September long weekend has come and gone and with it the promise of summer. Once the kids are back at school and summer vacations are over, some may feel that they need to wait another 200 or so days until they can go back outside again. However, if you believe in all that doom and gloom you are missing out on something spectacular.
I recently spent a weekend in Prince Albert National Park to soak in the beauty of fall. The boreal forests of Saskatchewan are the best place to experience the dramatic changes the northern hemisphere undertakes as it preps for winter. There is no better place to watch the tree's newfound yellow hue capture the sun as the leafs shutter in soft, crisp fall winds.
If you decide to come to Prince Albert National Park in autumn you can do more or less all the same activities that you fondly remember from summer but you just might need an extra layer or two.
Hiking is one of the premier ‘things to do’ in Prince Albert National Park, and in my opinion, fall is the best time to hit the trails. The weather is often warm without being scorching hot and that makes it much easier to regulate your body temperature as you pack on the kilometers. Often a light sweater is all that is required to be outside all day.
The best trails to soak in the new colours are south of Waskesiu where the deciduous trees are more numerous. A fantastic autumn trail is the Spruce River Highlands trail. You will find it on the scenic highway. This 8.5km hike provides a few opportunities to get above the treeline and really see how much the forest has changed.
If you are looking for a smaller adventure, the Shady Lake Trail that connects to the Height of the Land Tower is a good option.
You should take full advantage of any warm fall day you get to grab a paddle and glide through pristine waters. Prince Albert National Park offers a ‘boatload’ of options for a fall paddle depending on what you are searching for.
We took advantage of a 24C Sunday to put our paddleboards in at Hanging Hearts Lake for a mid-morning paddle. There are docks and a parking lot that make it easy to access the water. If you don’t have a boat of your own there is a place to rent a canoe here.
Hanging Hearts Lake connects to the much larger Crean Lake so depending on how far you want to go and if you want to do some backcountry camping the options are available. Crean Lake has a handful of backcountry sites that are available for booking from Parks Canada.
Don’t be discouraged from backcountry camping in fall. Check the forecasts and prepare yourself for cooler evenings and mornings but heading out for an overnight canoe trip when the weather does its first dips is a great way to bring back thoughts of summer.
You might meet a friend along the way
If you are just looking for something more relaxed and just want to soak in the season, I recommend driving out to Kingsmere Lake. The entire way you will be engulfed in shimmering yellow leaves.
Once the road ends, head down to Kingsmere River and the portage trail. It’s just a short walk to Southend Campground and the shores of Kingsmere Lake. This is a perfect place to either spend the night or just have an afternoon picnic.
We call him Ernie
If you are a front-country camper, the good news is that the campgrounds are still open. If you are in a tent bring extra blankets as it does get cool at night, but not so cold you are going to shiver. However, you may find yourself loathing the transition from a warm sleeping bag to getting dressed. I recommend coffee with bacon and eggs to warm up your engines.
We recently rebuilt a 1974 Boler Trailer so I was glamping on our weekend and enjoyed the benefits of an electric heater. If you want something in between tenting and a trailer the oTENTiks are available for rent. These are a hybrid between a tent and a cabin and offer the rustic feeling you want with propane heat.
If you haven’t experienced Prince Albert National Park in fall you are missing out. I grew up outside of Regina and while I love the way fall makes the Qu’Appelle Valley feel, the first time I saw the boreal forests bathed in yellow glow it took my breath away.