Trail, British Columbia is my hometown. Sure, most tourist guides skip over Trail in favour of trendy spots like Rossland and Nelson. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore Trail.
Trail can be rough around the edges. However, it’s also one of the most beautiful small towns in all of Canada.
Whether you’re driving along Highway 3B, driving up from the United States, or visiting tourist hotspots like Rossland or Nelson, you should spend an afternoon hitting the following must see sights in Trail, British Columbia.
Go to The Colander
There’s a restaurant in Trail called The Colander. Most people in B.C. seem to have heard about it.
If you’re going to spend one hour in Trail, then you have to stop at The Colander. Skip all of the other stuff here.
Trail is super Italian. It’s so Italian that in the early 1900s, nearly 90% of the population were immigrants from Italy.
The rumor goes that the government of Canada needed 1,000 signatures from Canadian citizens to legally declare Trail as a “city”. Although the population of Trail was 10,000 at the time, the government was unable to collect 1,000 signatures from Canadian citizens.
All of that Italian heritage has blessed Trail with great Italian cuisine. It’s also left us with plenty of old Italian men mysteriously watering their driveways and sidewalks in the middle of summer.
The spaghetti sauce at The Colander is the best spaghetti sauce in the world. It’s packed with chicken grease, fat, and all sorts of other stuff. The recipe is secret.
I’m usually underwhelmed by “must try” local restaurants. So many restaurants have exploited their fame to charge high prices while lowering quality. The Colander may not taste quite as good as I remember as a kid – but it’s still the best pasta I’ve ever had.
Local Pro Tip: Don’t even look at the menu when you go to The Colander. Just order the special (it’s potatoes, chicken, and unlimited spaghetti).
See a Trail Smoke Eaters Game
The Trail Smoke Eaters are one of the most famous small town hockey teams in all of Canada.
The senior Smoke Eaters hockey team won two Ice Hockey World Championships (in 1939 and 1961).
The Smoke Eaters were also the last independent hockey team to represent Canada in international competition (after 1961, Canada created its own national hockey team instead of sending a random senior team to represent the country).
Today, the junior Smokies play in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) at Cominco Arena in the Trail Memorial Centre. It’s right in the heart of downtown.
The Smokies won several KIJHL championships in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, although they have never won a BCHL championship. In fact, they’ve never even made the finals (although they only joined the BCHL in 1995).
If you’re in Trail between October and March, then you should see a Smoke Eaters game.
Visit Trail Beer Refinery
Trail got its first modern brewery in 2016 when Trail Beer Refinery opened on Bay Avenue downtown.
Today, it’s one of the few hotspots in an otherwise-quiet downtown. They serve good food and decent (but improving) beer.
Make sure you check opening times before you visit. This brewery has surprisingly short opening hours.
Walk Through Gyro Park
Situated in East Trail, Gyro Park is a lowkey public park along the mighty Columbia River.
You can walk along the river under the shadow of Cominco.
You can also visit Gyro Beach, which is a nice spot on hot and sunny summer days (believe it or not, Trail can easily get to 35+ degrees in the summer).
Hike to a Mountaintop
Trail is situated in a river valley. It’s surrounded by mountains. Many of these mountains are surprisingly accessible. You can reach the top in just 1 to 3 hours of hiking. All of them have spectacular views.
Best View to Effort Ratio – Raven’s Trail: Raven’s Trail above Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital is a great spot for views over the Columbia River, Cominco, and most of the city. There should be a flagpole at the top.
Good View to Effort Ratio – Antenna Trail: The Antenna Trail is in Montrose just up the hill from Trail, but it gives you a great view over Trail, the Columbia River, and Waneta. It’s short and steep(ish), but very do-able if you want a lot of view with little effort.
Mid-Range Hike – Miral Heights Trail: I grew up in Miral Heights. We spent many weekends hiking to the top of the mountain above Miral Heights. Try to make it to the lightning-struck tree at the top of the mountain for the best view of Red Mountain and the Columbia River valley.
Oh, and good luck searching the internet for “hike Trail BC”. You’ll get hundreds of results for hikes in Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia and few results for hikes in the actual city of Trail.
Other Sights to See in Trail, BC
If I had an afternoon in Trail, I’d do one of the things above. If you have more time or want to do something different, then here are some other options:
The Trail Riverfront Centre and Trail Museum & Archives: This is Trail’s flagship museum. It gives a glimpse into Trail’s history as a pioneer industrial town and sports haven. It’s also free.
The Royal Movie Theatre: I grew up attending movies at the Royal Movie Theatre. It was built in 1928 and still operates today. It’s the only movie theatre I’ve been to that serves real butter.
Walking Tour of Rock Walls and Covered Staircases: Drive around Trail for a few minutes and you’ll see plenty of rock walls and covered staircases. The walls were built by some of the original Italian immigrants to Trail. They were built so well that they still stand strong today. They’re all over town. The city of Trail has given their rock wall walking tours names like “The Rigatoni Ramble” and “Haggis Hike” for some reason. You can buy a self-guided walking tour map from the Trail Riverfront Center.
Walk Across the Columbia River Skywalk: The Columbia River Skywalk is one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in North America. It’s a cool sight to see, although I still miss walking across the Old Bridge into downtown.
Visit Columbia Gardens Vineyard: Trail has its own vineyard. Down near the airport, you can visit the Columbia Gardens Vineyard and Winery. I don’t know shit about wine but I assume it’s the best wine in the world.
Trail Sk8 Park: Trail has its own surprisingly good skate park. It’s down by the Columbia River in Gyro Park.
Eat at Trail Pastry Shop: For a small town, Trail Pastry Shop is a surprisingly amazing bakery.
Picnic at Champion Lakes: If your dad works a Cominco and makes a 6-figure salary with no post-secondary education, then you already have a place at Christina Lake. If not, you spend your summers at Champion Lakes. It’s a series of lakes nestled high in the mountains above Trail. There are day picnic spots, overnight campsites, and swimming beaches.
Go Skiing: Red Mountain is amazing. If you’re here in the winter, you should go skiing.
Check Out Surrounding Towns: The Kootenays is one of the best places in the world. Visit Nelson, Rossland, and Christina Lake.