Elizabeth Lake Trail - Lacombe

The city of Lacombe is located 120km south of Edmonton on Highway 2, just north of Red Deer. The city is home to just over 10,000 people, and it has a well-developed and fairly extensive trail system. A two-way paved track runs from the north east corner of the city clear down to the Town of Blackfalds, located 12km to the south. Inside the city of Lacombe, there are three major lakes: Barnett, Cranna, and Elizabeth. All have perimeter trails, and all offer differing degrees of “wildness”. This post covers Elizabeth Lake.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Trailhead signage

I began my hike at the northern trailhead, just off College Avenue in the northern part of the city. The trail map sign was very detailed, showing nearly step-by-step changes in elevation (the trail is nearly flat, but there is about a 30m/100’ elevation difference across the entire trail).

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
A nice, tidy trail!

One of the most striking features of this walk are the stands of drowned aspen trees lining the shore. The trees undoubtedly took hold when the lake was lower and then, with rising water levels, became saturated beyond their ability to recover. They add a bit of a “spooky” element to the shoreline, but felled trunks make nice eating and hiding spots for muskrats and ducks (my bird ID skills aren’t up to snuff, so I’m not sure on the kinds of ducks).

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Drowned Aspens

This trail (and the trail around nearby Cranna Lake) has a unique feature that I have not seen elsewhere: on-trail fitness equipment. It’s kind of a neat idea, as the trail itself doesn’t offer much in the way of hill challenges.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Fitness equipment

The trails are well-marked, and signage is clean and undamaged – no “tags” or other vandalism here. Makes for a refreshing change from Edmonton’s often defaced or damaged trail signage.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Trail signage – nice and clean!

The nature around this loop trail is exquisite. I did this traverse on a cool Sunday morning and the combination of birdsong, still water, and gorgeous plant life made for an excellent entry into the day.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Bulrushes
Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Birdhouse on the trail

Portions of the trail were quite close to water level, and some were showing signs of near-washout. There was also some evidence of a previous trail located lower down the shore – a few trail marker signs were upright in the water, and a garbage receptacle was still strapped to its post, nearly submerged.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Trail sign in the water

The water was glassy, disturbed only by families of ducks and our old friends the muskrats. I heard from some locals that this lake used to be little more than a slew, so I am thankful that the city of Lacombe turned it into a worthwhile hiking destination.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Elizabeth Lake shore

The return to the trailhead was easy and peaceful. The trail is roughly a 4km loop and can easily be rounded in 45 minutes or so. If ambition strikes, it’s an easy jog south to Cranna Lake, where you’ll find a paved perimeter trail and more fitness equipment. Be sure to get a good look southward from just below the Elizabeth trailhead. You’ll get a beautiful view of the lake.

Image from the Elizabeth Lake Lacombe AB hike
Elizabeth Lake from just below the trailhead

It’s nice to see Alberta’s cities taking seriously the necessity for high-quality walking and hiking trails within their borders. When living in an Alberta city, it’s easy to forget that you’re living in a forest (a former forest). High-quality trails like this one remind us of that. They facilitate and strengthen our connections to the land.

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