Riding Mountain National Park is a 2,969km2 park located approximately 3 1/4 hours (274km) from downtown Winnipeg. We are so lucky to have such a quality national park in our back yard. We highly suggest making this a weekend (or longer!) trip, not because of the drive to get there but because of just HOW MUCH there is to do once you get there! Hiking, biking, beaching, boating, beaver tail eating, paddleboarding, movie watching, star gazing, wishing well-ing, walking, swimming, bird watching, moose sighting, ice cream eating, etc (and trust us, we could go on)!
Riding Mountain National Park is a nature lovers paradise and it can also be a lovely place to just kick back and relax. There are so many options for things to do that it makes it a great spot to go to as a group because people can split up and do different activities easily and there are also lots of great group-friendly activity choices. In Wasagaming (the main town site in the park), there are paddleboats, kayaks and paddleboards to rent, and dinner cruises to go on. There is a beautiful beach to build sandcastles and suntan on and beautiful clear water to swim in (there’s a reason it’s called Clear Lake!). There are a multitude of trails to bike, hike and walk on (including a very long and level paved trail along the waterfront). There are lots of great little shops, boutiques, restaurants and ice cream parlors. There are tennis courts and mini golf, and there is even a movie theatre housed in a log cabin (“The largest log cabin theatre in North America!”)! We were even lucky enough to enjoy some live music outdoors at one of the establishments.
There are many different accommodation options – cabins, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and of course – the campground! If you don’t have your own camper or tent, there are yurts (OTentiks), and even a Microcube! The Riding Mountain National Park Wasagaming campground is located within easy walking or biking distance to Wasagaming and the main beach. There are other campgrounds in riding Mountain National Park too – Deer Lake Campground, Lake Audy Campground, and Moon Lake Campground. Please note that Whirlpool Lake & campground is closed for the 2018 season.
We were able to enjoy a few hikes and bike rides on the trails. There are so many that we will need to come back to try the others. A few highlights for us included…
The Wishing Well at the east end of the lake which is an easy bike ride (or walk!) along a beautiful paved path. Here you will find a beautiful garden with paths, a stream, bridges, flowers, carvings, fairy gardens and of course a wishing well. This is an excellent place to relax. Don’t forget your coins and your wish list.
The old East gate is located at the east entrance of course on hwy 19. It is a unique structure stretching over the road and as you see it, it will remind you that you are entering a unique area. From here it is a twisting ride up the “mountain” and into the park (or if you drive from Wasagaming to the gate like we did, it will be a twisting ride down to the gate! Be sure to stop at the lookout at the top for a great view!). Just inside the entrance there are some trail heads that range from Burls and Bittersweet which is a short 2km interpretive hike to an over 20km (return) hike to East Deep Lake (maybe we will do this one next time!). The east entrance is a less travelled gravel road. It has numerous trail heads off of it and lots of opportunities to see some wildlife.
Moon Lake trail is located off #10 35km from Wasagaming, and close to the North Gate. This 9km trail circles moon lake and has amazing lake views (and delicious raspberries!). Watch for osprey and bald eagles taking advantage of the shore line. Moon Lake is also a location for another campsite area. The campsite and trail there were under Bear Watch warnings while we were there, and we saw plenty of evidence of that as we hiked around it! We also saw lots of moose tracks along the trail. If you enjoy seeking out the Red Chairs, they are located on this trail about half way through the hike. Please be bear aware on this hike or if staying in this camp ground (see tips and hints located at the end of this blog post).
The Boreal trail is also just off #10 and only 34km from Wasagaming. This is a short and accessible interpretive trail and boardwalk. Watch for moose enjoying the marshy area. *Hint – you will see paved “pull off” sections along the highway close to this area – scan the landscape and water areas here for Moose – there’s a reason that it’s common for people to pull off the road onto the shoulder here!
We were also able to enjoy the Lakeshore trail heading west from Wasagaming. A beautiful 3km single track trail along the shore ending in your own private beach…well until others read this blog and show up too!! To get to the red chairs on this trail we had to wade through a little bit of water.
So many more trails to the west that we did not even get a chance to check out…even a bison range. Does anyone have a recommendation for our next trip out there?
Our final recommendation for Riding mountain is to head down to the lake at sunset and enjoy watching it from the many public access docks along the south shore and path. Check out our photo of the gorgeous sunset that we were lucky enough to enjoy.
At any campsite you stay in, or trail that you hike on, you will need to be bear aware. Here are some tips and hints taken from the wildsafebc.com website that is extremely informative if you are worried about bear encounters and what to do, and how to prevent them.
- Camping in Front country/designated sitesUse bear resistant bins and/or follow food storage rules as set out at the campsite.
- Keep your campsite clean and odour free.
- Be aware of the activities of other campers – the food they leave out could very well bring a bear through your campsite. Report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate authorities.
- Do not have any food in your tent.
- Back country campingBefore choosing your site, do a walk around – a couple of circuits of increasing radius to check for signs of wildlife in the immediate area
- Do not set up along known wildlife corridors or in high use areas (look for tracks, scat, signs of feeding, etc.)
- Set up with good sight lines
- Cook and eat away from your tent
- Store all food in bear resistant containers and/or suspend from a line stretched between two trees. Make sure the bottom of your pack is at least 3m above the ground and 1.5m from the nearest tree.
- Do not have any food in your tent
- Keep the area clean and odour free
- When sleeping in your tent, have your bear spray and a flashlight in a readily accessible area.
- Talk or sing while recreating to let the bears know you are in the area. The sound from bear bells do not carry as far nor are as distinct as the sound of human voices.
- Be especially vigilant if you are walking alongside running water, in thick bush or if there is a strong wind blowing – in these circumstances a bear is less likely to hear you and a chance for a surprise encounter is greater.
- Pack out whatever you pack in: do not leave any organics behind – even though that apple core will rot and decompose, it could also be eaten by a bear that would then associate the smell of humans with a food reward.
- It is best not to hike alone in bear country. Just the fact that there are two of you in the area should help prevent a bear encounter. Some national parks set a minimum group size when hiking in bear country.