8 Reasons to Add Riding Mountain National Park to Your Bucket List
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 travelers, all year long.
Just under three hours from Winnipeg, this expansive park — it’s over 1,800 square miles in size — is where prairies, forest, and parkland meet. Though it’s a bit of a drive, the site itself 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. Plus, there are events, like a film festival, and natural wonders to keep you entertained.
Need more reasons to add this park to your Canadian to-do list? Here are a few.
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, mixedwood forest, and eastern deciduous forest -- all protected within the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve. Spend your morning among the trees, then head out onto the plains for an afternoon of sun.
2. Soak up summer activities
If you’re visiting Manitoba this summer, this park can provide you with just about any adventure you seek. Hike over 250 miles of trails (we recommend the Gorge Creek Trail for some epic scenery), find a cycling route (there are lots for just about any level), 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 along on your vacation up north isn’t always ideal, so we’re a fan of unique outdoor accommodation instead. If you want 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 post up in one of these unique accommodations that will keep you off the ground, but still immersed in nature. Plus, this park includes a 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 on a sunny afternoon, 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 just as 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. Definitely bring your camera on this trip!
5. Spot tons of wildlife
Though plenty of animals are active in the winter, 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, that are usually along the roads around Lake Audy. In the same area, there’s also a herd of plains bison you can visit. 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, like at Lake Katherine, Lake Audy, or Moon Lake, but Clear Lake is definitely the favorite. 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 enjoy it amongst the trees. Or, 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, you’ll be able to 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 a ton of fun ways to connect with other like-minded travelers. Bookmark the events page and see what’s happening next.
8. Be dazzled by the Northern Lights
A bucket list goal for most travelers, this park is a great spot to catch the Northern Lights. Head out onto the dock and look up at the colorful painted sky above. If you miss the show, don’t worry, the stars are still a sight to behold.
No matter the season, and no matter what type of trip you like best, Riding 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.