An overnight trip through Prince Albert National Park will lead you to a little cabin on Ajawaan lake where Grey Owl lived from 1931-1938. The cabin has a book to sign in, post cards that visitors are welcome to take, and a glimpse into Grey Owl’s life.
Grey Owls Cabin is located in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. Park entry is $7.90/day or $40.06 for the year for an adult. Because we lived a few hours away from the park, we opted to arrive and camp in one of the front country sites before we set out on our hike the following day. We camped in the Beaver Glen campground which was $30.05 for the night and has amenities such as electrical, fire pits (permits are $8.80), and close proximity to running water and showers. The hamlet of Waskesiu is minutes away and is the perfect place to grab any last minute items or enjoy a restaurant meal.
The adventure begins with a lovely 30 minute drive from Waskesiu to the Kingsmere River Parking lot. The road turns to gravel after the Hanging Heart Lakes turn off, but less traffic makes for the perfect opportunity to keep an eye out for elk, foxes, and bears. Once you arrive at the Kingsmere river parking lot, you will have another opportunity for a bathroom break before you set out on the trail. The trailhead begins to the right on the north side of the parking lot and you’ll likely see other people there enjoying the viewpoint.
What to (and not to) pack
The wonderful thing about Grey Owl’s Cabin is that the trail can easily be completed as an overnight trip. The campsites are lovely and typically not as busy as the rest of Waskesiu. Overnights allow for you pack more luxury items if you wish, and also drop items you won’t need in a day and a half trip.
👍🏼Do wear a very good pair of hiking boots. This can make or break your trip as you have a lot of ground to cover for this trail. Your boots should not irritate or blister your feet. A comfortable pair of camp shoes to switch into when you arrive is also a must.
👍🏼Do pack yourself some ‘comfort’ food. You’re going to be working hard all day, and there is nothing more disappointing than trying to stomach a gross rehydrated backpacker meal before bed. We enjoyed instant ramen noodles and hot chocolate (not very nutritious but I wouldn’t stress too much about it on an overnight).
👍🏼Do bring bear spray. You are in bear, elk, wolf, and cougar country.
👍🏼Do bring a small lightweight bag. We had a tiny packable backpack to throw our water bottles in for the last few kms to the cabin and back. You will not want your full pack weight on for this part.
🙅🏼♀️Do not pack a lot of extra clothing. I brought extra socks, underwear, a toque and gloves, but you don’t really need a whole extra set of clothing/PJ’s for one night.
Technically, the Grey Owl’s Cabin trail is fairly easy. There are a few small bridges, some ups and downs, and the odd muddy patch, but nothing that is too technical. The part that I found to be the most challenging was the distance covered in the first day. Most hikers choose to camp at Northend Campground, which is a wonderful spot and the closest you can stay to Grey Owls Cabin. When you arrive, drop your gear on a site (but be sure to put any food up on the bear cache), maybe throw up your tent quickly, and then make the rest of the journey to the cabin. The first day you will likely put in just under 23kms (whew) so it’s important to make sure you are taking good care of your feet and preventing/treating any blisters.
As you pass the other campsites you’ll notice that they are all quite lovely. I haven’t stayed in any of them, but likely would if I was making the trip in two nights or maybe travelling by canoe. All sites have an outhouse, picnic tables, and a bear cache, and the Northend campground has a covered shelter for cooking or for those who travelled by boat and are awaiting their shuttle from the marina.
Westwind Campground (3.3km)
The first 3.3 kilometers offer some beautiful forest sections with a few opportunities to step out on to the beach. The trail is wide and easy-to-follow, and the beach sections are well marked. The bear cache here can be a little tricky to access if there has recently been a lot of rain.
Chipewyan Portage Campground (6.7km)
The next stretch of hiking will likely feel like the longest part of your day. This section is filled with ups and downs, and you will find yourself overlooking the lake instead of following directly alongside it. On hot days it can feel a little daunting, so make sure you have enough water and spare some time for breaks. You will be delighted to arrive at Sandy Beach, which is a beautiful spot to stop for a longer break and enjoy the lake view. Stop at the streams along the way to appreciate the ferns and wildflowers.
Sandy Beach Campground (12.8km)
The section from Sandy Beach to the Northend Campground is my favorite part of the trail. You will notice the trail narrows as you continue on. Eventually, you will find yourself in an area filled with deadfall and carpeted in moss. Soon, you will cross over some small boardwalks and find yourself in the fourth and final campground.
Northend Campground (16.8km)
This campground has two outhouses, a wonderful bear cache, and a covered cooking shelter. From here I would claim a campsite, put any food/smelly items up on the bear cache, and then continue on to Grey Owls Cabin. You will feel fantastic walking with less weight on your back. Start hiking on the beach to see the trail marker for the cabin. You’ll see a large X that boaters use. From there you’ll enjoy a 3km hike in and around Ajawaan lake.
Grey Owls Cabin (20km, no camping allowed)
Yay! You have arrived! Sign the guest book and then sit down for a few minutes and enjoy the view. From here you only have a 3km return back to your campsite and the delicious dinner that you packed.
I would love to hear about your experience, please comment or let me know how your hiking experience went.