A Pilgrimage through Time

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Grey Owl’s Cabin Hike in Prince Albert National Park

“Far enough away to gain seclusion, yet within reach of those whose genuine interest prompts them to make the trip, Beaver Lodge extends a welcome to you if your heart is right.” Grey Owl

The Grey Owl’s Cabin Hike has become a desired trail to hike for pretty much any Saskatchewan Hiker. With Limited backcountry trails in the province, this seems to be on everyone’s list and for good reason. The trail takes you through the Boreal Forest and along Kingsmere Lake. There are multiple camp spots along the way so you can truly customize your trip and the distance you wish to cover.

Getting There

The trailhead is located in the Kingsmere River Parking lot and Day use Area which is located 32.5km north of the Waskesiu Townsite. You follow Kingsmere Road for the whole duration. If you have some extra time there are lots of great areas to stop along the way to check out if you haven’t been up to Prince Albert National Park before.

The Campgrounds

The trail has four campgrounds that are reservable through the Parks Canada Office in the Waskesiu Townsite. The sites are all first come first serve for booking. You are required to have a backcountry pass to spend the night along the trail.

West Wind Campground- 3.3km from trail head (Group Campground)

Chipewyan Campground- 6.7 km from trail head (1 single and 1 double site)

Sandy Beach Campground- 12.8 km from trailhead (1 single and 2 double sites)

North End Campground- 16.8 km from trailhead (2 singles and 2 double sites plus Group camping Area)

Each campground is equipped with picnic tables, bear caches, outhouses, fire pits with piles of spilt wood and have access to water. The Bear caches are high platforms, that are accessed by ladders. Once you food is stored safely up there make sure you lay the ladder back on the ground. It should never be left standing up against the platform. The bear caches are not covered, so you may want to consider storing your food, or any items with scent in a dry sack or a water tight bag, just in case it rains or any dew forms over night. The parks do regularly stock the bathrooms, however it is always advise to bring your own toilet paper. If you need to go to the bathroom along the trail remember to practice “Leave No Trace”. The firewood that is supplied, is only stocked during the summer months, so if you do use the trail during the winter you may need to gather your own wood by following the regulations set out by Parks Canada. However, we have stayed at multiple spots throughout the park in the winter months and have always been able to access the wood pile. The wood is spilt into manageable lengths, however you may want to still bring a hatchet or axe with with you as the pieces are quite large in diameter. Each campground has easy access to the lake for water, so it is not necessary to carry excess water as refilling is really easy, but will require filtering.

The Trail

The trail starts off above the Kingsmere River on the North Side of the parking lot. There is an outhouse at the parking lot just incase you want to relieve yourself prior to starting the trek. The trail, especially at the start is well traveled so its not hard to follow. 0.3km in there is a fork in the trail, to your left takes you to South End Campground, to stay on route to Grey Owl’s Cabin make sure you stay right. There is really good signage so you shouldn’t have any problems. However, if you cross a bridge over the river you have turned the wrong way, so head back towards the sign and go to your other right.

The first camp spot you will come across is the West Wind Group spot which is 3.3 km from the trailhead. This spot can only be reserved for school groups or organizations. However, if you do want to have a quick stop there are picnic tables and an outhouse here. There is also access to the lake, if you are needing to top up your water. It is strongly recommended to treat your water prior to consumption. The trail up to this point is relatively wide and well traveled.

From here you will head to Chipewyan camp spot which is located 6.7 from the trail head. This is the first spot general hikers can reserve. It has one single camp spot and one double. There is a nice beach here, if you wish to relax for a bit and maybe have a snack or just enjoy the view. Be careful if you use the outhouse here as the lock on the outside has a tendency to move and can lock you inside. You may want to consider to use the buddy system here just in case, or be prepared to yell extra loud as the outhouse is set a little ways behind the camp spots. One poor member of our group learnt the hard way about this, and had to yell for awhile before we heard and clued in that he may need some help.

As the trail continues, it is evident less people travel it. The trail becomes a bit more narrow, however still very easy to follow. The latter half of the trail is definitely has a few more rolling hills and more exposed tree roots. You will encounter some great look out spots from a higher vantage point throughout and there is even a set of the classic red chairs put out by the National Park.

If you are staying at North End campground and are needing too refill with water, we found the lake water was full of debris along the shore compared to the other campsites. We ventured to a little creek between North End and Grey Owl Picnic area along the beach which we found the water was a lot clearer and easier to filter.

From the North End campground you hike the beach until you reach the end and enter back into the Boreal Forest. There is a nice picnic area there, perfect for the individuals who make the journey over water. There is also an outhouse located here. The trail is well marked to the cabin and should take about 45 mins one way to reach the cabin. Right before you reach the cabin there is also another outhouse. All the outhouses along the trail have kept this whole trail super clean from human waste. Let’s Keep it that Way!

The total length of the trail out and back is 40 km. Though it has been done in a day, and often people like to tackle it in one night, I think people often undervalue spending two + nights on the trail and soaking in extra time in the Boreal Forest. The boreal forest has so much to offer, and on a hot summers day the hike offers amply opportunity to take a dip into Kingsmere Lake.

The trail is accessible year round, but important to note if you wish to undertake it in the winter you may be breaking trail, and if you wish to travel on the lake to always check the ice thickness before venturing out. My personal favourite time is fall, when the leaves are golden yellow and the bugs have disappeared for the year.

Here is some camping infomation from Parks Canada

  • All overnight visitors must register at the Information Centre in Waskesiu prior to departure. It is first come, first serve and you are unable to make reservations ahead of time.
  • Practice Leave No Trace Principles – make sure you pack out your garbage
  • Use Bear Caches for all food, toiletries and garbage – make sure you remove the ladder after storing your belongings up top.
  • Use only wood provided at the campgrounds
  • Pit Privies are located at each camp ground. Pit Privies may also be used to dispose of grey water. Do not put garbage down Pit Privies.
  • Water is obtained from the lake. Filtering is recommended
  • Remember you are in Bear Country.

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