Camping and hiking are activities that my family and I used to do during the summers when I was a child. I loved most aspects of it – spending time in nature, hiking, bicycling, having campfires in the evenings, roasting marshmallows, and playing board and card games with my family. However, I wasn’t a fan of the bugs – mosquitoes in particular. When I began high school, I pretty much lost my interest in camping and we went on fewer and fewer trips.
For the past few months, I have really been craving to go camping again and see if I can re-spark that prior interest of mine and enjoy it again. So last weekend, my brother, his girlfriend and I all embarked on a weekend camping trip to the beautiful Riding Mountain National Park located in Manitoba (Canada), close to the border with Saskatchewan. This was my first time camping again since I was about 16 years old. It was an interesting and fun-filled experience!
This is my guide to camping, hiking, eating and shopping in Riding Mountain National Park. Keep reading to find out what I got up to during my camping trip. Enjoy!
About Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park is a large and beautiful Canadian national park located about 100 km north of Brandon in western Manitoba, Canada. It is filled with thick and rugged natural forests, fantastic and extensive hiking and biking trails, abundant wildlife (including bison, wolves, coyotes, foxes, moose, elk, bears and more), a bison paddock, a variety of campgrounds, and beautiful lakes. Inside the park and located along the shoreline of Clear Lake, there is a small, peaceful and charming town called Wasagaming, where you can find a variety of unique shops and restaurants, independent hotels/log cabins and tourist services.
The natural beauty at Riding Mountain is simply incredible and I had an amazing time experiencing it again, after so many years away. Riding Mountain is the perfect place to camp and/or hike if you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or solitude.
Getting To Riding Mountain
Riding Mountain National Park is accessible via Manitoba Highway #10. A car is essential for getting to the park, as there are no buses that service this route. A national park pass is required to enter the park and you can purchase either an annual pass (which allows you access to all Canadian national parks for one year) or daily passes at a kiosk along the highway, shortly after entering the park.
Day One – June 24, 2016
We started driving at around noon from my hometown to Riding Mountain National Park. The first portion of the drive was very unpleasant as I drove down a long and narrow loose gravel “highway” for almost an hour, thanks to the recommendation from Google Maps that it was the fastest route. Unfortunately, Google failed to take into account that you have to drive much slower on loose gravel, thus not making the route fast at all. I was relieved when I finally made it to the paved highway again! After that, it was smooth driving to the park. It was interesting to see how the landscape changed from the flat prairie farmland to rolling hills covered in lush green forests, as we got closer to the park. Even though I had been to Riding Mountain with my family when I was a child, I didn’t remember much of it. It didn’t even feel like I was in Manitoba and the scenery was so beautiful to drive through.
After the three hour drive to the national park, we drove around the Wasagaming campground, found a campsite that had a good amount of shade, was grassy and relatively close to the washrooms, and then paid for our stay at the campground office. Although the campsite appeared grassy, there was hard rock just beneath the surface which made it challenging to set up our tents and hammer the stakes in the ground. Other than that, the campsite was very nice and it was spacious and had a sturdy picnic table and above ground fire-pit. The campground itself was also beautiful with lots of of thick vegetation and tall trees.
After setting up our tents and getting organized, we drove to the nearby town of Wasagaming to browse some of the shops and check out the beautiful Clear Lake. The townsite was quaint but charming. There were two main streets – Wasagaming Drive and Ta-Wa-Pit Drive – which were lined with a variety of cute and independent local specialty shops (including lots of clothing boutiques) and a small selection of restaurants and cafes to eat at. There was a small and interesting museum along Wasagaming Drive, which had a few exhibits featuring stuffed wildlife that can be found in the park. The other streets in the town featured unique and local hotels, log cabins which could be rented and permanent residences. Clear Lake was visible from Wasagaming Drive and there was a manicured and pretty park-like area with paved paths, tall trees and grassy areas in front of the small beach along the shoreline of the lake. A boardwalk path separated the sandy beach from the park-like area, and the marina could be accessed from the far side of the beach.
We walked on a pretty trail along the shoreline of Clear Lake that passed through tall trees and had cottages/houses on one side and the lake on the opposite side. The water in Clear Lake was so clear (hence the name) and calm and it was so beautiful!
We spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening relaxing at the campsite. We ate dinner at the Wigwam Restaurant in Wasagaming and the chopped kale salad that I ordered was fabulous! Sitting on the restaurant’s outdoor patio along the street was peaceful and our server was very chipper and friendly, which made for a great experience.
The evening consisted of playing a card game at our picnic table, enjoying the campfire while roasting some marshmallows, and then heading to the lakeside just in time to witness a truly stunning and incredible sunset over Clear Lake! We found a small dock along the lake and sat at the end of it while admiring the beautiful orange and red sunset in a tranquil and serene atmosphere. It was an amazing first day at Riding Mountain!
During the night, we experienced a very strong and intense thunderstorm complete with bright flashes of lightning, loud claps of thunder and heavy rainfall. The storm combined with the loud chatting and laughter of people from a few campsites over at 2 in the morning, made it very difficult to sleep and I only got about 3-4 hours of sleep that night. On a positive note though, my tent stayed standing and remained dry despite the storm, which was awesome.
Day Two – June 25, 2016
After getting only a few hours of sleep during the night due to an intense thunderstorm with loud cracks of thunder, bright flashes of lightning and a downpour of rain, we were all awake early for the day. We ate breakfast at our campsite and then drove about ten minutes through a beautiful landscape with dense tree-covered hills and marshy areas in the valleys. I was really hoping to spot a moose or a bear along the way, but we had no such luck. I did see a mother and baby deer (with spots!) cross the highway on the drive though, which was really cool.
We arrived at the parking lot for the Arrowhead Trail, which was completely empty and we ended up having the entire trail to ourselves, while hiking in complete solitude while being surrounded by incredible nature.
Hiking the Arrowhead Trail was a wonderful experience and the nature was absolutely beautiful. The narrow and overgrown trail passed through dense forests filled with lush green vegetation. The scenery was stunning and everything smelled amazing and fresh from the heavy rainfall the night before. There were two small lakes along the trail which were hidden among the trees. As I hiked the trail, I felt like I was in a tropical rainforest somewhere but definitely not in Manitoba. The atmosphere while hiking was so serene and peaceful.
The roughly 4 km trail was a loop and ended at the same point of the parking lot where it began from. It took us around 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the hike. The trail was beautiful and it was definitely a morning well-spent!
Following our hike, we ate lunch at our campsite (for me, that consisted of some pre-made kale salad and bean salad which I had made at home prior to hitting the road), walked around the Wasagaming townsite once again and visited the small museum, and then began driving to the Bison Paddock near Lake Audy.
The drive to the Bison Paddock took around 45 minutes from Wasagaming and was primarily along a long and winding narrow gravel road through some beautiful scenery! There were thick forests on all sides of the road and at one point, I encountered a huge tree which had fallen across almost the entire road, forcing me to drive off the road to get around it. I figured that it must have fallen down during the storm the previous night.
We finally arrived at the Bison Paddock, which was a large protected area consisting of grassy fields and forests where a herd of bison roamed. It definitely felt like we were in the middle of nowhere as we were the only car around. We drove slowly along the gravel road leading through the paddock as I kept my eyes peeled for bison. I had really been hoping to see a herd of them, but unfortunately, I was only able to spot one lone bison standing by himself in the field. At least I got to see one!
Next, we drove a short distance from the paddock to Lake Audy, where there was a small unserviced campground on the edge of the large lake. The lake was pretty but not as beautiful as Clear Lake, in my opinion. I took some photos and then found a swing-set where we spent some time having fun and pretending to be kids again!
After the 45 minute drive back to the campsite, we relaxed by the fire before taking another stroll to Wasagaming. I sampled the banana strawberry flavour of hard ice cream from the Boardwalk Cafe ice cream parlour and then sat in one of the colourful lounge chairs overlooking the lake, which were lined up in a row outside of the cafe along the sidewalk. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon and perfect for ice cream! Following that, I took a walk alone on the Lakeshore Trail, which was located along the shoreline of Clear Lake. It was beautiful but super windy and uncomfortable at the time, so I decided to turn around and head back. On my walk back to the campsite, I spotted a red fox run right in front of me, which was very cool to see!
We ate dinner at the campsite and then wandered around Wasagaming while checking out the various activities going on for the local Moonlight Madness festival taking place that evening. There was a band playing cover songs along the street, all of the shops were open late, there were bouncy castles set up for children, a fashion show at a clothing boutique and giant board games situated throughout the town for anyone to join in and play. Although I didn’t participate in anything, it was fun to see and observe!
The rest of the evening consisted of sitting by the campfire and enjoying nature. The rain started again in the early evening which forced us into our tents and it continued all night and all of the next day.
Day Three – June 26, 2016
It was still pouring rain when I woke up and unfortunately, we decided to pack up and leave early, as it was not good weather for being outside or doing anything. Taking down my tent in the rain was not fun but I managed to keep it pretty clean and dry.
Before heading home, we stopped in at the Whitehouse Cafe and Bakery for a delicious and mouth-watering breakfast – one of the best I have ever eaten at a restaurant.
Overall, I had a fantastic weekend exploring, hiking and camping at Riding Mountain National Park and I am looking forward to returning again to do some more hiking!
Where To Stay
I camped at Wasagaming Campground in Riding Mountain National Park, which is the campground that is located closest to the town of Wasagaming and the beautiful Clear Lake. It is situated just a short ways (about a 5-7 minute drive) from the south entrance to the park.
Wasagaming Campground was a beautiful place to camp and I enjoyed its central location close to the townsite and Clear Lake, where there are a variety of restaurants, unique shops, the beach, hiking trails and other activities. We didn’t make reservations prior to staying there and after checking the online reservation system and seeing that lots of sites were still available, we decided to just show up and choose a site once we arrived. After finding out that the unserviced tenting campsites were closed due to construction (that was where we had planned on staying), we chose a grassy and nicely treed electrical site.
The campground was beautiful and there were lush green forests between the campsites and along the roads. The narrow roads leading to the campsites were in the process of being paved during my visit and the ones that had been paved looked great.
Our campsite (#136) had a grassy centre and was surrounded by trees on all sides. It was spacious and also featured an above ground fire pit and a sturdy picnic table. I really enjoyed it and it was a beautiful place to sleep!
The modern washroom building was centrally located in the campground, making it within easy walking distance from all of the campsites. The building appeared to be newer and it was so much nicer than the outhouse type of washrooms I was expecting! There were a number of stalls inside the building as well as sinks and mirrors and the washrooms were always clean. The building also had about ten showers located along one side of the building with separate doors leading to each individual shower. Inside the showers, there was a separate area when you walked in with a shelf and hooks to store your belongings, towel and clean clothes and then a spacious shower beyond that. You had to press a button for the water to begin running and the only unfortunate thing about the showers were that you were not able to control the water temperature and it changed on its own. I was lucky that I got hot water during my entire shower, but my brother had cold water during his shower, so perhaps the temperature depended on the time day (I took my shower during the mid-afternoon).
There were water taps situated along the roads throughout the campground with drinkable water – perfect for filling up my water bottle daily – as well as large garbage bins located at various spots within the campground.
Here is some information about the Wasagaming Campground if you have plans to camp there:
- The campground is open from mid-May to mid-October.
- Check-in time is 2:00 PM and check-out time is 11:00 AM.
- A variety of campsites are available including unserviced/basic, electrical, electricity and water, and electricity, water & sewer.
- A Parks Canada fee is mandatory to enter the national park. The daily fees for an adult are $7.80 CAD or $39.20 CAD for an annual pass (allowing you unlimited entry to all national parks and historic sites in Canada). You can read more about the fees here.
There are other campgrounds inside Riding Mountain Park as well including: They are all located further into the park and away from the town of Wasagaming. I would imagine that the facilities would be more rustic than those at Wasagaming campground as well and you wouldn’t have the nearby modern conveniences situated in town, like a grocery store, restaurants, laundromat, etc.
You can make online reservations at Wasagaming by clicking here.
In the town of Wasagaming, there are a number of hotels, resorts and log cabins available for rent. Here are a list of some of them:
- Lakehouse Boutique Hotel – 128 Wasagaming Drive.
- Mooswa Resort
- Manigaming Resort – 137 Ta-Wa-Pit Drive.
- Idylwylde Cabins – 136 Wasagaming Drive.
- Thunderbird Bungalows – 102 Mooswa Drive.
- Arrowhead Family Resort – 116 Wasagaming Drive.
- The Cottages at Clear Lake – 109 Ta-Wa-Pit Drive.
- Elkhorn Resort and Spa – Mooswa Drive.
Where To Eat
I ate an amazing breakfast at this restaurant on my last morning (Sunday) at Riding Mountain before heading home. The restaurant was situated on a quiet side street in the lakeside town of Wasagaming and was a bustling place on a rainy morning! Every table was taken during my visit, but it was probably because it was a rainy and chilly morning at the park and breakfast inside a warm restaurant seemed like a great idea to everyone. Thankfully, we only had to wait about ten minutes in a short line-up in order to get a table. The atmosphere was casual, comfortable and friendly.
I ordered the Sunrise breakfast meal which included two eggs, cubed hashbrowns, and toast. I substituted the toast for their homemade gluten-free rice bread and was impressed that they offered this option. I also ordered a side of fresh fruit. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly our food was prepared and served to us, despite how busy the restaurant was! Everything tasted absolutely delicious and I can honestly say that it was one of the best breakfasts that I have ever eaten at a restaurant. The gluten-free toast was especially yummy! The menu was extensive and offered a great variety of options for breakfast and lunch dishes. The service was also excellent – very friendly and attentive.
Overall, I had a lovely experience eating breakfast at Whitehouse. It was a cozy place to relax and enjoy a wonderful meal away from the dreary and rainy weather outside. This is an amazing gem of a place in Riding Mountain.
Location – 104 Buffalo Drive, Wasagaming (Riding Mountain National Park)
I ate dinner at Wigwam on my first night after arriving in Riding Mountain. This casual restaurant was located along the main avenue in the town of Wasagaming. I loved the rustic but modern log cabin appearance of the restaurant.
We chose to eat at a table on the lovely outdoor patio in front of the restaurant, but there was also booth seating inside the cozy and dimly-lit interior of the restaurant. The menu featured a large selection of dishes, including a variety of gluten-friendly and vegetarian meals. I ended up ordering the chopped kale salad and was very pleased with my choice! The salad had cranberries, nuts, and brie cheese along with kale and tossed with a sweet poppyseed dressing. It was delicious and the portion size was huge, so it was very filling. The service was fantastic and our server was super bubbly, personable, friendly and attentive.
It was a beautiful and warm evening and the patio was a lovely place to relax and enjoy a great meal. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Wigwam.
Location – 132 Wasagaming Drive, Wasagaming (Riding Mountain National Park)
The Boardwalk is a popular place to grab some delicious ice cream and treats in the town of Wasagaming! The restaurant was very inviting from the exterior, and there were a collection of tables to sit at outside in front of the building in addition to a row of colourfully painted lounge chairs set up along the sidewalk. It was always busy when I walked by.
I visited The Boardwalk on a beautiful afternoon and ordered a bowl of hard ice cream in the strawberry banana flavour. They had a variety of unique and interesting flavours to choose from as well as a variety of other ice cream treats and food. My ice cream tasted yummy and I enjoyed sitting on the colourful chairs while savouring the flavour and admiring the beautiful Clear Lake across the street from the restaurant.
This is a great place to go for dessert during the evening in Wasagaming or just for an afternoon snack on a beautiful day!
Location – 138 Wasagaming Drive, Wasagaming (Riding Mountain National Park)
What To Do In Riding Mountain
Explore the Wasagaming Townsite
Wasagaming is a quaint, charming and peaceful town located along the shoreline of Clear Lake inside the park and is the perfect place for taking a stroll and wandering the quiet streets.
A couple of the streets in the town (Wasagaming Drive and Ta-Wa-Pit Drive) were lined with unique, local specialty shops which included a trading post, variety of clothing boutiques and souvenir/gift shops, and a few local restaurants and cafes.
There is a small museum in the Visitor Centre along Wasagaming Drive, where you will find exhibits featuring a variety of stuffed wildlife that can be found throughout the park and the town also featured some services like a laundromat and gas station.
Check out a movie at the town’s Park Theatre (117 Wasagaming Drive), which is located inside a rustic and charming log cabin.
There are also some smaller residential streets in the town where there are small and unique hotels and log cabins available for reservations, in addition to a variety of permanent cottages.
I enjoyed wandering the streets while browsing the cute little shops, enjoying the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere and checking out some of the residential streets and unique houses/cottages.
Check out Clear Lake
Clear Lake is the largest lake in Riding Mountain National Park and is situated just steps from the town of Wasagaming. Clear Lake is a beautiful place to relax, explore and take in the natural beauty around you.
A long boardwalk/marina juts out across the lake, offering some great views of the entire lake and gorgeous surrounding scenery.
On the marina, there are pedal boats and kayaks available for rent from a small wooden hut. Along the shoreline of the water, there is a public beach and roped off swimming area of the lake and between the beach and the town, is a quiet and lovely park area with benches for seating and lots of tall trees.
The Lakeshore Trail also begins from the shoreline of the lake as it runs directly alongside the water’s edge. Along the trail, there are small docks which are great places for relaxing while admiring the beautiful scenery or checking out the amazing summer sunsets in the evening.
Clear Lake is a beautiful area and I enjoyed walking along the beach, checking out the marina, relaxing on one of the benches in the park, and hiking the Lakeshore Trail during my weekend in Riding Mountain.
Drive Through the Bison Paddock
Riding Mountain National Park features a bison paddock – a large and spacious enclosed area consisting of wide open grassy spaces and forested areas – located about a 45 minute drive north of the Wasagaming townsite and campground. From the Wasagaming Campground, you drive north along Highway 10, then turn left on Lake Audy Road and drive along this narrow and winding gravel road until you reach the paddock. It is very close to Lake Audy as well.
Go for a Hike Through Nature
There are plenty of fantastic hiking trails in Riding Mountain National Park, ranging from short and easy half or full day hikes to longer and more challenging multi-day treks. The landscape in the park is beautiful and consists primarily of thick and rugged forests.
I thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Arrowhead Trail and loved the peaceful atmosphere and the gorgeous natural beauty surrounding me. I also enjoyed my lovely strolls along the Lakeshore Trail along Clear Lake and near the Wasagaming townsite. I am looking forward to returning to Riding Mountain in order to hike more of its wonderful trails including the: Kinosao Trail, Bead Lakes, Kippan’s Mill, Gorge Creek, Grey Owl and more.
Liked It? Pin It!
Have you camped, hiked or visited Manitoba’s beautiful Riding Mountain National Park? What was your experience like?
I would love to hear your thoughts about this article in the comments below! Remember to also follow me on social media to see my latest updates about where I am exploring and adventuring – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks for reading and happy trails!