Those of you who know me well know that I will never pass up on the opportunity for a little nature therapy. As a kid, I spent most of my summers at our cabin at Chitek Lake and Whalen Bay, north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, boating, fishing, picking berries and spending quality time with my pet chipmunk, Charlie. Some of my fondest memories as a child involve long summer days and warm summer nights camping in the woods. I remember being cuddled up in the hammock underneath the stars, making bush pies with friends and family gathered around the fire, and being scared shitless by the campfire as my dad would tell us ghost stories before bed. Whenever I drive towards the wilderness, I get a familiar feeling as the spruce trees start to line the sides of the highway. It’s an instant calmness from escaping the city lights. Probably one of the reasons I will take any opportunity I can to go hiking and explore the great outdoors.
Nestled along the Canadian Shield near the Manitoba-Ontario border, you’ll find the granite ridges and remote lakes of Whiteshell Provincial Park. With breath-taking views visible from towering cliff sides and 13 freshwater lakes, Whiteshell has become a popular weekend getaway for many Winnipeggers, looking for a pause from the hustle and bustle of city living. The park has become a hot spot for many recreational activities including boating, camping, canoeing, kayaking, golfing, scuba diving, sailing, snowmobiling, skiing, fishing and perhaps most notably, hiking with a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail running through the park. With a myriad of hiking trails ranging from 1.5 km to the challenging 60km Mantario trail, Whiteshell contains some of the best hikes in Manitoba, including the popular Hunt Lake Hiking Trail.
I’ve been eager to test out my new Hi-Tec Altitude V I WP hiking boots that I received for Christmas for sometime now. I mean really test them. Up until now, we’ve dabbled with short trails which haven’t been very challenging, just trying to get a feel for them. But I’ve been dying to see how they do in a bit more tough terrain before preparing to take them out on the Boreal Trail or the Trans Canada Trail next year. We’ve been having some stellar weather here in Canada, and by stellar I mean +15 to +20 degree Celsius temperatures which are unheard of for the beginning of November, especially in the prairies. Most years we can expect snow by Halloween, or at least the cold weather that comes with it, so this year we’ve been lucky enough to be able to extend our fall season by just a little bit. This past weekend, Devan and I set out with our dog, Duke to not only take advantage of the beautiful weather but also to break in those hiking boots by exploring Hunt Lake Hiking Trail in Eastern Manitoba.
From Winnipeg, drive East on the Trans Canada Highway towards Ontario for about 150 km. After just over an hour, you’ll take the West Hawk Lake turnoff and turn right at the stop sign when you reach Highway 44. Continue through the town and past West Hawk Lake until you see the sign for Hunt Lake Hiking Trail. As the park is located in Whiteshell Provincial Park, its recommended that you have with you, and display a Manitoba Parks pass on your vehicle.
Hiking Hunt Lake Trail
The trail is a hike in hike out trail so you will be retracing your steps on the way out. Rumor is that the trail used to form a loop that went into Ontario before heading south and returning into Manitoba. It’s relatively easy to follow, as long as you keep an eye out for the markers and arrows directing your route. If you’re not paying attention, it can be easy to miss one of the markers, but you’ll quickly realize once you run out of trial. Simply retrace your steps until you find an arrow or a marker directing you in the right direction.
The trail begins by hiking along the quiet shores of Hunt Lake passing through muddy bogs, wet marshes and rocky inclines. You’ll make several creek crossings (at which point Duke thought it would be easier to go through the creek instead of over) and get the chance to see some beautiful mini-waterfalls as the water trickles down the jagged rocks towards the lake. Several periods of flat terrain will give your legs a break from the rocky terrain before climbing the steep incline towards the lookout over West Hawk Lake. After about 3 hours of hiking, you’ll reach Little Indian Bay where there is a shelter complete with a campfire for cooking. Little Indian Bay makes a great place to have lunch before you begin your 3 hour return hike back to the beginning of the trial.
The trail definitely has its challenges, with some steep inclines and difficult climbs which will be rewarded with beautiful views of Hunt Lake and the Eastern shore of West Hawk Lake. Many people on the trail were using hiking poles and I found a great hiking stick to use for some of the declines on the way back. That being said, I found the most difficult parts of the hike were at the beginning, and only became difficult when your legs were tired and you were on your way back to the finish line. Make sure you allow yourself around 6 hours to complete the 12.6 (return) hike and plenty of daylight as it tends to get darker when your surrounded by forest. Returning to the vehicle around 5:30 p.m. we saw the last moments of sunlight as we made our drive back to Winnipeg. Also, don’t forget to pack plenty of water and snacks, and wear proper footwear. I am so happy that I had the chance to really break in my new boots and test them out before tackling some bigger overnight hikes.
The trail is also a great place to bring your pooch for a much-needed frolic through the woods. Big dogs, small dogs and dogs of all kind will love the chance to explore the forests and chase squirrels and birds. Duke absolutely loves hiking, and this was a great trail for him as it provided lots of room for him to run free, as well as plenty of opportunities to go for a swim and cool off. A lot of people on the trail had dogs with them and no one seemed to mind the dogs being off-leash. Plus it never hurts to have a big dog on your side when you’re in bear country!
If you’re looking for a somewhat challenging day hike near Winnipeg or Kenora, Hunt Lake Hiking Trail is the perfect opportunity to get outside and get some of that nature therapy I love so much. Whiteshell is the perfect place to situate yourself for relaxing weekend away and take advantage of the beautiful scenery, and endless opportunities for recreational activities all year round. Just another one of the beautiful places that Manitoba has to brag about!
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