By: Dylan Webb, Sports Editor
If you take it upon yourself to dedicate the time and exertion required to complete the demanding journey to and from Widgeon Lake, I promise that you won’t be disappointed. I’ve completed countless hikes in my lifetime — this one is, by far, the most legendary trek I’ve ever embarked on.
Nestled within Pinecone Burke Provincial park, Widgeon Lake is a glorious gem that makes Widgeon Falls feel like a backyard creek. I don’t mean to hate on Widgeon Falls, as it is a very nice destination for those seeking a short paddle and an easier stroll, but the lake is really the crown jewel of hiking in the Lower Mainland. Only a tiny sliver of humanity has ever accessed the glory of Widgeon Lake without the aid of a helicopter or float plane, so you’ll also be joining an exclusive club if you complete the journey.
There are two different modes of travel required to complete this hike (not taking into account one alternative route that requires exponentially more time and effort to complete). Before embarking on the 16.7 km hike portion of the journey, hikers must traverse approximately 2.5 km of the Pitt River and its calm side channels. If you have your own canoe or kayak, lucky you, as you will not have to deal with the finicky Pitt Lake Canoe Adventures company that is the only option for rental canoes in the area. The canoe rental portion of the trip is definitely the only part of the days we spent getting to and from Widgeon Lake that we looked back on with negative feelings.
I’ve travelled to the lake after renting a canoe from this company twice now, and each time we experienced issues. First of all, they have no online presence, accept only cash, and don’t always adhere to their posted business hours. This forced us into a later start than we had planned both times. The company also has confusing, bureaucratic canoe return policies that forced us to pay a steeper fee than we originally thought and to return earlier than we had hoped, which cut into our time spent relaxing by the lake. In sum, either bring your own form of water transportation, or expect to pay $85 for your canoe and to waste a bit of time dealing with the sluggish rental operation. Keep in mind, the fact that I was willing to spend $85 on a one-day canoe rental twice demonstrates how fucking glorious this lake is.
After securing water transportation, any shred of frustration faded away as the 30-minute paddle to the Widgeon Creek Campground served as a gentle start to what became an extremely strenuous day. Once we paddling to the Widgeon Creek campground, we pulled the boat up onto the shore and took a quick breather before starting the easy trek to Widgeon Falls. After about 40 minutes of casual hiking, we found the sign for Widgeon Lake, just before Widgeon Falls, that led to the more onerous portion of our journey.
From here, around 8 km of hiking slowly built from easy to moderate to difficult, before we arrived at what I would define as an extraordinarily difficult final kilometre that requires advanced hiking abilities to complete. This journey felt longer than the distance given here, but the awe-inspiring wilderness the trail cuts through provided plenty of entertainment along the way. While I could go on about all of the awesome sights you’ll see on your way to the lake, I don’t want to give away the whole hike!
Both times I completed this hike, I did it with two partners — one human and one canine. Given the wilderness’s thickness, on-leash hiking is a must. Each time we journeyed to Widgeon Lake, we did the entire trip in one day and wished we had more time to enjoy relaxing, exploring and swimming in the clear, frigid water. Though I noted above that the canoe rental company was a factor in our time constraints, the actual length and arduousness of the hike are the main determinants of this.
If you would classify yourself as anything less than an advanced hiker that commonly completes hikes significantly faster than the times listed on hiking websites, take two (or more) days to do the round trip and camp at the lake. Because of the beauty of the lake and the intensity of the journey to and from it, I don’t think I’ll ever embark on this trek again without planning to camp at least one night at the lake. It almost feels disrespectful to the sheer beauty of this particular parcel of nature to leave after only soaking in the sun on the pristine lakeshores for an hour or two.