William A. Switzer Provincial Park is located 20 km northwest of Hinton on Highway 40 north in the foothills of Alberta’s Northern Rockies. This 63 square km park is home to numerous species of wildlife, and offers year round adventures for the whole family to enjoy.
Switzer Park has five campgrounds spread out through the valley along a chain of five lakes connected by a navigable creek. The park is surrounded by forests of pine, spruce and aspen trees and is home to numerous wildlife species (most frequently spotted at dawn and dusk).
The park is full of summer recreation activities and adventures including: wildlife viewing, canoeing, kayaking, relaxing at the beach, water skiing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and many more.
The fun at Switzer Park doesn’t stop once the snow comes as the Park is home to a number of winter activities including cross-country ski trails, winter camping, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. Switzer Park also has a world-class cross-country skiing venue that features over 35 km of groomed trails, a large rustic day lodge, and a biathlon range.
To educate visitors about the area, Alberta Parks offers free seasonal interpretive programs and events, and offers a seasonally staffed Switzer Visitor Centre and Gregg Lake booth.
Must try experiences in
William A. Switzer Park
The campgrounds in Switzer Park offer a wide range of experiences. Larger sites like Gregg Lake campground have over 160 sites and offer power-hookups, showers, flush toliets, and a dumping station. If you are looking for a more rustic and secluded experience you should try Halfway campground which features four sites and is a peaceful setting next to Jarvis Creek where you can fish and paddle.
Switzer Park has over 10 marked trails to explore. All the trails are open for hikers to explore and many are also suitable for biking, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Athabasca Lookout Trail | 1km access trail
Gregg Lake Trail | 3.5 km loop
Kettle Trail | 3.5 km interpretive loop
Fish Lakes Trail | 3.5 km connector trail
Beaver Ranch Trail | 1.5 km interpretive loop
Kelley’s Bathtub Trail | 1 km interpretive loop
Friendly Vistas Trail | 2.5 km loop
Jarvis Lake Trails | 2.5-11km loops
Blue Lake Trail | 3km loop
Joachim Valley Trail | 13km to Black Cat Ranch
Hinton Nordic Centre Trails | 35km of trails
Switzer Park has two boat launches located at Gregg Lake and Jarvis Lake. Gas powered boats are only allowed in these two lakes, and there is a 12km/hr speed limit at Gregg Lake. Canoes and electric motors are allowed at all five Lakes within the park.
Switzer Park was historically known as “Fish Lakes” as all five lakes are home to native northern pike and whitefish. Trout Pond, accessed by a short trail off Cache Lake Road is stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout each spring.
There are seemingly endless water activities to do including kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. Water-skiing and tubing are permitted on Jarvis Lake.
Switzer Park Paddleboard Rentals offers canoe and kayak rentals near the boat launches.
There are three beaches in Switzer Park suitable for swimming at: Jarvis Lake Day Use Area, Kelley’s Bathtub Day Use Area, and Gregg Lake Day Use Area.
Interpretive Canoe Route
Jarvis Creek connects all five lakes in the park and offers a stunning paddling adventure. You can kayak, canoe, or paddle board an interpretive route which is approximately 4km in length. Those wishing to try this adventure should check with the Visitor Centre regarding the water levels. The route starts from where Hwy 40 crosses Jarvis Creek and ends at Graveyard Lake Campground. The interpretive route is the best part of Jarvis Creek for beginners with only a few small portages over beaver dams. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach the end and return.
More experienced canoeists can canoe all the way from Jarvis Lake to Gregg Lake. This is a much longer, more challenging adventure that travels through all five lakes of the park. Low water levels, sweepers and portages make this a more difficult event.
Switzer Park has over 13 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails from Kelley’s Bathtub day use area on Jarvis Lake Trail. The Joachim Valley trail from the Jarvis Lake campground to Black Cat Guest Ranch also offers ski trails. Check the Alberta Parks website for a trail report before heading out.
Hinton Nordic Centre
The Hinton Nordic Centre has over 35km of quality groomed trails for classic and skate skiing, a large day lodge, a warmup cabin on a beautiful viewpoint and a biathlon range. The trails provide excitement for all abilities from novice to expert levels. In this summer the trails offer opportunities for hiking and mountain biking.