flagged by the resort. From a safety perspective this is great because the trail is well marked and easy to follow, but it does cost $10 to use. In the past you could get the trail pass right at the lodge for $10 (where you can also rent snowshoes), but with covid you can now purchase the pass online and redeem in the lodge when you arrive in the park. In my opinion the $10 is well worth it and I always have a great time on this trail!
Finally, keep in mind there is no cell service in Manning Park, so make sure to leave a trip plan and check the avalanche bulletin before you go. There is service at the lodge, so I usually park there before and after the trail just to update my emergency contact via text about my progress.