Are you looking for a great hiking route in Canada's Prairie Province — Saskatchewan — this year? Here are the three best trails to choose from:
Grey Owl’s Cabin
Prince Albert National Park (Northern Saskatchewan)
Length: 40 km
Grey Owl — a.k.a. Englishman Archibald Stansfeld Belaney — may be one of Canada’s strangest historical figures; however, his message of conservation, as our country’s first naturalist, still rings true. If you’d like to pay homage, take a hike to his cabin in Prince Albert National Park. Accessed via Kingsmere Road, 33 km from the town of Waskesiu, intrepid hikers can make their way to his cabin and burial site on the shores of Ajawaan Lake. The route follows the eastern shoreline of Kingsmere Lake, and has three campsites en route plus one at either end. This is all-backcountry — pack-in, pack-out — though bear caches, firewood and pit-toilets are available at the campsites. Park-use fees and a backcountry camping permit ($9.80 per person) apply. The path is typical Canadian Shield terrain and should take less than six hours each way. For a quicker way to find the cabin, a three-hour paddle across Kingsmere Lake, plus a 600-metre portage to Ajawaan Lake, bypasses the hiking route.
Best For: Hikers in search of destinations with unique history.
70 Mile Butte
Grasslands National Park (Southern Saskatchewan)
Length: 5 km
Canada’s only national prairie park, located on the Saskatchewan-Montana border, is a throwback to the turn-of-the-last-century — when native grasses like gamma, spear and fescue covered the prairies and the bison roamed freely. The most accessible front-country hiking is found in the west block of the park, with 70 Mile Butte being a favourite. A surprisingly challenging hike, this trail passes cacti and buffalo berry and offers sightings of roaming bison herds and bounding pronghorn antelope as well as dive-bombing and peregrine falcons and other birdlife. Look for centuries-old tipi rings; there are some 12,000 in the park. In fact, Grasslands is an archeological and paleontological showcase: Sitting Bull sought refuge here after the battle of Little Bighorn and Canada’s first fossil was found in the area. As you hike, watch for rattlesnakes, and keep in mind there is no drinkable water in the park — even purified, it may be brackish. The hike takes you to a 100-metre-tall hilltop and a lookout over the French River Valley.
Best For: Those looking for big skies and the way the prairies once were.
The Boreal Trail
Meadow Lake Provincial Park (Northern Saskatchewan)
Length: 120 km
Officially opened only two years ago, the 120-km Boreal Trail is Saskatchewan Parks’ only officially designated backpacking trail. Meandering through lush Meadow Lake Provincial Park, a 1,600-sq-km beauty in the province’s northwest, hikers can choose to embark on a multi-day tour of this east-west route — spending days beneath poplar, jack pine and spruce trees and falling asleep to a loon’s call at one of the plentiful back- and front-country campsites — or tackle it in smaller stages for easy day-hikes. Keep your camera ready for moose, beaver and wolf sightings and always be Bear Aware; this is big-time bruin country. Terrain is gentle with minimal elevation gains — the challenge comes in the distance. Some front-country campsites feature stores for re-supplying and hot showers. Saskatchewan Parks recommends registering two weeks prior to hiking the trail if you wish to overnight in the backcountry.
Best For: Easy-walking hikers looking to spend a week in nature.