I get to Manitoba often, but my trips are usually city based. So I was delighted when Faith of eHealthInformer.com asked if she could pen a story about the best hikes in the province.
Faith Macanas is a hiking enthusiast and a former North North Dakotan who spent her summers visiting family in Manitoba, so she has some great insight into the topic. Be sure to check out the eHealthInformer Facebook page or find her on Twitter @eHealth_Inform.
All words and images from here until the italics at the end of the post are provided by Faith Macanas. Photo credits are provided.
The word hiking usually conjures up images of strenuous climbs, spectacular views and tall mountains. These are not the first things that come to mind when thinking about Manitoba—Canada’s fifth largest province is largely a pancake. Its highest peak, Baldy Mountain, is just 824 meters, or 2,730 feet high.
However, thinking this means Manitoba doesn’t have some great hikes is just plain wrong and doesn’t give enough credit to our fellow prairie dwellers to the north. While you might not be able to earn a mountain climbing badge, the Manitoba wilderness is wild, protected and pristine. You’ll find waterfalls, lakes formed by underground rivers and deserts.
What’s more, there are some trails set up as museums to help you learn more about the area, which is always a great thing to do when heading to a new place. Let’s take a look at some of the best hikes in Manitoba so you can get out there and enjoy this beautiful province for all its glory.
The Mantario Trail
Largely located inside Whiteshell Provincial Park, this is probably Manitoba’s most intense trail. But don’t let that scare you away. Running along the Manitoba-Ontario border in southwest Manitoba, this trail extends 66 kilometers (41 miles) and usually takes hikers three to five days to complete. It passes alongside the rugged Canadian Shield, which makes for some interesting scenery but difficult hiking.
If you’re not looking for something so intense, consider doing just the first leg of the trail, which can be completed in about six hours. The main attraction of this trail is the awesome beauty of untouched wilderness—a large portion of the trail has been deemed a “Wilderness Zone,” meaning motorized transport and hunting are prohibited.
You’ll encounter beaver dams, dense pine and spruce forests, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see some wildlife, such as bald eagles. The trail also passes by Westhawk Lake and Caddy Lake, where those looking for a place to stay can find campsites and amenities.
Spirit Sands And Devils Punch Bowl Trails
Located in Spruce Woods Provincial Park just two hours west of Winnipeg and a short drive from Carberry, this is a great trail for day hikes and family adventures. When you get to the park, you’ll have a few options. You can either choose a three or 5.5-kilometer (around two to three miles) trail, but both will lead you to the main attraction, the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
While the name makes it sound menacing, it’s actually a very relaxing spot. It is a place where Canada’s immense underwater reserves come to the surface. You’ll find a lake with sharp blue waters and a waterfall emptying into a crater that seems to have been made supernaturally. Bring your lunch and spend some time here to enjoy all the peace and tranquility it has to offer.
On your way back, the trail brings you along the Assiniboine River and eventually to the outskirts of the Carberry Desert. Yes, that’s right, there’s a desert in Manitoba. You’ll find 30-meter sand dunes engulfed by an encroaching forest of pine, spruce and aspen. Honestly, there are times when you will feel like you are in the Sahara—this spot is really unique.
Pisew Falls to Kwasitchewan Falls Trail
If you’re looking for a hike to get away from it all, this is the one for you—the eight-hour drive from Winnipeg tends to keep people away. However, if you have the time, heading out to this trail is more than worth it.
In total, the hike is 22 kilometers (13.5 miles). It starts at the Pisew Falls, meanders along the Grass River and ends at the Kwasitchewan Falls, which at 14 meters high is the largest waterfall in Manitoba. Pisew Falls are more of a rapid—the river takes a turn, and the water level suddenly drops around 13 meters. So while this might not be a traditional waterfall, it is still quite impressive. And the soothing sound of the rushing water makes all the effort to get there more than worth it.
You can choose to do this trail in one day or several, as backcountry camping is available in several places. It might be a good idea to stretch it out, especially since it is so far from everything. Plus, more time means more chances to see wildlife. Different birds can be found in this area, and an observation tower near the beginning of the trail gives you the chance to see the occasional moose or even wolf.
Turtle’s Back Trail
For those looking for some mountains to climb but don’t need towering peaks, this is Manitoba’s offering to you. While Turtle Mountain only reaches an elevation of 240 meters (790 feet), it is the prominent summit in the area, and reaching the top provides some spectacular views of southwestern Manitoba.
What’s nice about this hike is you have options, and none are too difficult. There are six different trails to choose from, with the longest being 15 kilometers (just under 10 miles). The densely forested area around the mountain is home to diverse wildlife, which you might get to see if you’re lucky.
Campsites and other amenities can be found throughout William Lake Provincial Park, so consider going for a few days. In the summer, the park hosts events in the amphitheater and opens several boat docks and swimming areas. So think about going for a weekend with the family, as there is plenty to do outside of the Turtle’s Back Trail.
Hecla Island Trails
Located in Grindstone Provincial Park on the southern part of Lake Winnipeg, these trails offer the chance to see some incredible wildlife while also learning about the lives of settlers from way back when. However, what you experience depends on which trails you take.
If you’re more interested in learning, take the Hecla Village Self-Guiding Trail. This will bring you through the old settlements, and you’ll get the chance to see centuries-old icehouses, sawmills, a dockside fish station, a general store and much more. There is also a modern museum so you can learn more about the area. This trail is only one kilometer long, but it will take some time to walk depending on how often you stop to see the sights.
The other option, which is more of a hike, is the Grassy Narrows March. This is really a network of trails extending 25 kilometers through the protected areas of the park. Birdwatching here is great—you can see pelicans, terns, hawks, grebes, red-winged blackbirds and bald eagles, so make sure to bring your binoculars!
Find Your Own Trail
As you can see, allowing Manitoba’s “flat” reputation to discourage you from hiking the province is a huge mistake. These trails will give you a taste of the serene wilderness available in Manitoba or allow you to plunge deep into it (if you decide to take the Mantario Trail, for example.)
However, don’t let this list limit you. There are countless other trails scattered across Manitoba, and there are some still to be discovered. Download the app AllTrails onto your phone. It gives you a list of all the trails available, helps you with directions and offers you the chance to find and save your own trails if you are the adventuring type. The app tracks your location and other personal information, so use a secure connection, but it will help open you up to a whole new world of hikes and trails available in the beautiful and natural province of Manitoba and beyond.
Have you had the chance to hike any of these trails?
Are there any you’ve done in Manitoba not mentioned you’d like to share?
Tell the world in the comments below.
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