All Canadian parks are worth at least a day trip, but Riding Mountain National Park in the Wasagaming community of Manitoba is special enough to warrant a much longer stay. Whether you’re exploring the boreal forest under the summer sun, or ice fishing on Clear Lake in the winter, this park’s diverse scenery and nature make it a destination for all types of travellers, in all seasons.
Just under three hours from Winnipeg and more than 2,890 square kilometres in size, this expansive park is where prairies, forest, and parkland meet. It is one of only five national parks that offer a resort townsite, which means it has all the amenities you need for a completely comfortable stay. Looking for ice cream? This park’s got it. Comfortable camping? You can find that here too, along with events, festivals, and endless natural wonders.
Here’s why you should add this park to your Canadian to-do list.
1. Explore three ecosystems in one park
Looking to explore Canada’s wilderness, but don’t have time to hop from province to province? The nature found in Riding Mountain National Park represents three distinct ecosystems: grasslands, mixed-wood forest, and eastern deciduous forest, all protected within the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve. Spend your morning among the trees, and then head out onto the plains for an afternoon of sun.
2. Soak up summer activities
If you’re visiting Manitoba this summer, the park will provide you with just about any adventure you seek. Hike more than 400 kilometres of trails (we recommend the Gorge Creek Trail for some epic scenery), find a cycling route, hop on a horse with equipment from a local outfitter, play a game of golf, challenge a friend to a match of tennis, or catch your dinner while fishing on one of many lakes or rivers. From sunrise to sunset, you’ll find something to keep you busy, even if it’s as simple as taking a swim, lounging on a blanket, or enjoying a frozen treat.
3. Camp in comfort
Toting a tent isn’t always ideal, but if you’re keen for something a bit more rustic than a lodge, try out the park’s one yurt or one of many oTENTiks canvas A-frame cabins. For a nightly fee, you can bunk down in one of these unique accommodations that will keep you off the ground, but still immersed in nature. Feeling hungry? The townsite that serves up some very tasty eats. Start your morning off with a unique cinnamon bun at Whitehouse Bakery (just be sure to get there early!), chow down on an ice cream cookie sandwich at Lakehouse Ice Cream Parlour, or reward yourself after a long day of hiking with a wood-fired pizza at FoxTail.
4. Walk (and ski and fish) in a winter wonderland
Not just for summer, Riding Mountain National Park is equally picture- perfect during the colder months. Head out on a snowmobile to ice fish on Clear Lake, then explore the cross country skiing trails. If you opt to ski, start your adventure off in the heated base cabin, and bring snacks for the warming shelters along the way. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled during your snowy adventures as you may spot moose, wolves, elk, or owls. Camera essential!
5. Spot tons of wildlife
Riding Mountain National Park is bustling with animal activity all year round. Head out in the early morning, the best time to spot the park’s wildlife, and look out for black bears, lynx, otters, and foxes, as they meander along the roads around Lake Audy. Visit a herd of plains bison in the same area. This special spot is devoted to the reintroduction of this native species to their prairie environment. While you’re enjoying this experience, remember, you’re in these animals’ habitat, so be mindful of your footprint on their environment, always keep your area clean, and be bear aware.
6. Relax, swim and take in the view
Swimmers rejoice! There are many spots to take a dip around the park, such as Lake Katherine, Lake Audy, or Moon Lake. Clear Lake is a stand-out, with sandy beaches and clear water (as its name indicates), you’ll love spending a day on the shores and enjoying the vistas that surround you.
Not up for a swim? Pack in a picnic and relax amongst the trees. Be on the lookout for red adirondack chairs that are scattered in throughout the park where you can stop and enjoy the view. If you’re not up for a hunt, there’s a handy printable map. No matter what you do, be sure to stop by the East Gate Complex for a photo op of the park’s 1930s-style National Park gate.
7. Enjoy a special event
Throughout the year, join in on special events in the park. Whether you catch a film at the festival in July, an outdoor concert in August, a spooky event in October, or the bird count in December, there are many of fun ways to connect with other like-minded travellers. Bookmark the events page and see what’s happening next.
8. Be dazzled by the Northern Lights
A bucket list goal for most travellers, this park is a great spot to catch the Northern Lights. Head out onto the dock and gaze up at the colourful painted sky above. If you miss the show, don’t worry, the stars are still a sight to behold.
No matter the season, Mountain National Park is a great place to add to your itinerary. Head into the wild, enjoy luxurious camping, and truly experience Canada’s natural wonder.
Looking to explore more of Manitoba? Visit the Travel Manitoba website for inspiration.