Dakota Ridge is a winter gem on the Sunshine Coast. This popular recreation area offers excellent cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for all types of adventurers.
Situated on a 1,532-acre plateau above ts’uk̲w’um (Wilson Creek), Dakota Ridge offers stunning and expansive views of the Salish Sea, North Shore Mountains, and Mount Elphinstone. Here you'll find seven kilometres of snowshoe trails and 25 kilometres of cross-country ski trails, both of which wind through old-growth forest draped with snow and quiet sub-alpine meadows.
Many of the routes at Dakota Ridge intersect and loop, making it easy to spend hours or a full day playing in the snow. Young adventurers will also find a small sledding hill, located next to the warming hut.
Read on to plan your next visit to Dakota Ridge.
There are seven kilometres of snowshoe trails at Dakota Ridge. Gentle hills and wide ridges make this a very beginner-friendly area if you're snowshoeing for the first time. Here, well-marked routes lead to a number of viewpoints offering spectacular vistas or through well-marked and undulating forested settings. Dogs are allowed on all snowshoe routes at Dakota Ridge. Popular snowshoe routes at Dakota Ridge include:
Length & Difficulty: 5 km | moderate
Ridge Walker is a moderate, five-kilometre snowshoe route. The trail winds over frozen ponds and opens up into almost meadow-like conditions full of pristine snow. With some uphill sections, it provides a longer "hike" for snowshoers looking to get in a few hours in the snow. Near the trailhead, this route crosses several cross-country ski trails that run perpendicular to the snowshoe trail—so make sure to be on the lookout for skiers. Once you’ve passed the last ski intersection, you’ll head up the trail before coming to a fork. From here, head left to the top of Dakota Ridge on the Ridge Walker trail, or to right onto the Balsam Loop trail.
Length & Difficulty: 2.7 km | easy
Ridge Walker Trail connects with the Balsam Loop. From Ridge Walker, take the loop around and then head back down the trail, which links up with Balsam Loop. Should you choose to go right at the fork, Balsam Loop is where wide open vistas await. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mt. Baker in Washington, as well as the coastal mountains, Vancouver Island, and plenty of ocean in between. Once you’ve soaked in the views (and taken lots of photos), the trail loops around and back to the map board at the base next to the warming hut and the parking lot.
Eagle Lookout Loop
Length & Difficulty: 2.1 km | moderate
This is a gentle loop that winds through the forest cresting to a small lookout at the top of the route. Shortly after starting, you'll come to a fork where you can choose which direction you'd like to tackle this easy loop. While views are promised at the top, keep in mind they can sometimes be obscured. If you're looking for a great photo-op, make sure to tackle Balsam Loop as well.
There are more than 25 kilometres of cross-country ski trails, set for both classic and skate, spread across 12 trails at Dakota Ridge. Cross-country skiers will find a good mix of green, blue, and black trails, along with lots of loop options. Dogs are only allowed on the one-and-a-half kilometre Sechelt Main cross-country ski trail.
Beginner cross-country skiers should head onto the Sechelt Main trail first. Three easy routes branch off from this main connector, including the green-listed Wren, Chickadee, and Grouse trails. A kids’ learning area is located along this trail, too.
More experienced skiers can explore the blue Squamish Loop and Yellow Cedar Trails, which start from the warming hut. Looking for a long loop? Head out on the Blueberry and Hemlock Trails for one long, fun, backcountry challenge (more details on the Blueberry Trail can be found below). There are also a couple of black-rated trails located towards the end of the Sechelt Main trail.
Blueberry Cross-Country Ski Trail
Length & Difficulty: 10.8 km | moderate to challenging
The Blueberry Trail offers skiers incredible views and access to some spectacular terrain on Dakota Ridge. On clear days skiers will easily see great vistas of Panther Peak and other alpine peaks.
When combined with the Squamish and Hemlock trails, Blueberry makes for a 10.8-kilometre loop. Depending on your level of experience, you may consider this a moderate loop while beginner cross-country skiers may find it more challenging. From the warming hut the trail can be skied in either direction, however we find that a counter clockwise loop works very well. Take the Squamish Loop to the east and then link onto the Hemlock Loop.
Follow signage to access the Blueberry Trail. As you follow the trail, there are a few options to shorten the route, or you can follow its entire length for a great ski combined with great views.
Where to Purchase a Day Pass, Rent Gear, or Take Lessons
Dakota Ridge is a user pay system. Both day and season passes can be purchased at the Sechelt Aquatic Centre or at the Gibsons & Area Community Centre. Day passes can also be purchased at the Dakota Ridge trailhead once the season begins (exact cash fee amount required), or at Alpha Adventures and Trail Bay Source for Sports in Sechelt.
Rentals, lessons and guided tours for Dakota Ridge (ski and snowshoe) are offered by Alpha Adventures, conveniently located right at the base of the road in Wilson Creek. Sledding is included with ski or snowshoe tickets, but if you're not planning to use any of the other trails, you can also pay $6 (cash fee at the trailhead) for the use of the parking lot.
Find where to rent gear on the Sunshine Coast here.
Dakota Ridge Amenities
There is a warming hut and an ecologically-friendly outhouse located at Dakota Ridge. The warming hut has a fireplace and tables where you can rest and refuel with a packed lunch or snack. There are no food services on-site at Dakota Ridge, so make sure to bring enough food and water for your visit. The warming hut is open dawn to dusk, seven days a week.
A trail map is located at the trailhead kiosk. The area is patrolled during weekends by volunteer trail hosts who are available to answer questions, monitor trails, and help ensure skier safety.
Garbage facilities are not available on site, so please pack your garbage out with you.
How to Get to Dakota Ridge
Dakota Ridge is located at the end of Field Road in (Wilson Creek) on the Sunshine Coast. The main parking lot is located at the trailhead, 15 kilometres up the forest service road.
To access Dakota Ridge, turn north off Highway 101 onto Field Road (between Sechelt and Roberts Creek). At the end of Field Road, turn right onto the logging road, and follow the signs up the rest of the way (about 15 km total drive).
Although the access road is plowed on a regular basis, winter chains are required before moving into the snow zone. Due to the nature of the road, access is restricted to four-wheel drive vehicles with chains. All terrain vehicles are not permitted in Dakota Ridge.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District, in cooperation with community volunteers, maintains the road to Dakota Ridge and the trail system. For those not prepared to drive in winter conditions, Alpha Adventures in the Wilson Creek Plaza offers a shuttle service, as well as day ticket sales, snowshoe and ski rentals, tours, lessons, and sales.
Plan your visit to Dakota Ridge using this handy map.
Directions to Dakota Ridge FROM GIBSONS.
Directions to Dakota Ridge FROM SECHELT.
Where to Check Weather Conditions
Dakota Ridge is a wilderness area with varying weather conditions, so visitors should be prepared for all weather conditions. You can find daily updates on the Dakota Ridge Facebook page, maintained by the Sechelt Regional District, and through Alpha Adventure. You can also call or visit Alpha Adventures in-person to ask about current conditions.
Know Before You Go: Winter Safety
Snowshoeing and hiking in winter conditions can be hazardous. If you are travelling through avalanche terrain, you and everyone in your group must be self-sufficient—carrying all the proper gear (transceiver, shovel, and probe) and have avalanche training.
AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors. Remember the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. Find out how to prepare for a day of snowshoeing here and cross-country skiing here.