DOUGLAS PROVINCIAL PARK HIKING TRAILS
Located on the shores of the mighty Lake Diefenbaker is the Douglas Provincial Park. This park has all the amenities that one wants when heading out for a weekend of camping and hiking. There are many different campsites to choose from with most of them offering a decent amount of privacy from your neighbours with thick brush blocking each others views.
The park was created after the damming of the Qu'Appelle and South Saskatchewan Rivers by the Gardiner Dam in the 1960s. This activity greatly changed the landscape as it turned the two rivers into a massive lake that is 220km long with an estimated 800km of shoreline with a maximum depth of 66 metres (217 feet).
There are two different trails systems that one can enjoy while visiting here - the first is the TransCanada Trail that starts in the heart of the park and leads you to towards Danielson Provincial Park to the north. The second are the Dunes Nature Centre trails that guide you to an active dune site. The trails throughout the park are well maintained with little elevation change so almost anyone can conquer them.
The trailhead is located at the main beach area by the laundromat. There is a parking lot here from where you can start your hike. The first 500 meters of the hike take you through the campground and requires you to pass a couple campground roads. It is well marked, just follow the signs that lead you to the more natural area.
The bulk of the hiking trails start where the walk-in campground sites are. I would highly recommend booking these if you want to have a backcountry-like experience in the front country. The trail meanders its way through birch groves and open prairie. After about 1.5km you will come to a fork in the trail.
If you go left you will do the Sunset Trail loop which is a short 3km trail that leads you back to where you started. About halfway through you will get the opportunity to go down to the beach and get a great view of the lake.
If you go right you will start on the TransCanada Trail towards Danielson Provincial Park - the trail will be called the Mistusinne Trail, this will follow the prairie landscape for about 2km until you eventually leave the park and come to the town of Mistusinne. The trail continues but be warned that this section is shared by ATV's and snowmobiles. If you decide to go all the way to Danielson Provincial Park keep in mind it is over 30km, so you will need to be prepared for the hike with more than just a day pack.
Once you pass the fence that marks the park boundary you will see a trail that runs parallel to it towards the lake. You can head down to the lake here and hike along the beach all the way back to the park. It makes for an interesting hike as you follow the seemingly never ending shoreline.
Dunes Nature Centre Trails
These are trails are a must visit - they give you the opportunity to follow the remants of a massive lake that once covered the area during the last ice age and left behind the fine sand that now dominates the landscape.
The Dunes Nature Centre trails are on the north side of the highway across from the main park entrance. There is a parking lot where you can leave your vehicle.
To get to the exposed dunes is a 5km hike there and back along the Cacti Trail, you can take the longer loop which is roughly 6.5km. This hike is a real gem as you walk through a unique landscape of dunes covered in vegetation. All the trees and shrubs are stunted in growth from the lack of nutrients but the wildlife is suprisingly abundant. The area is full of many different bird species.
To see the exposed dunes requires a small walk up the first dune, once you get to the top you will be greeted with a panoramic view of the sands. Make sure to plan to spend time exploring the area and I suggest bringing a lunch and enjoy sitting in the soft sand.
When hiking back on the TransCanada trail go towards the beach and follow it back to Douglas Provincial Park. It is quite fun to hike for kilometres along the shores of the lake. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles and other wildlife. You will often see deer and coyote tracks that dot themselves along the beach.
You will also find every so often bands of purple sand. This is garnet that was pushed down from the north during the last ice age. It is really quite beautiful the way it shimmers in the light.
Douglas Provincial Park is located on Highway 19 on the southend of Lake Diefenbaker. The road into the park can be quite rough so keep an eye out for potholes.
The trailhead for the TransCanada Trail is located at the main beach by the laundromat.
The trailhead for the dunes are located at the Dunes Nature Centre that is across the highway from the main park entrance. You will see it when you come into the park area.
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Difficulty - Easy to Moderate