The Yellowknife area offers a variety of hiking trails and wilderness to explore. Urban trails through marshland to scrambling over precambrian rock to cascading waterfalls, there is a lot to experience up here.
Cameron River Falls Trail is the best hike for year round adventures and is easily accessible from Yellowknife, NT. This 3km / 1.9m trail sits within Hidden Lake Territorial Park and is a popular hiking, sightseeing and picnicking destination. The park houses both the Cameron Falls and Ramparts, as well as some lovely canoe routes.
Follow along as we venture down the path and back, highlighting all the things you don’t want to miss.
Where is the Cameron Falls Trailhead?
Cameron Falls Directions
The Cameron Falls trailhead sits about 46km east of Yellowknife along the Ingraham Trail (Highway 4) in Hidden Lake Territorial Park.
From Yellowknife, NT: Get onto Ingraham Trail (Highway) from either the MacKenzie Highway (Hwy 3) or from 48th street off of Franklin Ave in downtown Yellowknife, NT. Once you are on Ingraham Trail, you’ll stay on the highway for about 45 minutes until you see the sign for Hidden Lake Territorial Park – Cameron Falls Trail on your left.
Tip: Once you spot the Powder Point Day Use area, you know you are close (about 5 minutes away). If you hit the Cameron River Crossing Day Use area, you have gone too far.
Cameron Falls Directions: From Reid Lake or Prelude Lake Campgrounds
Cameron Falls is also a great day trip from either Reid Lake Campground or Prelude Lake Campground.
From Prelude Lake Campground: Cameron Falls is about a 20min, 19km / 5.6m drive further along Ingraham Trail towards Tibbett Lake (away from Yellowknife). If you see the Madeline Lake sign, you are going the wrong way.
From Reid Lake Campground: Cameron Falls is about a 13min, 13km / 8m drive along the Ingraham Trail towards Yellowknife. If you hit the end of the road at Tibett Lake, you’ve gone the wrong way.
Ingraham Trail Day Use Areas
Along the Ingraham Trail, you’ll pass many day use /boat launch areas, which are great spots to stop and stretch your legs, have a picnic in warmer weather, or bring your canoe for a little post hike paddle. Try a frozen lake walk or drive (on specific lakes only), in the dead of winter.
This Highway was originally built in the 70’s to connect Yellowknife to Fort Reliance, however due to the cost of construction, it ends at Tibbett Lake, at kilometre 70.
Why Cameron River Falls Trail Is The Best Day Hike Near Yellowknife
While I am all for testing my limits, (with the help of others who know what they are doing), sometimes I just want to take my daughter and friends on a fairly relaxing day hike to a beautiful place. Cameron Falls does just that.
Why the Cameron River Falls Trail is the ultimate hike near Yellowknife:
- Easily accessible off Ingraham Trail year round
- Well marked and maintained wilderness trail
- Suitable for kids, adults, and families
- Perfect if you have a half day or less
- Cascading falls; a frozen wonder in winter, roaring meltwater in spring, a scaled down version in summer, and glorious backdrop of changing leaves in Fall.
- A foot bridge spans the river leading to riverside picnic areas, fishing & swimming spots at the base of the falls and a trail that continues upstream to the Ramparts.
Growing up in the city, with parents who’s idea of roughing it consisted of a well stocked cabin, and a leisurely stroll around the local golf course path, has influenced my comfort levels with trails off the beaten path.
Luckily one of my best friends growing up had parents who invited me along on their backpacking and hiking trips. My claim to family fame, completing the West Coast Trail when I was 9. This was back in the 80’s, before there were trail lotteries and it became the thing to do.
Not to worry, this isn’t West Coast Trail hard, or scary, but it is a wilderness trail, so be prepared.
Hiking the trail to Cameron Falls, Yellowknife
Length: Cameron Falls Trail is approx a 3km / 1.9m return, out and back hike
Drive Time: Approximately 45 minutes from Yellowknife.
Hike Time: 1-1.5 hours return to the viewpoint. Give yourself extra time if you are planning on a picnic, or exploring further up the trail. We recommend 2-3 hours minimum.
Difficulty: Moderate – This is a wilderness trail with some elevation up and down, multiple sets of stairs, plus hiking over uneven ground, and rocks. Not suitable for persons who would find that type of terrain difficult. This trail is also not wheelchair accessible.
What to bring:
- Sturdy shoes – runners or hikers
- Wool hiking socks
- Bug Spray – unless it’s winter
- Picnic, snack and a water bottle
- First aid kit
- Bear Bell and/or Spray – it is a wilderness area, so best to be prepared
Heading Down To Cameron Falls
You will start your journey at the small parking lot around kilometre 46 on the Ingraham Trail. There are pit toilets near the entrance, but none along the trail. Make your “pit stop” here.
Entering the Boreal forest of jack pine, spruce and aspen you’ll continue past an old rock fall on your left.
Follow the blue trail markers. They will lead you along a dirt path, over rocks, across the occasional boardwalk and down a stair case, ending at a bluff overlooking the star attraction. The Cameron River Falls.
You can’t talk about hiking in the north, without mentioning bugs. Some years are worse than others for mosquitos, black flies and no-see-ums.
This year was particularly bad in summertime. So bad in fact, that while I never use DEET bug spray (as in it had been over 25 years since I last used it), I had to pull it out during our Cameron Falls hike in June. However, when we came back in fall (September), we hardly noticed the bugs at all.
Make sure to bring bug spray, and a hooded sweater to cover up, just in case.
Listen carefully and you can hear the roar of the falls long before you catch a glimpse of the river cascading far below.
Remember, what goes down, must go back up.
Benches at the viewpoint provide a welcoming place to take in the stunning Cameron Falls.
Safety Tip: If you have young children, make sure to keep them close, as the rock cliff drops off sharply. It is also a good idea not to approach the edge in winter, as the snow and ice along the ledge may not be stable.
Continue along the river route another 5-10 minutes to reach a bridge straddling the Cameron River. Our favourite picnic spot is just over the bridge and to the right on the rocks. A calm place to eat your favourite snacks and rest up for your return trip. It’s often less buggy due to the gentle wind that blows through here.
For those wanting a longer hike, you can continue 8-9km upstream to the Cameron River Ramparts. While this trail is not well developed, it follows the river so is fairly easy to navigate.
Or head down the path which takes you further into Hidden Lake Territorial Park, and towards the base of the Falls. Caution, this trail is steep and narrow at points.
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Heading Up The Cameron River Falls Trail Back To The Parking Lot
By now you will have realized that the trek down to the Falls, means you will have to engage those thigh muscles and climb your way back up. Not to worry, the worst of it is over quickly. You can stop again at the view point to catch your breath, and take those last few waterfall pictures.
Both my 70+ year old dad, and my three year old daughter have successfully hiked this trail.
Story time. My first Spring in Yellowknife a friend asked if my family wanted to go on a hike to the Waterfall. At the time I had no idea what we were getting into, other than it was about 3km.
My daughter was three at the time and had been on short walks up to this point. Being a somewhat self proclaimed adventurer I thought sure, we can do it, anticipating me having to carry her part of the way. To my surprise she hiked the whole way there and back all on her own. True there may have been M&Ms used as an incentive (ok bribe) for her to walk back on her own, but hey it worked.
So back to your return trek. Follow the path in reverse, until you hit the parking lot again, and bask in your accomplishment, and the memories of the beautiful falls and your boreal forest experience.
Cameron River Ramparts
If the Cameron River Falls Trail is too long or difficult a hike, we suggest driving 5 to 10 minutes further up the road to the Cameron River Territorial Day Use Area.
Here you will find picnic tables, pit toilets, and an easy 10 minute hike down to the Ramparts (gentle waterfall). You can hike on the rocks, close up to the ramparts. Just watch your footing, and young kids as there is no barrier between you and the river.
It’s also the perfect place for a selfie with the ramparts in the background, if that’s your thing.
There is also supposed to be good fishing along the river as well.
Yellowknife Hiking: Cameron Falls Conclusion
If you don’t mind a little effort and a few bugs, hiking the Cameron River Falls Trail year round will reward you with stunning views, as well as great picnic and exploring opportunities.
Hiked the Cameron Falls or Ramparts Trail? Let us know how it went, or if we missed any of your favourite spots or things to do in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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