Hiking The Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park

I snapped the tent fly into its last clip and scanned the view over the Cold River. The fading golde...

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Hiking the Boreal Trail

I snapped the tent fly into its last clip and scanned the view over the Cold River. The fading golden light splashed itself across the rocks poking out of the moving water. Standing on top of the embankment looking down, my eyes froze on a moving black feature across the river.

Nuzzling into the low-lying blueberry bushes is a black bear – only a hop, skip and jump across the rocks from me in the first campsite on the western end of the Boreal Trail.

At more than 150 kilometres long (including all route options) and located in Meadow Lake Provincial Park, the Boreal Trail is the longest in the province. Although it can be tackled in numerous sections, I was attempting to hike the standard 120-kilometre trail in only four days. Just five kilometres in and while setting up camp for my first night, I had just encountered my first black bear.

Thankfully, black bears are more scared of humans than humans are of them. The bear likely isn’t going to bother me.

But I’m not going to take any chances.

Being extra vigilant, I stored all my scented goods and food in the bear locker in the campsite. Tucking into my tent that night, I pulled my bear spray, whistle and pocket knife close inside my sleeping bag.

The night was long and I slept lightly, waking frequently and listening for any sound of the bear near my one-man shelter.

The morning light dimly pierced through a dense layer of fog that covered the river, drifting through the trees to greet me as I unzipped my tent.

There was no sign of the bear anywhere – I had made it through the night with no problems.

Eating a hot breakfast of oatmeal, I quickly packed up my gear and set out for my first full day of hiking. My goal? To hike 35 kilometres a day with plans to end at Grieg Lake and Waters Edge Eco Lodge.

The Boreal Trail has been a personal goal of mine since my first visit to the park a year prior as the Saskatchewanderer. As soon as I heard about such an impressive trail system winding through just a tiny portion of the 1600 square kilometres of the park, I knew it was a challenge I needed to tackle.

Over the next several days on the Boreal Trail, I would meet no less than six bears (including a mom and a cub), one angry beaver slapping the surface of Lac Des Iles Lake as I filtered drinking water, and a skunk on the Sukaw esker with its tail high in the air. (It chased me down the trail and ended up being even scarier than the bears!)

I earned several blisters on my toes and heels and snacked on a healthy supply of Clif bars and five-cent candies between meals (my favourite when hiking). But most importantly, I disconnected from the digital aspects of my life and reconnected in one of my favourite locations in the province: the Boreal Forest in Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

Top Three Hikes on the Boreal Trail

There are dozens of trail options to explore the park with great campsites to set up as a home base. With more than 25 lakes, 12 campgrounds and 800 campsites, it’s a park you’ll want to plan numerous visits to fully experience all it has to offer.

After hiking the entire Boreal Trail, here are three of my favourite afternoon (or overnight) hikes in the park.

1. Humphrey Lake Trail (3.2KM)

*Update 2022 – The Humphrey Tower was torn down due to safety issues. There are potential plans to construct a new tower in it’s place in the future.

There are two highlights along the Humphrey Lake Trail, one being the lake and the other being a viewing tower. The path winds its way through tall aspen and hazelnut trees along the lake which is great for viewing birds. The tower offers impressive views of the forest and is particularly lovely in autumn.

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