The 400,000-hectare (988,422-acre) wilderness area of Prince Albert National Park, 240km (149 miles) north of Saskatoon and 91km (57 miles) north of the town of Prince Albert, is one of the jewels of Canada's national park system. Its terrain is astoundingly varied, since it lies at the point where the great Canadian prairie grasslands give way to the pristine boreal forests of the north. Here, you'll find clear, cold lakes, ponds, and streams created thousands of years ago as glaciers receded. It's a hilly landscape, forested with spruce, poplar, and birch.

The park offers outdoor activities, from canoeing and backpacking to nature hikes, picnicking, swimming, and great wildlife viewing. You can see and photograph moose, caribou, elk, black bear, bison, and loons. (The moose and caribou tend to wander through the forested northern part of the park, while the elk, bison, and deer graze on the southern grasslands.) Lavallee Lake is home to Canada's second-largest white-pelican colony.

In the 1930s, this park's woods and wildlife inspired famed naturalist Grey Owl, an Englishman adopted by the Ojibwe who became one of Canada's pioneering conservationists and most noted naturalists. For 7 years, he lived in a simple one-room cabin called Beaver Lodge on Ajawaan Lake; many hikers and canoeists make a pilgrimage to see his cabin and nearby grave site.

More than 30% of the park's surface is water, making a canoe or kayak a great way to navigate and explore this nearly road-less area. Canoeing routes wind through much of the park through a system of interconnected lakes and rivers. Canoes can be rented at three lakes, including Lake Waskesiu, where you can easily get a feel for the watery environment in an hour or so. For experienced paddlers, the two major overnight canoe trips are the Bagwa and Bladebone routes. CanoeSki Discovery Company (tel. 306/653-5693; www.canoeski.com) offers a selection of multiday canoe adventures into the heart of the park. The trips, some especially for families and birders, are led by naturalists and certified canoeing guides. Canoe packages include a 4-day, 3-night trip for C$850 per person. There's also terrific fishing in the park, but anglers must have a national-park fishing license, available for sale at the Visitor Centre.

The park has 10 short hiking trails, plus four or so longer trails ideal for overnight trips. Several easier ones begin in or near Waskesiu Lake, though the best begin farther north. From the northwest shore of Lake Kingsmere, you can pick up the 20km (12-mile) one-way trail leading to Grey Owl's cabin. This is an overnight hike.

For additional info, contact Prince Albert National Park (tel. 306/663-4522; www.pc.gc.ca) or stop by the Visitor Centre in the village of Waskesiu Lake. It's open mid-May through mid-September daily 8am to 8pm. A park day pass is C$7.80 adults, C$6.55 seniors, C$3.90 children 6 to 16, and C$20 families. The park is open year-round, but many campgrounds, motels, and facilities are closed after September.

Where to Stay

Prince Albert National Park has five road-accessible campgrounds, as well as a number of simple motel and cabin accommodations starting from C$80 for a double. Most of these lodgings are in the village of Waskesiu Lake, which has tennis courts, lake-front picnic areas, bowling greens, an 18-hole golf course, a playground, and a few eateries.

In the village of Waskesiu Lake, Red Deer Campground has 152 sites with full services and Beaver Glen Campground has 213 sites, many with power. Facilities at both include showers and toilets, kitchen shelters, and sewage-disposal stations. Rates range from C$26 to C$35 for a site. Both are operated by Parks Canada. Advance reservations (tel. 877/737-3783 or 450/505-8302; www.pccamping.ca) are strongly recommended. Scattered through the park are four smaller campgrounds with limited services.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.