So the new must see place in Saskatchewan is the Gem Lakes. Nobody’s ever heard of them but because the Saskatchewanderer went there and put it on the Instagrams, it’s all the rage! So naturally, we also jumped on yonder band wagon. Gem Lakes are a sweet collection of lakes in the Narrow Hills Provincial Park. They have that aquamarine alpine-esque appearance that makes them snazzier than the average body of prairie water. You can camp there but we opted to stay at Lower Fishing lake and do a day trip. The campsites are lodge-pole with not much privacy between them. If you can book an outside ring site rather than the middle, that would be good. We hiked all around the gem lakes which is a nice walk with quite a bit of elevation changes.
The weather absolutely sucked for our trip. Cold. Rainy. Windy. Some sunshine poked thru every once and a while. But I imagine that if it was hot and nice, it would have been 17% more enjoyable. Because of the rain, I only brought my Samsung S20 phone along for photos. As such, all pictures in this post are shot with that.
Like most of Saskatchewan tourism, it’s a generation behind. By that I mean, they promote a hidden gem like the Gem Lakes, but the “whole tourism” package is lacking. For instance, there was zilch for signage about these lakes basically until you’re there. It would be right corking if Tourism Saskatchewan worked on the bigger picture. We found this to be the case when we went to Grasslands (albeit National Park). They hype it but don’t tell you there aren’t any gas stations in the region! 😂
From the Lower Fishing Lake campground we also did the scenic drive up the esker (hill top ridge) to Mackie and Grace Lakes. The view from there was incredible and the only place we had cell service. The road is good, very well packed sand. We did it no problem in a 2WD Mini Van. The sand helps with the drainage on the road. If it was down pouring, it might be a bit dicier. The view of Grace lake from the top is awesome. Hiking down the sand embankment is not recommended. The view is only so-so and the path way is nearly vertical!
By far, the craziest thing about the Gem Lakes hike was this outdoor toilet. Very handy but so whacked on so many levels. 😂😂😂
All in all it wasn’t too shabby. Bugs were manageable. Thermocells were the cat’s pajamas at night around the campfire. Bring your warm layers for sure, even at the end of July it was chilly at night. Also, if you’re planning on hiking the lakes, we recommend doing it counter clockwise. When we did it, we went clock wise and it’s an easier hike that way, but then its harder/more elevation gains on the other side. It would have been better to get that out of the way first rather than saving the tougher part for last.
There are very few “camping” spots left in the camping world. Most have segued into the world of accommodating massive trailers and 5th wheels with all the comforts of home. But what about old timey camping? No power. No flush toilets. Small, private campsites. What about a campground in the middle of a pine forrest with a beautiful stream running right through the campsites??? What if such a place existed in the middle of Saskatchewan farm land? A myth? A fairytale?! Enter: Pine Cree Regional Park
We spent 2 nights at Pine Cree and it didn’t disappoint. It truly is a Saskatchewan hidden gem! It’s close to neighbouring Eastend with their very cool T.rex Discovery Centre, sporting “Scotty” one of the only complete TRex fossils in the world. It is also close to the Frenchman River which supports a glorious scenic drive. Unfortunately for us, it poured rain that day. But the area has lots to do and see and is the gateway to Cypress Hills.
One other detail for future travellers to the park. The river really cools off the campground at night. It was ~35ºC when we were there during the day but it got really cold at night. So make sure you’re well bundled!
Photographically, this trip was shot largely with Samsung S20 and also the iPhone 11 and the FujiFilm XPRO2 (23mm, 35mm, 90mm lenses).