During peak autumn season, Saskatchewan’s forests come alive with the magical display of fall colours. But the colourful leaves are fleeting, with only a couple-week window in which to enjoy the myriad of colours between summer’s verdant green and winter’s pale white.
Yet despite this narrow window of majestic colour, it’s one of the best times to get out hiking the trails to see the autumn colours in Saskatchewan. The weather is still warm, there are fewer bugs to deal with and the trails are quieter without the summer crowds.
The Best Hiking Trails in Saskatchewan to See the Autumn Colours
For those who prefer to earn their views on foot, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best hiking trails in Saskatchewan to see the autumn colours
1. Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park is the king of Saskatchewan’s national parks when it comes to viewing the autumn colours. The scenic route along Highway 263 leads travellers from aspen parkland through the boreal transition zone straight into a kaleidoscope of greens, yellows, oranges and golds. But going deeper and exploring away from the roadways, there are several notable trails in the park that are extra stunning to hike in autumn.
Boundary Bog Trail
Distance: 2km loop, family-friendly
The highlight of the Boundary Bog trail lies in the marsh. It’s a favourable environment for larches (also known as Tamarack) to grow. During late autumn, the larch needles turn from green to fluorescent yellow before they fall off. They line the wooden boardwalk along this 2-kilometre loop and the views here rival larch season in the mountains. But make sure to look down while you wander – there’s a unique carnivorous plant called a pitcher plant growing low in the underbrush that lures, drowns and digests insects.
Spruce River Highlands Trail
Distance: 8.5km loop, great for hiking and biking
Just over a kilometre from the parking lot of this hilly trail, you’ll discover a 10-metre tower on a hilltop. The Spruce River Tower overlooks its namesake river with epic views of Anglin Lake in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park in the distance (also wonderful for leaf-viewing). While the tower is arguably the highlight of this trail, the rollercoaster terrain through the fall colours of the forest makes it a great track to bike or hike for an afternoon out.
Height of Land Tower
Distance: 60 metres, family-friendly
Less of a hike and more of a walk from the parking lot, this “trail” gets an honourable mention due to the 15-metre viewing tower tucked into the forest. Not only do you get an epic birds-eye view of golden aspen mixed with the dark green of coniferous trees as far as the eye can see, but it’s also the divide where waters to the north flow into the Churchill River and waters to the south flow into the Saskatchewan River.
2. Echo Valley Provincial Park
Distance: 10 kilometres, 9 trails to choose from
Echo Valley Provincial Park ranks in the top three regions to check out in southern Saskatchewan for hiking and viewing the autumn colours. Epic views of Echo and Pasqua Lakes down in the valley can be seen from the drive-up rim viewpoint. But the true autumn colour experience comes with a hike through any of the nine trails leading off from the Hole in the Wall campground.
Each of the hiking loops is less than 2.5 kilometres and can be linked together in longer variations. Any hike that leads up through the coulee takes a surprising amount of effort, so choose your trail carefully. However, the views from the grassy meadow overlooking the lakes are worth the climb.
There are QR codes around the park in the campgrounds, at trailheads, throughout the hikes and at the boat launch that link to a map of the trails. You can also find the map here.
3. Gem Lakes Trail, Narrow Hills Provincial Park
Distance: 5.5-kilometre loop, great for backcountry camping and day hiking with the family
It’s one of the most popular hikes in Saskatchewan and even more impressive in the autumn. The Gem Lakes hiking trail is a 5.5-kilometre loop around a series of seven lakes named after different gemstones. For day hikers, the trail is a 2-3 hour hike along the undulating ridges, but it’s also popular with backcountry campers.
It’s one of the best trails to visit in late autumn when the larches rimming each lake have turned golden yellow. The trees reflect brilliantly in the emerald green of the mirror-like lakes. When the majority of the province has passed its peak fall-peeping season, larches allow for an extended season of gold that often leads into the first week and a half of October.
4. Gift of Green Nature Trail, Pike Lake Provincial Park
Distance: 1.5-kilometre loop, family-friendly
For something a little closer to Saskatoon, head out to Pike Lake 30 minutes southwest of Saskatoon. Here you’ll find the Gift of Green Interpretive Nature Trail that’s a perfect walk for all ages. The 1.5-kilometre loop passes through groves of aspen, ash and birch trees. In autumn, the leaves create a colourful carpet as you pass beneath multi-hued branches. It makes for the perfect photo op.
5. Wascana Trails, near Regina
Distance: 15 kilometres, three loops to choose from
Only 10 kilometres northwest of Regina are a set of hiking trails that are amazing in any season. There are 15 kilometres of interconnected trails at the Wascana Trails. But you don’t have to hike them – you can bike or run them too (or cross-country ski them in winter). The beauty of these trails lies not just in the stands of trees throughout the valley but in the underlying bushes and shrubs that have more red and orange hues. At sunrise or sunset in peak autumn, these colours seem almost fluorescent.
While there are three loops to explore, each is interconnected in a way that makes hiking out here so interesting.
How to Get to the Wascana Valley Recreation Site:
Take Highway 11 north out of Regina. Travel for 10 kilometres and turn onto Grid 734 (a sign marks the turnoff). Head west on the grid for another 10 kilometres. When you reach a point with the road splits (one section curves to the north) keep going straight. Then turn south at the sign towards the trails. Parking is available at the entrance.
6. The Boreal Trail, Meadow Lake Provincial Park
Distance: 135 kilometres, Saskatchewan’s longest through-hike
If you want to see what Saskatchewan’s longest through-hike offers in autumn, consider hiking the 135km Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. As one of the province’s largest parks full of spruce, pine, larch, poplar and birch trees, it’s a perfect trail for viewing the changing colours of the leaves.
I hiked the trail mid-September a few years back when the autumn colours were just turning. It was a stunning way to experience the trail. The best part was, I had the trail to myself for the four days I was out there.
Realistically, the trail is best tackled in afternoon hikes or overnight weekend trips. The best afternoon hike for sweeping views of the changing aspen in Meadow Lake Provincial Park was past the southern end of Humphrey Lake and up the Humphrey Fire Tower. However, the tower was removed recently for safety reasons. But don’t worry, Sask Parks has plans to rebuild in the future.
It’s hard to choose the next best trail as there are so many locations to enjoy the forest. But one of my favourite hikes with an equally beautiful viewpoint is at Wolf’s Bay backcountry campsite along the Gold Creek Trail. Lac Des Isles Lake glitters like a gem in the sunlight while fiery fall colours rim the curving shores of the bay.
7. Hidden Conglomerate Cliffs, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Distance: 6km return, 250m elevation change
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a diverse mix of grasslands, prairie and forest. One of the best scenic drives in the province is located in the West Block – as is one of the most stunning autumn hikes.
To access the viewpoint at the Hidden Conglomerate Cliffs overlooking Battle Creek Valley, you’ll have to hike part of The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail). And for a reputation of being “flat Saskatchewan,” you’ll earn your elevation as the hill climbs 250 metres over 3 kilometres from the trailhead to the valley rim. But it’s worth the effort. The cliffs here are made up of a combination of gravel and stones called cobbles. The edges have eroded over millennia which leaves uniquely pebbled steep banks overlooking the tree-covered slopes.
If you don’t want to do the full 6 km roundtrip hike, an easier way to see stunning views is from the drive-up viewpoint at the Conglomerate Cliffs. Note that this is a different site than the Hidden Conglomerate Cliffs.
Safety Note: The road to the Hidden Conglomerate Cliffs can be inaccessible when wet. Cell service is limited in this area.
8. Cross Hill Hike, Buena Vista
Distance: 2km return, the trail is not marked
If you know of this trail, you’re likely a local to the area. Which is how I was so fortunate to find out about it during my visit to Lumsden last fall. This short but rewarding hike leads along the shoreline of Last Mountain Lake between Buena Vista and Lumsden Beach.
*This trail is part of the Lumsden Beach Camp property. They ask that no one hikes while there is programming happening on site as there are many young campers running around each summer. Their season is typically June to mid-September
There is a small amount of parking available at the end of Greystone Bay Road where the hike begins. From there you’ll follow the old road until you cross the beaver dam. The trail leads up the hill (at several points) to the cross on the hill, which the hike is named after. You may have to do your own route finding through the forest depending on how thick the underbrush is. But the end result is some of the most stunning views of the rolling hills, forested coulees and lake, especially at sunset.
You can hike back through the coulee a different way than you came. Be mindful that you might have to trudge through marsh water in the low-lying spots.
9. Buffalo Pound Provincial Park
Distance: up to 30km of trails, through the hills
Buffalo Pound Provincial Park is the mountain biking and trail running mecca here in Saskatchewan. Not only does the Great Trail (formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail) pass through here but the hiking trails can be challenging as they weave up and down along the rolling hills. But as with many viewpoints, the hike to the top is worth it to see the fall colours.
There’s also an option for those wanting a flatter hiking experience with views across the lake of the autumn leaves. Nicolle Flats offers 16 kilometres of trails including a trail leading to the Nicolle Homestead built in 1903 and a one-kilometre walk on the Marsh Boardwalk.
10. Little Red River Park, north of Prince Albert
Distance: up to 30km of trails, varied
Little Red is a park I hear about no matter the season. Whether it’s cross-country skiing and snowboarding in winter, picnicking in summer and chasing fall colours in autumn, it’s one of the go-to destinations for hikers. Especially if you’re driving out from Saskatoon or located five minutes away in Prince Albert.
There are more than 30 kilometres of hiking trails to choose from. One of the main highlights in the park is the suspension bridge that crosses the Little Red River. The bridge is located off the main road near the West Parking lot (a wooden structure marks the entrance).
Five Additional Hiking Trails in Saskatchewan to see the Autumn Colours
For five additional locations to enjoy the autumn colours, consider hiking the trails in Pine Cree Regional Park, Duck Mountain Provincial Park, Moose Mountain Provincial Park, in the Wakamow Valley around Moose Jaw and at Fairy Hill in the Qu’Appelle Valley.
The ten locations listed above are only a small snapshot of the incredible hiking trails we have in the province with access to some of the best autumn colours in the country. Half the fun of combining leaf-peeping and hiking is getting out on an adventure and finding your own new favourite spots.
To add trail suggestions, leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.