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A Canoe Trip To Hidden Lake Territorial Park, Northwest Territories

A Canoe Trip to Hidden Lake Territorial Park, Northwest Territories

One of the highlights of a five day canoe trip in the Northwest Territories, starting at Kilometer 55 on the Ingraham Trail, just above the Ramparts, and finishing in the city of Yellowknife was the overnight detour we made to Hidden Lake Territorial Park.

Hidden Lake canoeing in the NWT

The closest access to the park is via Kilometer 45 on the Ingraham Trail at Powder Point. From there you must canoe across a short stretch of Prelude Lake to a portage that will take you all of five minutes to do.

"These rapids are the reason for the first short portage from Prelude Lake"

These rapids are the reason for the first short portage to and from Prelude Lake

Then there are two more portages after Prelude Lake – the first one being a bit easier. My guess is that they are about 500 m and 700 m in length. All three took us under two hours to do.

"Portaging on a boardwalk of sorts on the second portage"

Portaging on a boardwalk of sorts on the second portage

We had been warned about bears in the area but saw nothing other than one old pile of bear scat. All was quiet in the woods except for the squirrels. We did carry bear spray just in case and all food was always in a barrel.

"Portaging in and out of Hidden Lake"

Part of the second portage – though on the way out

I knew we were in for a treat the moment we arrived at Hidden Lake. Open woods broken by slabs of granite – home to many a camping party over the years judging by stone fire rings, was just the start of the beauty we would encounter over the next 24 hours.

"Huge slabs of granite - perfect for camping at the portage point at Hidden Lake"

Huge slabs of granite – perfect for camping at the portage point at Hidden Lake

We met a couple of young women from Nova Scotia at the end of the portages, who were leaving Yellowknife for new jobs. The trip to Hidden Lake was a bucket list item they had to do before they left. How right they were!!

Hidden Lake is exceptionally clear. You can see the fish – including pike – below you if the light is right. The west end of the lake is dotted with islands, very reminiscent of what I’d seen while kayaking the Georgian Bay last September.

If you have the time, you could easily spend five to seven days exploring the eastern section of the lake – including a huge section that isn’t even part of the Hidden Lake Territorial Park. Be sure to purchase the Prelude Lake Map (#85-I/12) so you know where you are.

Here’s a sampling of some of the scenery we saw in Hidden Lake Territorial Park over the course of the day.

"One of the first views in Hidden Lake Territorial Park, NWT"

One of the first views in Hidden Lake Territorial Park, NWT

"The western end of Hidden Lake is dotted with islands"

The western end of Hidden Lake is dotted with islands

"Every island looks beautiful - with slabs of granite"

Every island looks beautiful – with slabs of granite

"It's hard to pick a camping spot as there are so many great ones and not a soul around"

It’s hard to pick a camping spot as there are so many great ones and not a soul around

"Looking out to the bigger part of Hidden Lake, NWT"

Looking out to the bigger part of Hidden Lake

"So many spots to pull over and explore on Hidden Lake"

So many spots to pull over and explore

"Looks more like the Georgian bay than what I pictured in the Northwest Territories"

Looks more like the Georgian Bay than what I pictured it would be like so close to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories

"Paddling through the greenery in a shallow section as we explored the islands in Hidden Lake"

Paddling through the greenery in a shallow section as we explored the islands in Hidden Lake

"Super calm water was great for reflections"

Super calm water was great for reflections

"Loved these rocks in the late afternoon sun"

Loved these rocks in the late afternoon sun

Our Campsite

There are so many choices for camping that you’re never going to be disappointed. Our only criteria was that we wanted the campsite to be a short paddle away to the portage point, as we knew we had to paddle 25 kilometers the next day. Even with that, we could have picked about 10 spots, especially as there wasn’t a soul around when we got there.

It was a Friday so by Friday night the Yellowknife crowd had started to filter in; in the end we saw three camping parties – but all were well dispersed. If you paddle five or more kilometers away from the portage you’re unlikely to see many, if any people at all.

"Our piece of real estate for 24 hours"

Our piece of real estate for 24 hours

"Watching as a party of three canoes paddled in on a Friday night"

Watching as a party of three canoes paddled in on a Friday night (only two can be seen in this photo)

"Beautiful light as the sun starts to go down"

Beautiful light as the sun starts to go down

"We spent a lot of time watching a family of three loons"

We spent a lot of time watching a family of loons

"evening light on Hidden Lake, NWT"

Very enjoyable just watching the play of light as the sun went down

I’m so glad we took the time to explore the Hidden Lake area, even if it was just for 24 hours. For less experienced paddlers, it’s a great long weekend destination. At this time of year the water is warm enough for a quick swim, the fishing is excellent, the loons wake you up and lull you to sleep and everywhere you look, it’s absolutely beautiful. If I lived in Yellowknife, I would be a regular weekend visitor.

More good news – it’s free to camp and you don’t need a reservation. You can rent canoes for $45/day from Overlander Sports in Yellowknife and if you organize yourself ahead of time, they will shuttle you back and forth – for a reasonable price as well.

As always, go prepared for all weather conditions. Plan to cook on a stove as the fire danger has been very high.

Have you ever been canoeing in the Northwest Territories?

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Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 40 Comments
  1. This was great, Leigh, and I could actually feel the calm and serenity in your pictures. I haven’t seen one a modern day bear-safe food container in long time. Those look really secure and sturdy now! Ironically I had heard of Yellowknife from the show Ice Road Truckers which I watched two seasons of. All those lakes were frozen over so I loved seeing the summer version of this! 🙂

    1. @Mike I have used barrels a couple of times this summer – but only on canoe trips. They’re great for packing a bottle of wine or a few cans of beer too. This area was particularly beautiful. I could imagine myself with a little cottage off the grid…

  2. Reminds me a lot of Quetico although the water is much clearer. Hidden Lake is hidden no more with these great pictures making it a must see. I bet the fishing is amazing too.

  3. The trip sounds exciting. I really like your pictures. They give me the feeling of peace and relaxed mind. Nature of Yellowknife looks like a perfect place to rest from the city life that I have. It’s good to see that still, Canada has a lot to offer.

  4. Yet another incredibly beautiful Canadian destination that few of us have heard of! My husband would love to visit the Yukon or the NWT but I’m not sure that I’m outdoorsy enough to handle it!

  5. Thanks for taking me along on your canoe trip through Hidden Lake Territorial Park. I especially liked that it gave me a scenic break without my having to do much at all!

  6. Gorgeous area and beautiful photos. My husband and I have not had good luck trying to canoe and kayak together and we can’t agree on whose fault our mishaps are.

  7. I am not a canoeist and aren’t likely to do this trip. But the scenery is fantastic. So unspoiled. And I love the sound of the loons at night.

  8. Your sunset over Hidden Lake photo makes me want to jump on a plane right now.

    This looks like a wonderful trip that I want to do now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. We did so much camping, hiking and canoeing when we were young. I miss the calm and clear waters and the goofy songs of the loons. Your beautiful photos bring back wonder memories.

  10. I would love to do this. It looks so relaxing and the scenery is incredibly beautiful. Thank you for outlining the details of this adventure.

  11. Your pictures certainly do the area justice – and what a gorgeous area it is. So peaceful and soul-refreshing

  12. Looks like an idyllic place to canoe and camp. The possibility of running into a bear makes me a little apprehensive, but for such a cool experience, I think I’d be able to summon up a little courage.

  13. I have been to Hidden Lake and it is as beautiful and peaceful as the photos. The only catch is that it is not just the fish that get hooked. I came here on a fishing trip in ’96 and I am still here!

  14. I was going through my collection of topos and charts when I found the topo for this trip that I made in the summer of 1969. I was curious if I could find anything on the web about the area and was delighted to see that others have also enjoyed this trip.

    It was a beautiful, serene lake with only the gulls and loons for company. Fishing was great and the islands made great campsites. I was on my way to live in Alaska where I have been ever since, but the one island campsite has been my favorite of all time.

    1. @Barney What a treat the park is and there’s so much to discover if you have the time. I wish we’d had an extra night in hindsight. So many awesome campsites to choose from! Thanks for stopping by.

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