Manitoba = wilderness — and wide-open skies, and fields, and epic fishing. From its farmlands in the south, the mid-Canada prairie province stretches all the way up north to the Arctic. It’s filled with lakes and rivers, migrating caribou and Arctic fox, mountains and forest, all preserved in 80 provincial parks. Not surprisingly, top pursuits are camping, fishing, canoeing, cycling, and hiking, plus watching polar bears and belugas frolic in Churchill.

 

On foot is one of the best ways to appreciate Manitoba’s nature. While the hardcore can tackle eastern Manitoba’s fabled five-day Mantario Trail in Whiteshell Provincial Park, for the rest of us, here’s some of the best hiking Manitoba has to offer:

Giant Sand Dunes - Western Manitoba

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Enormous sand dunes make even the biggest curmudgeon want to roll down them. Give it a try at Spirit Sands at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, two hours west of Winnipeg near Brandon. These dunes are 100 feet tall! Take one of two easygoing hikes, best in fall: either the two- or 3.5-mile out-and-back from the Seton Bridge trailhead, passing cacti and the greenish-blue 150-foot deep Devil’s Punchbowl, part of an underground river system.

Island Time - Southern Manitoba

It’s fun to have a target, and yours can be the lighthouse on Hecla Island on one of Earth’s largest bodies of fresh water, Lake Winnipeg — with rocky beaches, frog-spotting and bird watching along the way. The historic island settled by volcano-fleeing Icelanders in 1876 is just 90 minutes north of Winnipeg. Go in the summer and choose from five amazing trails: the most pristine is 13.5-mile Black Wolf Trail, crossing marsh and woods. The easy four-mile out-and-back Lighthouse Trail takes you to a picturesque corner of Gull Harbour. Bring a picnic.

Prairie Oasis - Southwestern Manitoba

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Spend the day wandering through aspen forests and past serene lakes on the Disappearing Lakes Interpretive Trail. It’s just one mile, but you’ll want to take more than an hour to enjoy the tranquility. Expect moose, diving cormorants, meadows, bog boardwalks, and grassy paths. The trail is just over the U.S. border in Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, a lovely pocket of green surrounded by miles of open prairie land.

Eco-diversity - Southwestern Manitoba

Local trekkers call it the best in Riding Mountain National Park: eight-mile up-and-down Gorge Creek Trail meanders through multiple ecosystems resembling dense Costa Rican rainforest, then ascends 1,000 feet up the Manitoba Escarpment to panoramic views of the gorge and plains far below. Look for tracks because bear, moose, and wolf are aplenty, and don’t forget to snap a summit pic.

Waterfalls - Northeast Manitoba

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If you’re game for something more challenging, strap on your backpack and tackle the 14-mile falls-to-falls overnight hike straddling Paint Lake and Pisew Falls Provincial Parks. This one is for intermediates hoping to get off the beaten path. The trail starts at Pisew Falls, winding along the famed 1700s fur trading route Grass River to Kwasitchewan Falls. It’s do-able in one long day, but much more enjoyable as a one-nighter at a free backcountry campsite — plus, you get a look at Manitoba’s two highest cascades.

Luxe Hiking - Eastern Manitoba

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Mix upscale R&R with your outdoor endeavors at Inverness Falls Resort on Brereton Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park. Two hours from Winnipeg,  you can overnight by the fireplace in your private water-view chalet, then start the 3.4-mile Amisk/Inverness Falls Trail from your doorstep. The loop passes Canadian Shield rock and forest leading to the Rennie River. Après-hike, soak in your massage tub-for-two to the call of loons. Who says hiking is just about roughing it?

 

If you’re longing to disconnect and recharge with Mother Nature, Manitoba delivers. But it’s not all or nothing — you can always add some urban adventures en route to your wilderness retreat.

Start planning your outdoor adventures at the Travel Manitoba website.

Photo: Sancho McCann via Flickr under CC BY 2.0

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