Backpacking the Elk Trail at Prince Albert National Park

I had some time this last week to go on a solo backpacking trip. I’ve done a ton of solo hikes before but never anything over night so this would be a new experience.  Initially the plan was to do Grey Owls Trail in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, however once I got up there I discovered that the road to the trail head had been washed out and the nearest place to park was about 40 km away.  I was disappointed to say the least.  I moped around the townsite of Waskesiu for about an hour trying to decide what I wanted to do.  The park office had suggested another trail on the south end of the park so I decided that would be the route I took.  Originally I was expecting about 12 km hiking with my full pack to a site, then 15 to Grey Owl’s and back to campsite with a smaller one.  Easy peezy.  This new hike was described as 13 km to the campsite but I didn’t think that extra kilometre was that bad.  After notifying the proper people of my change in plans I set out to the trail head of the Elk Trail


This is the Elk Trail that I hiked.  I GPS’d it myself.  Strangely enough my GPS said it was a 15km hike into the site and the park said 13km.  Someone is lying.  I believe the GPS more.  I started in the southeast corner of this map and trudged north west passed Sandy Lake and onward to Fish Lake for the night.
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It was a trip of firsts.  My first overnight solo, my first backpacking trip in years and years, and my first night sleeping in a hammock out in the woods. I wasn’t sure about the hammock yet as I had never done it before so I actually brought a tent with me as well.  Once I got to the site I setup my hammock and took a nap.  When I woke up a very fit lady in her 60’s or so showed up at set this up.  I didn’t feel like being shown up so hammock it is!

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I didn’t take any pictures of my hammock setup for some reason.  However here is one I sent to make people at home feel jealous of my relaxing outdoors.  It’s my beautiful feet.  In the end I did have a tarp strung up over top of me in case of rain.  It was a good sleep.  The hammock is a double so I could cocoon myself into it to fend off scary mosquitoes.  IMG_20160607_142758

I learned a lesson about backpacking on this trip.  Since I am usually doing canoe trips I hadn’t backpacked in a long time. On a canoe trip I can take a lot more stuff.  Unfortunately I packed like I was doing a canoe trip, which meant I took way way too much.  I was pretty tired when I made it to the site.  The trip out was even worse.  It took me just over three hours to get in and five hours to hike out.  At the end I was taking a break every twenty minutes.  It was rough.

The trail was pretty good.  It wasn’t a lot of ups and downs.  They apparently don’t maintain it but it looked pretty maintained. It would be a good trip via snowshoe in the winter as well methinks.  Here is a couple pictures from the trail.

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Here is one from one of my frequent breaks on the way out.  I was tired.  And sore.IMG_5531

This is a panoramic view of the campsite.  Mind the mess on the tables.    IMG_20160607_154452_panorama

The park office told me the trail and campground weren’t maintained.  They had a brand new outhouse stocked with toilet paper.  Also if you look closely you can see the wood is also neatly stacked.  Pretty nice for “not maintained”

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These are some shots from my site the night.  The lake seemed to be rather high.  I’m not sure if it was due to high water levels in general or beaver activity.  It ruined all opportunity to fish though and I wasn’t happy with that.  Also the lake was filled with leaches which also isn’t fun.
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The next morning I took this one.

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Overall I’d probably do the trail again at a later time.  I still want to get back to do Grey Owl’s again.  Hopefully the road will be open again soon.

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6 thoughts on “Backpacking the Elk Trail at Prince Albert National Park

  1. Very helpful review, thank you. I too planned to do the Grey Owl trail as a solo trip but, due to the closure, was recommended the Elk Trail by park staff as an alternative. I wanted to find some kind of feedback from others who might have done it, so thank you for writing this. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the review. Just wondering if the campsites have bear caches? Nice to see the outhouse and picnic tables 🙂

    • They did! Solid metal ones that seemed pretty new. My only qualm with them was that they were pretty close to the campsites.

  3. Hi, would the Elk Trail be good to mountain bike? I’m wondering if there are many boggy areas that are impassable on a bike.

    • I didn’t see many boggy areas when I did it. It was mainly a grass path and a lot of little ups and downs. There was a lady I met on the trail that was planning on coming back with her bike later in the year to do it though.

  4. We did the trip into Fish Lake on August 22, 2017. It’s easy terrain to hike and we did have some bikers come in one day from the Sandy Lake Campgrounds. Water is good but you will need a filter at Fish Lake as there is some suspended algae and muck. There is a bear cache to hang your dry bags from and nice picnic tables, split wood, and super clean outhouse stocked with toilet paper. We did day hike to Camp Lake Campground the following day and it also is a nicely maintained, similar to Fish Lake. There was a canoe at Camp Lake with a paddle that seemed to be water worthy; however we didn’t try it out. Some of our group wanted to continue on the unmaintained trail to Hunters Lake; however had to turn around after 1 hour of bush wacking. The trail between Camp Lake and Hunters Lake is basically grown over with no markers and they eventually lost the trail. It’s a shame that this portion of the trail (or non-trail) is shown on the PA National Parks Map however is not passable. All in all it was a good hike for an overnight or two hike. It you are planning to set up a base camp, both Fish and Camp Lake are good choices.

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