By Cassandrea Gascoyne
If you love the Rocky Mountains but want to escape from Banff and Jasper’s hustle and bustle, head north of Hinton to William A. Switzer Provincial Park. The pine, spruce and aspen forests encompass a few small lakes and are home to grizzly and black bears, cougars, wolves, moose, elk, deer, beaver and over 100 different bird species. Pitch a tent at one of the campgrounds, grab your canoe for a paddle around one of the lakes and take a hike on over 65 kilometres of trails.
The last time my husband and I camped at William A. Switzer Park we pitched a tent at the largest campground in the area, Gregg Lake. With 164 sites, 40 of them with power, this campground can get fairly busy in the summer and it is the only campground in the park that accepts reservations. Other campgrounds include Jarvis Lake, which is a nice campground but does not take reservations. Cache, Halfway and Graveyard campgrounds are more rustic with no services at all, except for a water pump and playground at Cache.
Gregg Lake has a boat launch and is the largest of the five lakes in the park. If you are dropping your rod into the lake, expect a Whitefish and Northern Pike on the other end. There is a fish cleaning station at the campground as well, in order to stay bear safe. If you prefer to enjoy the lakes by canoe, Jarvis Lake connects with all five lakes offering an exciting canoeing opportunity. There may be a few small portages over beaver dams, so expect to have damp feet!
We went to William A. Switzer Park to fish and hike, but wanted to do this in a more private setting, so we took to a smaller lake called Trout Pond. There is a little trail around the pond where my dog and I walked while my husband put his determination towards catching dinner. This little pond is stocked with Rainbow Trout, but he didn’t catch any. We were, however, the only people enjoying the area, which made it very calm and peaceful.
The park offers over 65 kilometres of trails where you can also experience wildlife and bird watching. A small trail around Kelley’s Bathtub is an easy one-kilometre interpretive loop that provides beautiful scenic views of the Rocky Mountains. It is a great swimming hole with a small beach area and a shelter offering a cook stove and power. Kelley’s Bathtub is also the trailhead for two other hikes: Jarvis Lake Trail (13 km out-and-back) and Friendly Vista Trail (2.5 km loop). My husband and I haven’t set foot on these trails yet, but it is in our plans this summer!
If you are an outdoors enthusiast or just want to beat the hustle and bustle of the city, William A. Switzer is only a 10-minute drive north of Hinton. Bring your canoe, fishing rod, hiking boots and binoculars to enjoy everything this park has to offer; or simply bring your lawn chair, a beverage and a good book and experience the tranquil scenery.