“Phenomenal Gem”: Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area

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The zebra stripe pattern on Landon Hildebrand’s racing cap matches that of his roof rack.

“That’s the joke. You show up anywhere, to any trail team, and it’s a little known,” says the ultra-marathoner.

But four years ago, Hildebrand wouldn’t have dared to call himself a distance runner, or a runner at all.

The Edmonton psychologist knew he was spending a lot of time sitting around with his day job as a counselor and needed to get out and move, so he bought a pair of shoes. He started coming to Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area not far from his home.

“If you’re not running, you’re hiking, so there’s no one to tell you that you’re walking, then you feel good,” he says.

Hildebrand says these outings led to a five-kilometre trail run, then longer distances and the creation of a racing group now has more than 600 members. He also partners with The Chickakoo Lake Run, hike, bike, fun Facebook group posting trail conditions and events for the recreation area.

He says the community and this “phenomenal gem” of a space are the secrets to his fitness success.

“This park specifically brought me to Edmonton and the Parkland County area, which is why I fell in love with our province.”

Discover the Lake Chickakoo Recreation Area west of Edmonton, Alberta. 1:52

You can see more of the Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area in this week’s edition of Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem. Many other fun winter locations can be found on this map of 50 Sizzling Places to Skate, Ski, Stargaze in and Around Edmonton.

Nestled in the mixed forest an hour west of Edmonton, Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area is a 200-hectare area dotted with lakes and home to moose, deer, beavers and a wide variety of birds.

There are restrooms, picnic areas, 11 km of groomed cross-country ski trails and year-round fishing. Dogs must be kept on a leash and the equestrian trails are closed in winter. It is a free-access day-use area with ample parking managed by Parkland County.

Clear signage and amenities like fire pits, picnic areas, and restrooms make the Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area a solid choice for an outing. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“There are about 10 km of great wide trails, on which you can do everything from buggies to sleds, and about 11 to 14 km of single track trails on which you can run, snowshoe or bike,” explains Hildebrand.

With the weather warming up, this is the racquet Caleigh Pagnucco and her daughters came for.

“It’s peaceful here. It’s lovely. It’s a good close option for people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain to hang out and do some recreational activities,” the mother-of-two says.

Pagnucco says they’ll spend a few hours circling the lake, having snacks, and building snow forts. She says that during the pandemic, these kinds of outings have been a must.

“Life is a little crazy right now with everything going on,” she says. “Everything is in a state of flux. I guess COVID has taught us that we have to be flexible.”

Snowshoeing sisters Mara Pagnucco, 4, and Lu Pagnucco, 6, enjoy the warm weather at Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area, west of Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

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