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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.