Difficulty- Easy to Moderate
Distance - 7km
All photography and information provided by Christopher L. Istace
KAPOSVAR TRAIL - QU'APPELLE VALLEY TO HAZELCLIFFE
This Saskatchewan hiking location was explored by Christopher L. Istace - an avid hiker and blogger in western Canada. You can find more about him by clicking here. If you have a location you wish to share reach out to SaskHiker and share it with the community!
In Southeast Saskatchewan, a search for quiet, non-motorized trails - outside of Saskatchewan's provincial parks – can be an arduous task. There are opportunities to hike off the network of grid roads and outside the patchwork of pastured and seeded farmland, but the challenge is finding a trek that has not been marred with over usage by ATV enthusiasts in this part of the province.
Kaposvar Trail meanders about 20 kilometers alongside Kaposvar Creek from the Qu'Appelle Valley to Esterhazy, Sask. Although it has obvious signs of motorist traffic, it is far less travelled than other trails in the area. This leaves Kaposvar's setting much more pleasant for hikers wanting to develop a deeper, more solitary connection with the wilderness.
Like the Scissors Creek Trail, Kaposvar's path is set atop a historic of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR); a line formerly known as the Pheasant Hills Branch. This portion of the rail bed runs just feet above the gurgling flow of the creek, putting those on foot deep into the large ravine containing it.
Parking your vehicle alongside Grid Road 637, you step onto the trail heading in a northwesterly direction. Hazelcliffe, a historic settlement area in the Kaposvar district, sits seven kilometers up the trail. It now consists of a small park, a house and a couple of out-buildings along a grid road leading north to Esterhazy and south to Wapella, Sask. on the Trans Canada Highway.
The path starts flat and unchallenging for two kilometres as it turns north and enters the Kaposvar Creek ravine, but it does not remain this way. Historically high precipitation levels in Southeast Saskatchewan over the past five years have substantially changed the landscape of the region's streams, creeks and rivers. The Kaposvar Creek originates more than 100 kilometers to the northwest, picking up water from saturated farm fields and overflowing ponds, marshes and sloughs along the way.
Today, the creek runs 12 to 15 feet below its new banks in a wide, sandy washout, a sure sign that an unimaginable quantity of water must have ripped through the ravine on its way to the Qu'Appelle River.
Water erosion has, in fact, washed away portions of the rail bed itself. On several occasions, hikers will encounter portions of the path either partially or totally gone. This forces walkers onto detours up the walls of the ravine. Cut through the surrounding forest or down into dry sloughs, these newly established portions of the trail can be more enjoyable than the rail bed. Most of the trails are lined with green grass, barely a tire track visible in the soft undergrowth. One can find themselves walking along game and cattle trails on some portions.
Along with the ties and rails, the seven bridges crossing the creek between the Qu'Appelle and Hazelcliffe were removed with the CPR abandonment. On occasion, you may be forced to get wet by walking through the flowing waters. The first crossing is about three and a half kilometers up the trail. Here, the creek is just a foot and a half deep; just enough water to feel the water's flow-pressure against your calves.
At the 5.3 kilometer mark, one must wade in again, this time through a slow moving portion of the stream that is a little deeper, but under normal circumstances, not dangerous. Two kilometers later, you are virtually at your destination. Another former bridge site is not easy to cross, but simply walking along the creek to your right, you will hit the Hazelcliffe road about a half-kilometer further.
Considering the changed landscape of the ravine due to high water levels the past several years, it is best to be prepared to get wet. Where waterproof footwear and use hiking poles or hiking sticks to check water depths before crossing the creek.
To get to Kaposvar Trail, turn north off of the Trans Canada Highway at Wapella, Sask., then take the first grid (Highway 601) heading north again until you reach the Qu'Appelle Valley (about 30 kilometers).
Turn right on the 637 Grid - which runs along the north wall of the Qu'Appelle Valley - and travel about four kilometers to the trailhead. The Town of Tantallon sits down the road another five kilometers east.