If you are not in a hurry to get somewhere and perhaps just looking for a nice, relaxed drive that usually ensures some sort of wildlife sightings than you should consider taking a cruise down Highway 263.
The narrow single-lane highway is approximately 59 kilometres long past Christopher Lake and is a popular scenic drive that enters Prince Albert National Park. Visitors can access Hwy 263 from Hwy 2 if they are travelling from Prince Albert and it continues to the parks southern boundary.
Shannon Bond, public relations and communication officer for Prince Albert National Park said she enjoys driving down Hwy 263 when she travels back to Waskesiu after running errands in Prince Albert.
“I just put the car on cruise control at about 65 - 70 kilometres because it’s true, the amount of wildlife on that road is incredible,” she said.
“I think especially now after watching spring bloom and seeing all these leaves come out, it goes from this absolutely amazing stark landscape where you can see forever through the trees in the winter to completely filling in, so it feels like you are in this foliage tunnel.”
“And then there is foxes, wolves and bears especially in the evening or first thing in the morning,” she added.
Bear, elk, deer, and fox sightings are common throughout the park, however if you are driving down Hwy 263 at exactly the right moment you could get lucky and perhaps see all four on that single lane of highway. Bond mentioned there is a few foxes with dens close to the highway and sometimes at dusk visitors can spot them.
But that piece of road is also the gateway to a variety of popular walking and cycling trails in the summer. Some nice short nature trails include Shady Lake a 1.7-km loop and then the Height-of-Land- Tower, which is only 50 metres from the parking lot and then four stories up.
“At the top there is an interpretive sign that shows you exactly what you are looking at,” said Bond. “And it is quite a stunning view any time of year, but once you get into autumn it’s just stunning up there.”
For those looking for a more challenging hike the Spruce River Highland hike is pretty cool, mentioned Bond. The Spruce River Highlands trail is an 8.5-km loop that takes hikers to a 10-m tower and then passes through rolling terrain that provides hikers with viewing opportunities of Anglin Lake.
Last summer Hwy 263 was closed to visitors for a short while due to flooding on the road. And although the road was reopened shortly afterwards there is still some work that needs to be done to the highway to repair it said Harvey Pillar, assets manager for Prince Albert National Park.
“High moisture caused lots of bumps and cracks in the road so we will have to take some parts of the roads out and put base down, pack it down, and repave it,” he said. “There was one area that was like driving on a water bed last summer.”
“It was awful,” he added.
Those improvements are hoped to begin in the fall.
Pillar agrees with Bond that Hwy 263 is a great way to enjoy the natural setting of Waskesiu. He said in his youth his family would drive down Hwy 263 almost every weekend to go fishing.
“It’s just a nice road through the boreal forest and the opportunity to see wildlife is better on that road,” he said.
Click here to view a 2014 visitor guide of Prince Albert National Park, which includes a map of the park and a list of the hiking and cycling trails that begin on Hwy 263.
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