This trail is moderately easy and combines both cross-country hiking as well as a portion on a public road. We hiked the entire loop one Saturday and clocked it at approximately 11 km; however, you do have other options for a shorter route.
Starting at the church parking lot on the Mesa Vista, follow the well-worn path through the middle of the dunes until you reach the corner of Mesa Vista Dr. Walk up the road past the Willow’n Bed and Breakfast to the end of the road. Look for the bright red fire hydrant and the trailhead a few feet away.
Follow the path as it gradually takes you up, down and around the ends of several gulleys eventually emerging in a large open meadow. The path is well-worn from the many hikers and dirt bikers who use it. A few markers have been placed in various locations to help ensure that you remain on the right path, as other paths occasionally veer off in other directions.
At the end of the meadow portion of the walk you will see an arrow made of stones indicating a path that heads down the hill and around a corner. Here, if you wish, you can take a short path up an incline for a marvelous view of the inland port, slough and old explosives plant laid out below you. This is a great place to rest and have a drink and a snack.
You will come to a fence line at the lower level, with the path running parallel to it. Head-tall sagebrush line the path on either side making it feel like you are walking through a tunnel. As you brush against them the fresh pungent aroma of the sage fills the air. To your left, note the piles of red rock that are being readied for loading and the cement remains of a very large old building. On the ground, running parallel to the fence, is an old 10 inch waterline that eventually terminates at Barnes Creek.
As you skirt the last hill and round the last corner bright green vegetation unfolds in front of you. Here is Barnes Creek – the source of the water in the old pipe and a wonderful green area lush with trees and other water loving plants. The day we walked, the creek was up and roaring right along; in the summer months it is reduced to only a trickle.
As the path ends at an old road, turn left and begin walking down it. About 100 yards along will be a grassy area with a couple of inukshuks. These mark the path that leads down towards the creek. You are now on another old road that led to a bridge; the evidence of which is seen on the opposite bank of the creek. Turn left and walk along this old lower road. In the underbrush to your right stand the remains of an old rock wall built where Chinese men worked to find gold.
The last little bit of path heads to the right away from the road and will take you to a fence just above the road to the Tie Plant. You will have to hop over this fence and scoot down the bank.
Now you can walk the public road back towards Ashcroft. Down to your right is the popular “slough” area, across the river are majestic clay banks riddled with veins of different colors. Up on the power poles, the ospreys have built their nest. The road back is approximately 5 km long and follows the Thompson River. The rushing sound of the river and the salty smell of the trees that line the banks add a pleasant touch to the walk. Thanks to the local 4H club, the rest area about half way along the road provides a rest room and a picnic table where you can sit and watch the river for awhile.
Turn left at Hwy 97C and follow the highway over the tracks and around the corner and begin walking up the highway. After the last house on the left make a left turn and begin walking up a short road which turns into a path that winds up the bottom of a gulley. The path eventually comes out at the church parking lot where you started.
For those people who don’t wish to embark on such a long hike there are other options. You can drive to the end of Mesa Vista Dr. and hike to where you overlook the inland port, have a snack and a rest and then turn around and hike back. Or, you can hike half the loop by going to where Barnes Creek meets the slough road and have someone meet you there.