Manitoba boasts an impressive 90 provincial parks, each with its own unique features and draws. That’s a lot of land and lake to cover, so we’ve put together a list of gems to help you decide what park is right for you.
Hiking trails and a lighthouse
There’s no other way to describe this island retreat beyond peaceful and picturesque. Named after Iceland’s Mt. Hekla, there’s a rich history here dating back to its days of Icelandic settlement during the 1800s. Immerse yourself in Hecla’s past as you walk the self-guided trail of restored buildings, including its school, church, community hall, boarding house, and fish station. Hike to the Wildlife Viewing Tower Trail and approach a prime spot for viewing moose in their natural habitat. Let the awe of nature capture you on the Grassy Narrows Marsh Trails. Place your feet on the boardwalks with marshes on either side as far as the eyes can see. Discover the old limestone quarry of the West Quarry Trail with its towering aspen and white spruce. Journey along the Lighthouse Trail with its stunning views of the shoreline with Lake Winnipeg on one side and Gull Harbour on the other until you arrive at the island’s iconic lighthouse.
Shamanic shapes and sacred sites
Whiteshell is one of Manitoba’s most visited provincial parks. Some 2,000 years ago, it was a meeting place of First Peoples, who, through the placement of rocks depicting animal and humans forms, created what is now known today as the petroforms of the Whiteshell. These stones weren’t laid in the name of art, but as an act of worship. And there is something undoubtedly spiritual and supernatural about the Whiteshell, or as Indigenous legends sacredly revere it , the “place where God sits.” It is considered a place of teaching, healing, and a doorway to other worlds. While some of the original petroforms at Bannock Point near Nutimik Lake no longer exist, some Indigenous descendants have followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, recreating these formations.
Clear waters and self-guiding caves
While the words damp, dark, and mossy do not necessarily inspire one’s curiosity to explore, we encourage you to keep an open mind. A visit to Clearwater Lake will put it all into perfect perspective. The name Clearwater Lake is no mistake or play on words. It’s so clean and so clear that you can see straight to the bottom of this lake some 30-odd feet below. It’s fed by a spring and its cool, calm waters will soothe any worries and stress away. And here’s where the dark, damp, and mossy adventure begins. Whether you choose to do it first or last, the self-guiding trails, cave formations, and dolomite cliffs are a must-explore in this provincial park. The landscape of Clearwater Lake combines the rich greenery of moss-covered rocks littered with ferns, shrubs, and trees along the way, shaded crevices of cave openings, and light-coloured bedrocks of dolomite.
A beach and a boardwalk
Grand Beach is one of the top beach destinations during the summertime and its boardwalk gets some heavy traffic. Ask regulars what brings them to Grand Beach and often enough you’ll hear boasts of its beautiful white sands. Originally built in the 1930s, the boardwalk recently received a facelift, and is a great place for an evening stroll. And if you don’t fancy crowds, you can escape to a corner of Grand Beach where large dunes and plant life will allow for the privacy and quiet that you so crave. This family friendly location stretches for miles and miles all the way to Lester Beach and is a worthy rival to any tropical destination.
Baldy and breathtaking
Duck Mountain Provincial Park
At 2,725 feet above sea level, Baldy Mountain is Manitoba’s highest peak. Tucked away in the southwest corner of Duck Mountain Provincial Park, it’s 275 miles northwest of Winnipeg and part of the Manitoba Escarpment. The terrain is vast and beautiful with rolling green hills, thick woodland forests, and deep blue lakes. The shale core of this region is covered by highlands and valleys and is home to moose, elk, white-tailed deer, coyotes, lynx, timber wolves, black bears, foxes, and diverse species of birds. On a clear day, climb the viewing tower of this peak and you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of aspen and spruce forests that stretch as far as Riding Mountain National Park.
Cliffs, falls, and wilderness
The name, which in Anishinabe means “entrance to the wilderness,” says everything you need to know about Nopiming Provincial Park. While this park was, until recently, only accessible by water, bush plane, or winter roads, Provincial Road 314 will now transport you to this remote location of hills and ridges, ancient rock outcroppings, lakes and rivers, and Canadian Shield. The hike to Tulabi Falls is a quiet and scenic one. The peaceful location is brought to life by the laughter of thrill seekers as they jump off any one of the three cliffs that range in height from just under 5 feet to over 20 feet. And don’t be startled if you happen to glimpse any wildlife along the way, as this park is home to caribou, moose, black bears, timber wolves, and cougars.
Oasis in the middle of a dessert
Just two hours west of Winnipeg, and less than an hour from Brandon, Spruce Woods Provincial Park’s diverse landscape offers a unique mix of environments, from prairie grass to forested areas and parkland. Among the experiences to be had in this park are its desert-like sand dunes, the Spirit Sands, and eerie oasis the Devil’s Punch Bowl. The sands, remnants of the Assiniboine River, are now home to Manitoba’s only lizard, the northern prairie skink. While the hike through the sands is challenging, the experience is worth every step with its beautiful self-guiding trails, steep wooden steps, and differing landscapes. The blue-green water of Devil’s Punch Bowl is in stark contrast to the earthy Spirit Sands. The small lake is fed by a groundwater spring with a view from above that is nothing short of stunning.
Little islands and roaring falls
Paint Lake and Pisew Falls Provincial Park
Paint Lake is just over 18 miles south of Thompson in the northern part of the province and is the centrepiece of this provincial park. From its hidden coves and numerous islands, to its peaceful bays, beaches, and Precambrian forests, it’s the perfect place to plan your next getaway with lots to see and do. Beyond its allure as a picturesque destination, Paint Lake has a rich history as a trading post and canoe route, and is also the site of an historic fort. And while you’re in Thompson, it’s worth the while to make a stop at Pisew Falls Provincial Park. These majestic falls are a surprising discovery in this prairie landscape.
A chapel, a tower, and a campsite
Camp Morton’s historic buildings, sandy beaches, and boreal forests are full of charm. Those who know this park intimately can bear witness to its pristine gardens and impeccable surroundings, which also double as a campsite. If you’re planning a vacation that the entire family can enjoy, put Camp Morton to the top of your list. As you stroll through and appreciate some of this park’s historical fixtures like Camp Morton Chapel or the Water Tower and Engine Room, your kids will enjoy skipping through the Avenue of Urns, or spending a day at the beach.
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