Explore Manitoba’s magnificent national park on the prairie and discover unspoiled nature you didn’t think still existed.
Stretching 3,000 square km, Riding Mountain National Park is a spectacle to behold. The beauty of its lush stretches of boreal forest, aspen groves, prairie, wetlands, and lakes prompted Canadian Geographic to declare it—brace for it—better than Banff.
As one of only five national parks with a resort townsite, Riding Mountain beckons every level of adventurer: wilderness buffs, foodies, relaxation seekers, and lake lovers. Yet what sets it apart is the feeling that somehow, you are the first to discover its treasures; there are no tourist throngs, no sky high greens fees, and at any moment, docile wildlife from deer to bison may appear.
In true Manitoba fashion, we don’t know how good we have it. Here are five reasons to set a course for the province’s most stylish wilderness retreat.
Driving west on Hwy 16, it’s easy to be awestruck by the wide open prairie sky and rolling fields. For Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk, the sight is a prime stretch of Manitoba farmland perfect for growing barley and hops. The farm boy brothers founded Farmery Estate Brewery, the first of its kind in North America, where every ingredient needed to brew crisp lagers and hoppy ales is sourced right from the farm and brewed on site. Signs next to the highway lead to hopyards where the bitter, citric flower used to flavour beer is grown, with ivy-like plants curled around trellises made from reclaimed hydro poles. Luckily at the brewery a few minutes away, free drop-in tours end with samples. The gear store stocks six packs, an impressive variety of Farmery apparel, and just-add-beer bread and brownie mixes made from, you guessed it, farm grown barley. farmery.ca
It’s essential to keep eyes peeled while rounding corners on the windy gravel highway that leads to Riding Mountain National Park. Otherwise, one might miss the sight of an alert deer in the centre of the road, or a baby black bear scampering into the brush. Provincial Trunk Hwy 19 has been the impressive entry point to the park, through the wooden turreted East Gate, since the early ’30s when the park was founded. Once inside, there are more than 400 km of trails to explore: steep hills and picturesque vistas for mountain bikers, forested paths for hikers, and a marsh boardwalk for those who prefer to stroll. Trail maps can be found on the Parks Canada website at pc.cg.ca.
Stay in Style
Two years ago, Karly McRae and business partner Collyer Construction bought a hotel and set about transforming the 1930s aesthetic into a space befitting searches for stylish and rustic retreats. Now at Lakehouse Boutique Hotel, cute suites furnished with reclaimed wood headboards and cozy kitchenettes are tucked above a chic lounge and an ice cream/smoothie bar. This summer a menu of simple lounge staples will be added to the mix (think charcuterie boards and hefty burgers). Settle on an Adirondack deck chair with a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between still-warm chocolate chip cookies and contemplate how perfectly this spot gives classics a modern twist. staylakehouse.ca
Charming townsite of Wasagaming beckons with sunny patios, boutique shops, and friendly locals. Luxuries amidst wilderness satiate cravings for souvenir hunters and gourmands. Good mornings start with a strong cup of organic coffee and a housemade cinnamon bun at Whitehouse Bakery. A walk around town reveals the continent’s only log cabin movie theatre, and sweet boutiques like Moon Lake Trading Co, stuffed with quirky lawn art and pottery by Manitoban artists. Foxtail Cafe (pictured above) is a local hotspot, a second location for owners Tyler and Julie Kaktins. New digs mean wood fired pizza, paninis, and shareable appies are just a short walk from the lake. For dessert, make a beeline for Chocolate Fox. Clear Lake swag and locally designed Manitobah mukluks and felted slippers fill half the shop, but the remainder of the room is devoted to a cooler filled with creamy gelato, made in store. Take your scoop of cioccolato down to the boardwalk for an equally sweet view of Clear Lake.
Ensconced in a sleek dining room with rich wood accents, it’s easy to feel pampered—even if the little ones are having French fries delivered to the table. Par for the course at Elkhorn Resort, where indulging ‘me-time’ and catering to the family are deftly balanced. Dinner at Ten Steakhouse reveals local signatures, like Manitoba pickerel topped with an aromatic pecan crust. An adults only spa offers a soak in the mineral pool or reinvigorating massage. Zig instead of zag, though, and zen becomes zany. A new family friendly waterpark complete with sprays and swirling slide makes squeals mandatory. elkhornresort.mb.ca