William A. Switzer Provincial Park is a foothills oasis near Hinton, AB with five lakes to explore. The calm waters are suitable to paddlers of all levels, and more experienced paddlers will enjoy tackling the Jarvis Creek Canoe Circuit. A network of hiking and bike trails connects the lakes, and the Hinton Nordic Centre has 35 kilometres of rolling trails that are groomed for cross country skiing in the winter! When it’s time to relax, stretch out on the sand at Jarvis Lake’s beach.
Here are some fun things to do in William A. Switzer Provincial Park, located one hour northeast of Jasper.
Switzer Park’s lakes are the main attraction. Calm, clear waters make for a great experience no matter your skill level. We enjoyed paddling to the northern end of Gregg Lake and visiting a small island, beaver dam, and bird houses near the private residences. We had to work a bit harder on the return as the water flows north out of the lake, but it was still an easy, beautiful paddle.
If you would like to try moving water, paddle the Jarvis Creek Interpretive Route (4 km one way). More experienced paddlers can paddle the entire Jarvis Creek circuit from Jarvis Lake to Gregg Lake, but must be able to navigate sweepers, beaver dams and strong currents. Portages are required on both routes during low water flow and a car shuttle is recommended unless you want to paddle both ways. A detailed brochure outlining the routes is available at Kelley’s Bathtub Visitor Centre. More information is available from Alberta Parks.
Kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available at Gregg Lake and Jarvis Lake boat launches from Switzer Park Paddleboard Rentals.
Jarvis Lake has a sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and building sand castles as well as a playground!
Picturesque Kelley’s Bathtub has a small patch of sand (a few metres long) which is fun for the kids before or after visiting the Visitor Centre or hiking in the area.
Hiking in William A. Switzer Provincial Park
Trails in William A. Switzer Provincial Park have minimal elevation gain, so they’re perfect for children!
Kelley’s Bathtub (1 km loop) was our favorite short hike in the area. Named for a local hunter and outdoorsman who fell in (before the boardwalk was built), the pool’s calm waters make for perfect reflections and pretty pictures. Walk around the pond and across a short boardwalk that separates it from Jarvis Lake. Afterwards, grab an ice cream bar and check out the exhibits in the Visitor Centre! There are picnic tables and washrooms here too. Trailhead: Kelley’s Bathtub Visitor Centre.
For a longer hike, try Friendly Vista (2.5 km loop). Bird watch, look for moose, and take a break at the various viewpoints along the lake. Pick up a Family Adventure Backpack from the Visitor Centre so you can solve clues at each interpretive stop. Trailhead: Kelley’s Bathtub Visitor Centre.
Kettle (3.5 km) interpretive trail takes you on the path of ancient glaciers. Walk along an esker (winding gravel ridge deposited by glaciers) to a kettle lake left behind when the glaciers retreated. Trailhead: Behind the Gregg Lake campground shower building.
Athabasca Lookout (1.5 km) is a short climb to a viewpoint overlooking the Solomon Valley. From this vantage, you can see all the way to the Rockies! Head northwest across the ridge through mixed forest and wildflowers. Trailhead: Luge Parking Lot, Hinton Nordic Centre.
Mountain Biking and Cross Country Skiing
Bike or hike Jarvis Lake Trail (13.5 km) and Gregg Lake Trail (2.5 or 4 km). These gravel trails are rolly and suitable for kids on 20″ bikes with gears, but it’s possible to bike and hike with younger kids as the hills are not too big. For forest, meadows and creeks, try the Jarvis Lake Trail. Gregg Lake’s trail has mixed forest and some of the biggest aspens I’ve ever seen. Insider tip: Stop at the campground registration building for an après-hiking ice cream treat!
For more challenging trails, try the hilly, forested trails at the Hinton Nordic Centre. Mountain bike in the summer and cross country ski in the winter on 35+ km of maintained trails! (Fees are in effect in winter.)
Recommended fishing spots are: the Trout Pond (stocked with rainbow trout), Jarvis Creek (stocked with brown trout), Cache Lake, and Petite Lake. Check the Stocking Report before you go; the pond gets fished out pretty fast. According to locals, ice fishing for whitefish is pretty good on the big lakes in winter.
Camping in Switzer Park
There are several campgrounds to choose from in William A. Switzer Park. Gregg Lake Campground has the most amenities including showers, amphitheatre, playground, and power, power & water, or unserviced sites. Sites were well shaded. The only downside is that sites are quite close together. Reservable.
We chose to stay at Gregg Lake Lakeside to be closer to the lake. While these unserviced sites were not directly lakeside, the day use playground and boat launch were a short walk away. There is a large cook shelter, swing set, water pumps, and pit toilets in this loop. Sites were close together, but partially shaded and semi-private due to trees and shrubs. Reservable.
Jarvis Lake, Cache Lake, and Graveyard Lake campgrounds have unserviced sites:
- Jarvis Lake looked the most appealing as it has a boat launch, playground, and beach with many shaded sites and walk-in tent sites. Reservable.
- Cache Lake is smaller (14 sites), but has treed sites and a playground. FCFS.
- Graveyard Lake is the smallest campground with 7 sites in an open grassy area. FCFS.
One of the best things about camping here is that there are no trains going by to wake you up in the night! It was quiet at night and we could see tons of stars.
Partnership Disclosure: As an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I received free camping, but all words and opinions are my own.
Switzer Park has excellent programming throughout the week including:
- Art in the Park at the Gregg Lake Boat Launch (so much fun!)
- Amphitheatre shows at Gregg Lake
- Presentations at Gregg Lake Campground, and
- Family activities like pond dipping.
Check at the Visitor Centre or your campground for upcoming events.
Switzer Park is located about 30 km north of Hinton, Alberta on Highway 40 (paved). From Calgary, it is a 5.5 hour drive on Hwy 2 & 16, or 6 hour drive via the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) or Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22).