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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
You might also like:
- Canoeing from the Cameron River Ramparts to Yellowknife
- Canoeing the Caddy Lake Tunnels in Whiteshell Provincial Park
- Kayaking Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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