The History of Squirrel Hills

Home to a challenging cross-country ski and hiking trail system, along with new trail park plans, the story of this recreation area began over 30 years ago…

Located west of Highway #10, on P.R. #355 on the western edge of Minnedosa (click here for trailhead location), the area known today as the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area began with the dream of having a quality, challenging cross-country ski experience for local residents without having to drive one to two hours away. Previous trails also experienced conflict with snowmobiles, horses, snowshoers and hikers. The goal was to build a designated, sheltered trail with a single winter use for cross-country skiing.

The project originated with the Minnedosa & District Wildlife Association and then became a joint project with the ski club. The trail-clearing began in the summer of 1991 by a group of local cross-country ski enthusiasts along with assistance from a Town of Minnedosa partnership with Westbran Human Resources, Employment and Immigration and led into the first cross-country ski season. The official opening of the newly named Squirrel Hills X-Country Ski & Hiking Trail took place on December 2, 1995.

The first phase of the trail was completed in 1991. In 1992 phase 2 of the trail was completed, as well as the construction of a warm-up hut. In 1993, the Club purchased a 1994 Polaris Wide Track Snowmobile (which is still used today) as well as trail grooming equipment.  In 1993 and 1994 additional loops were added. In 1995 the original trail maps and signs were installed as well as one more additional loop. Each year the existing trail has been mowed, all dead fall removed and some additional trees removed to widen the trail. Some trail levelling took place in 1999, as well as additional signage. In 2009 the parking lot was moved west of the junction of Highway #10 and P.R. 355.  The last trail loop was added in 2021.

From 2019 to 2021, significant improvements were made to the ski/hiking trails, along with the addition of new trail maps and trail name signs, a new outhouse, a new wood shed, picnic tables, benches and painting of the warm-up hut. These updates have greatly contributed to the outdoor experience for all users.

Trees and shrubs are only removed on the trail, which leaves plenty of bushes for the wildlife in the area. The trail provides many fantastic scenic views of the Town of Minnedosa and the Little Saskatchewan River Valley.

Since the trail construction started over 50 different volunteers have helped in various capacities. 2000 hours of clearing & maintaining trails, 400 hours to build and maintain a warm-up hut, outhouse, and wood shed. Also 1000 hours grooming trails, and 150 hours to install and replace trail signs.

The current X-Country Ski & Hiking Trail is used exclusively for cross-country skiing in the 2 to 4 month winter season (average ski season is 2.5 months) and is open to hiking, cycling, dog walking, and nature and bird watching in the spring, summer and fall seasons (snowshoeing and winter hiking are not permitted during ski season).

The Minnedosa & District X-Country Ski Club was formed in November of 1992. The club became responsible for maintaining and grooming ski trails in the Minnedosa area. The ski club is still actively grooming trails at the Minnedosa Golf Course which is good for beginners and anyone looking for a flat easy trail. For skiers looking for a challenge, the Squirrel Hills X-Country Ski & Hiking Trail offers lots of hills, but also has some easy to moderate difficulty sections.

The brainstorm of Gus Dixon and Ivan Shearer, and passion of Tom Instance’s for 30+ ski seasons, the area has turned into both a fantastic cross-country ski trail that will improve your downhill skills, and a hiking trail system used by all ages. It has survived for over 30 years and will hopefully be around and utilized for many more decades to come.

To support the winter ski grooming, purchase a membership in the Minnedosa & District X-Country Ski Club and for general club and grooming updates, join their Facebook page.

For general all-season trail maintenance in the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area, or to support the new trail park plans, consider donating here. Tax-deductible charitable receipts are provided for all donations (not available for ski club memberships).