At the top of my Sister-in-Law’s bucket list has been hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin. It’s a 40 km round hike in Prince Albert National Park, an enormous federal park in northern Saskatchewan. You can look up all kinds of information about who Grey Owl was and what he was doing up on Ajawaan lake. This blog post will simply chronicle our journey and give suggestions and coordinates for future hikers.
Hiking advice is generally relative, depending on many factors from weather and gear to preparedness and individual athletic ability. However, this advice is absolute:
DON’T DO THIS HIKE IN SUMMER!Jason Schultz
Unless you like 70 trillion insects swarming and buzzing your face and body non-stop and you love sweating all the time. LOL. We did this trip at the end of June and our temperatures were an unbearable 36-38ºC with absolutely no breeze. Kingsmere lake was absolutely glass the whole time. The insects went from bad to worse with mosquitos, black flies, deer flies and horse flies each taking their turns attacking us non-stop. The greatest challenges this hike provided us would have been remedied by doing it in late September/early October.
That, and ultra-lite gear. We just used stuff we had on hand and that made for a bit of a challenge. Our gear was heavy and we had to camp at the far end of the hike, at Northend – which meant we had to carry the gear pretty much the entire hike. If we could have lessened that load, I predict it would have made the journey 17% more enjoyable.
This map is provided by Parks Canada but it doesn’t include GPS coordinates for the campgrounds. I find it so helpful to have these things marked so that you can tell how far the next stop is going to be. Here are my GPS coordinates for the camp stops and trail heads along the way:
1) Trail Start: N54° 01.565′ W106° 24.933′
2) Westwind: N54° 02.974′ W106° 24.419′
3) Chipewyan Portage: N54° 04.462′ W106° 23.778′
4) Sandy Beach: N54° 07.117′ W106° 24.604′
5) Northend: N54° 08.085′ W106° 27.391′
6) Grey Owl Hike Trailhead: N54° 08.043′ W106° 27.728′
7) Grey Owl Cabin: N54° 08.990′ W106° 27.808′
It truly is a gorgeous hike with lots of spectacular scenery. We had a good but challenging time! The most challenging section was Chipewyan Portage to Sandy Beach, mainly because it’s the most open part of the trail and it was unbelievably hot. We were able to get cooled off swimming at Sandy Beach thankfully. The registration process to hike the backcountry has to be the day you start the hike at 7AM. Then you have to drive the 35km to the trail head, so you don’t actually start hiking until around 8AM or so. It was already sweltering by that time. The park really needs to employ an online registration setup with night-before access so you can start earlier. We started our return trip before 6AM and didn’t regret it at all. Thankfully, we saw no bears either. Elk in the Waskesui campground was about as exotic as it got.
Hiking in to the Cabin June 30th – 24.6km, 10:15 hours total (including swimming stops).
Hiking out July 1st – 17.9km, 5:56 hours total.
All photos taken with Samsung S20.