skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
It's Hard To Pick A Camping Spot As There Are So Many Great Ones And Not A Soul Around

A Canoe Trip to Hidden Lake Territorial Park, NWT

One of the highlights of a five day canoe trip on the Cameron River in the Northwest Territories was the overnight detour we made to Hidden Lake Territorial Park, a 3000 hectare park. The closest access to the park is via Kilometre 45 on the Ingraham Trail at Powder Point.

Hidden Lake Territorial Park is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas east of Yellowknife. Home to Hidden Lake and lots of backcountry campsites, the lake itself is one of the prettiest I’ve ever laid eyes on, even more so on a sunny day when it’s an alluring aquamarine colour. 

Getting to Hidden Lake Territorial Park

Canoe across a short stretch of Prelude Lake from Kilometre 45 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.

An easy portage into Prelude Lake
These rapids are the reason for the first short portage to and from Prelude Lake
"Portaging on a boardwalk of sorts on the second portage"
Portaging on a boardwalk of sorts on the second portage

Carry bear spray just in case

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

Hidden Lake is reminiscence of the Georgian Bay

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 similar to 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
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
Looking out to the bigger part of Hidden Lake
So many spots to pull over and explore
So many spots to pull over and explore
Looks more like the Georgian Bay than what I pictured it would be like so close to Yellowknife 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 kilometres 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. All told we saw three camping parties – but all were well dispersed. If you paddle five or more kilometres 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 two canoes paddled in on a Friday night
Watching as a party of two canoes paddled in on a Friday night
Beautiful light as the sun starts to go down
Beautiful light as the sun starts to go down
Very enjoyable just watching the play of light
Very enjoyable just watching the play of light

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.

In mid-August 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.

The calm of an early morning on Hidden Lake
The calm of an early morning on Hidden Lake

Free camping

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.

What we missed

According to the park website there are “two abandoned gold mines within hiking distance of Hidden Lake. The first is on the southeast side of the lake, a quick walk in from the shoreline. The second is on Thompson Lake, a difficult two hour hike in from the most northerly bay of Hidden Lake.”

For more information visit the Hidden Lake Territorial Park website.

Further reading on canoeing in Canada

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A canoe trip in Hidden Lake Territorial Park, NWT

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 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. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search
Cart

Pin It on Pinterest