If you are looking for a hike that is more than a stroll in the park, then start lacing up your boots. The Boreal Trail awaits you. Saskatchewan’s newest and longest hiking trail stretches more than 130 km through breathtaking forested lakelands in Meadow Lake Provincial Park.
Trip Length: One week or lessFrom the shore of Cold Lake to Greig Lake near the large park’s eastern end, the trail takes you through every boreal forest habitat from white spruce to black spruce, jack pine, aspen, birch, muskeg, river valleys and wetlands galore – you name it, it’s here. Chances of seeing wildlife are excellent, with over 100 species, from birds to deer, elk, moose or bear. Throw in a few sandy beaches, fascinating glacial formations, fishing for pike, walleye or trout, and the Boreal Trail is a hiker’s dream come true.
A 130 km may sound challenging, but with road access at several points, you can hike as much or as little as you like. Challenge yourself by doing it all – allow at least a week – or choose a shorter section.
Meadow Lake ranks among Saskatchewan’s most popular provincial parks. Enjoy nature at its best while staying at secluded backcountry campsites. All sites are equipped with fire boxes, privies and metal, bear-proof food lockers. If you need to stock up on provisions en route, or just want to indulge in a few luxuries such as a hot shower or an ice-cold drink, the trail passes three major front-country campgrounds at Pierce Lake, Lac des Isles and Kimball Lake, plus Pierce Lake Lodge at Howe Bay.
For safety reasons, hikers need to register with the park before walking the trail. The park can provide detailed maps, advise you on current trail conditions and supply information on “Leave no Trace” principles to ensure that you have a safe trip while minimizing your impact on the wilderness.
Starting at the western trail terminus at the Cold Lake Campground, you begin by walking through mixed wood forest close to the Cold River, a short but powerful waterway with abrupt drops at some impressive sets of rapids. The first backcountry campsite you reach is also one of the nicest of the trip, perched on a high cliff overlooking the river. The next campsite on the west shore of Pierce Lake is nestled in a wooded area next to a sandy beach on a sheltered bay.
The trail follows the shore of Pierce Lake south to the large full-service Sandy Beach Campground, then heads uphill through mostly aspen forest. For the next couple of kilometres the Boreal Trail converges with the Humphrey Lake Trail, a popular day hike from Sandy Beach Campground. This stretch tends to be rich in birdlife, especially near shallow Humphrey Lake, which is favoured by loons, various waterfowl and occasionally tundra swans. Just a bit further up the hill, the trail comes to a height of land where you can climb a viewing tower for sweeping views of the forested lakelands.
One of the prettiest sections is just north of Lac des Isles, among the park’s larger lakes. In addition to backcountry campsites, you can also overnight in the full-service Murray Doell Campground. But just before you arrive, you might run into a surprise left by busy beavers. They are fond of damming a creek here, which often means that the path gets flooded. You can cross the dam if it looks stable, but if in doubt, it is not far to detour on the road.
The stretch after Murray Doell is among the more challenging segments with several creek crossings. The trail heads inland from the lake to bypass a large wetland area formed by Sukaw Creek. Depending on water levels, you might be able to wade across the creek where the valley narrows or continue a little farther to the road and cross the bridge. The east side of Sukaw Creek takes you through some of the most gorgeous landscapes of the entire trail, winding along the tops of eskers, looking over a mix of forest, meadows and wetlands with the expansive lake as a backdrop. Arriving back at Lac des Isles, you can relax on your own private beach at yet another nicely situated backcountry campsite.
In the next couple of kilometres you will contend with a troublesome water crossing where a creek empties into the lake. No matter how you look at it, you are going to get wet! Sometimes it is a simple matter of wading across, but more often than not you will find deep channels excavated by beavers. If you are looking for another way through, sometimes the best bet is to wade into the lake.
Not far past Lac des Isles, the terrain changes yet again as the trail follows the Waterhen River, the main waterway running through the park. The countryside becomes more open as the meandering river widens into wetlands rich in birds and other wildlife. Since there’s no road access for much of the way, you’ll enjoy parts of the park that few visitors ever see.
Farther east the trail splits, offering three optional routes. Continue along the river and head up to Little Raspberry Lake, then Kimball Lake, site of the most popular beach in the park and the largest campground. Alternatively, turn north to Matheson and Vivian Lakes, then onto Kimball Lake. A third option is even better if you want even more of an “away from it all” experience. From Vivian Lake, turn north and circle around the four picture-perfect Mustus Lakes. Hike along eskers near Third Mustus Lake, then to hilly terrain overlooking the creek between Third Mustus Lake and Peitahigan Lake. Watch for wildlife in the wide creek valley with adjoining wetlands – nesting grebes, terns, kingfishers, waterfowl and possibly coyote, wolf or moose. To continue on the Boreal Trail you must cross this creek, which is only feasible when water levels are not too high.
On the east side of First Mustus Lake, the two branches of the Boreal Trail meet for the final leg to trail’s end at Greig Lake. Now it’s time to kick off the hiking boots, relax and celebrate. You have conquered the Boreal Trail – Saskatchewan’s longest hike.
Contacts and Resources:Boreal Trail Map – Saskatchewan Parks
Meadow Lake Provincial Park
5km N of Goodsoil on Hwy 26, 24km N of Pierceland on Hwy 21,
6km N of Dorintosh on Hwy 4
P: 306-236-7680 TF: 1-800-205-7070; 1(855) 737-7275 (Reserve-a-site)
Information on accommodations, attractions, shopping and dining
Pierce Lake Lodge
South shore of Howe Bay at Pierce Lake in Meadow Lake Provincial Park
Information to be highlighted:
If you plan to overnight on the trail, please register at one of the administration offices at least two weeks prior to your trip to ensure you receive the most up-to-date information. An $11 per-tent, per-night camping fee is charged for the use of backcountry campsites. Fees can be paid at the point of registration. GPS tracks of the trail are also available for downloading.
You’re encouraged to contact Meadow Lake Provincial Park before visiting to inquire about any trail closures and suggested places to leave a vehicle. P: 306-236-7680 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism Saskatchewan makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this travel itinerary. Please note, all services, accommodations, attractions and events are subject to change without notice. For more information, please contact Tourism Saskatchewan at 1-877-2ESCAPE.