Fort Langley trails run up to the riverbanks

October 1, 2017 · Print This Article

A formation of Canada geese passes over Tavistock Point in Brae Island Regional Park in Fort Langley (Louise Christie photo)

Access: The historic village of Fort Langley lies 56 kilometres east of Vancouver. For information on the town’s adjacent Derby Reach, Brae Island, and Glen Valley regional parks, consult the latest edition of our best-selling guide book 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver.

Forged in Fort Langley, yet another link in the chain of greenways between Hope and the Pacific Ocean now extends farther west, almost to the Golden Ears Bridge.

Pioneer trailblazing around Fort Langley has been going on for almost two hundred years.

At the current rate, the pattern shows no sign of slowing.

The forward-thinking “landbanks” planning concept of Metro Vancouver Parks comes into its own in the riverfront town’s Derby Reach Regional Park, site of the original fort built in 1827.

You could say it’s part of a “buy now, play later” scheme.

When reached by phone, Wendy Dadalt, east-area manager for MVP, told us that much of the landscape through which the Derby Reach to 208th Street Trans Canada Trail Connection passes was originally forest cleared by settlers for farmland or timber.

“The S & R Sawmill lands were purchased in 1996 by the GVRD and province as part of the Lower Mainland Nature Reserve. We’ve land-banked them since then until opening the extension in July, which we designed as a drive-through farm,” Dadalt said.

Although much of the 2.8-kilometre route, a western extension of the Township of Langley’s existing 11-kilometre Fort-to-Fort Trail, runs through green pastures, a short stretch of two-lane blacktop, Allard Crescent, leads past the home and barns of the Normand family, proprietors of Craigentinney Farm for 93 years.

The road has always cut through the Normands’ front yard.

According to Dadalt, that’s the way the family patriarch wanted it.

“I questioned Fred [Normand] why the road goes where it does on their property,” she recounted. “He said his dad was asked where to put it and he said, ‘Right through.’ ”

These days, more cyclists and hikers pass by than vehicles along this quiet back road.

The accompanying pathway constitutes part of a larger plan to establish a new route for the Trans Canada Trail that MVP undertook with the Township of Langley and Trails B.C. for the Experience the Fraser initiative.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room between the broad Fraser River and commercial cranberry fields on the south side of Allard Crescent.The Fraser forms the watery northern boundary beside which the Fort-to-Fort Trail winds.

To do a quick inspection, park at the trail’s 208th Street entrance just north of Allard and begin exploring from there.

Start or finish a visit by cresting the Golden Ears Bridge, with its elevated overview of the Fraser and the Golden Ears’ captivating alpine display above Maple Ridge: a must-ride experience.

The bridge’s wide spiral ramp, well separated from vehicle traffic, is a place of calm.

As the trail winds east through groves of black cottonwoods and red cedars, then crosses fallow fields, opportunities to approach the Fraser and appreciate its steady rolling pace appear at strategic places.One is Muench Bar, one of a number of such fishing bars dotted along the Fort-to-Fort Trail that offer much-needed public access along a shoreline otherwise laced with log booms.

The bars provide picnic tables and washrooms; the largest, Edgewater Bar, at the eastern end of the new extension, features seasonal drive-in campsites and a generous-sized off-leash exercise enclosure for dogs.

Sculptures highlighting Experience the Fraser themes, such as First Nations and the environment, are installed along the extension (including a life-sized iron profile of a farmer and cattle where signs caution visitors to respect working farms and keep quiet).

For added effect, a heady whiff of fresh manure permeates the air where the trail skirts a milking parlour.

The challenge when exploring the trails around Fort Langley is when to call it quits.

On a sunny fall day, cycling the Fort-to-Fort Trail may not be enough for some cyclists.

In that case, tack on a ride out to Brae Island Regional Park’s Tavistock Point opposite the village, where a loop trail offers an unexpected thrill guaranteed to get your whoop on.

Text CR Jack Christie
Photo CR Louise Christie

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