This summer promises to be unlike any other. The varying circumstances of Covid-19 provide (or perhaps force) the opportunity to explore our respective home provinces that we often take for granted. In Saskatchewan we are fortunate enough to be able to see upcoming adventure for miles. What may be surprising to some is that there are actually many places in Saskatchewan where it is not possible to watch your dog runaway for days. When I desire a hilly, tree-filled adventure, I like to head to Eb’s Trails.
How to Get There
Eb’s Trails are roughly an hour north of Saskatoon on Highway 11. Access is from either the north or south parking lots on the west side of the highway. The parking lots are separated by a few kms on the highway-just follow the cross-country skiing signs to reach the desired one. Each parking lot provides access to different trails, but the trails all connect so you can always get to your favorite one.
About Eb’s Trails
Eb’s Trails are not only a great spot for cross-country skiing in the winter, but in the off-season provide a variety of scenic hiking routes. There are tons of options for trails, making it possible to customize a hike to suit time/difficulty/distance needs. Terrain and scenery are often varied. Some areas are fairly flat, but there is always a hill or two involved. Eb’s sits between boreal forest and prairie, so you will see a mix of vegetation. Trees range from tall pines to small twisted willows, and you can find a few varieties of wildflowers in the summer. We found a lot of prairie crocuses there this spring. There are maps at both parking lots to help plan your hike and most trails are marked (the backcountry ones are not as consistently marked). Trails away from the main slough are quite dry, while closer ones can be flooded or very muddy in places at certain times of the year. Beaverlodge Slough is the main body of water visible on a number of trails, and I must say it is quite pretty for a “slough”. If you are lucky, you may even see some wildlife. My brother and I were recently surprised by a whitetail deer we almost walked into on one of the trails. Both parking lots have shelters and places for fires (if allowed). These make for a great spot to roast some hotdogs for a picnic lunch. There is also an outhouse with toilet paper (yay!- it is still a good idea to bring some of your own tp though) close to each shelter.
I often hike “Eb’s Trail” with my family and our dog. This is a hilly 5km trail that provides about an hour-long walk easily accessed from the south parking lot. “Jorgen’s Trail” is a less hilly but longer 13km trail that offers a peaceful day-hike. It is best accessed from the north lot. I also enjoy exploring the “backcountry trails” because I always discover something new on them. Trails are well marked for the most part, but I recommend taking a map if you have never visited before, as the maps and directions they have posted can be confusing. The “backcountry trails” have fewer signs than the main trails, so you may also wish to have a map when exploring those. Here is a link to the trail map: http://www.saskatoonnordicski.ca/Portals/0/Eb%27s%20Trail%20Map.pdf
What to Bring
What you take will depend on how long you plan to spend, but here I will list a few essentials I like to take along:
o Water Bottle-The only water supply on these trails is the sloughs, so I highly recommend bringing lots of your own water. If you are hiking with a canine companion bring a bowl for water, especially if it is hot out. Depending on the trail, there may not be any access to water for them.
o Daypack or Fanny Pack-Depends on the length of the hike. I like my fanny pack for shorter hikes when I just need to carry my keys, phone, and maybe a cliff bar. I can also fit my Houdini in it if necessary. I take the daypack for daylong hikes when I carry food.
o Houdini Jacket-I like to take this on longer hikes since it is super lightweight, but still provides extra warmth and weather protection.
o Phone-I try to get away from “technology” when outside, but I bring my phone for pictures and a map. DO NOT ever rely only on your phone for emergencies or navigation. The cell service at Eb’s is fairly weak, and gets weaker the further you get away from the highway.
o Hat-I usually wear a ball cap or a bucket hat for some sun protection and to help keep ticks off my head. I hiked starting from the south parking lot earlier in May and had about 4 ticks on me by the end. Long pants tucked into socks, long sleeved shirts, and bug spray can also help provide some tick protection.
o Sunscreen/Bug Spray-I think this one is self explanatory!
If you are looking to explore Saskatchewan this year, I highly recommend Eb’s Trails. The scenery and variable terrain provide an accessible but authentic hiking adventure. Happy hiking!