From initially planning a trip to Disney and then having a pandemic bring the world to a standstill, the year 2020 will be one to remember for years to come.
Thankfully, our entire summer did not pass by without some fun.
Canada is blessed with a lot of opportunities to fill your senses with amazing natural sights and sounds. And, even the prairies have a lot to offer.
If you are planning a one-day road trip from Winnipeg, here are some fun things to do in Whiteshell.
For a multi-day road trip in Manitoba, the Riding Mountain National Park is a top-spot to add to your bucket list.
The national park in Wasagaming, Clear Lake, and the unique triple ecosystems in the area offer a tantalizing experience in the outdoors.
Read on to learn about some of the top attractions and activities you can do in and near the Riding Mountain National Park.
If you have some time to spare during your time here, be sure to check the things to do in Dauphin, a neighbouring town.
About Riding Mountain National Park
The Riding Mountain National Park is located about 270 km northwest of Winnipeg and is about a three-hour drive. The protected area is about 2,969 square kilometres and was established as a national park in 1933.
The unique ecosystem in the park is a mix of prairie grassland, boreal and deciduous forests with hundreds of animal species calling it home.
15 Best Things To Do in Riding Mountain National Park
During the 7 nights we spent in Wasagaming, we tried out various activities with our kids. Here are some of the best activities and attractions in the park:
- Clear Lake Beach
- Bison Enclosure at Lake Audy
- Ominnik Marsh Trail and Boardwalk
- Clear Lake Cruise
- Golf at Clear Lake or Poplar Ridge Golf Courses
- Canada Parks Red Chairs
- Picnics and Fishing at the Lakes
- Trail Biking and Hiking
- Historic Riding Mountain National Park East Gate
- Mini Golf with Kids
- Sunset at Clear Lake
- Explore on Horseback
- Tour Wasagaming
- Wishing Well
- Wildlife Sightings
1. Soak Up the Sun on Clear Lake Beach
Clear Lake is the crown jewel of the Riding Mountain National Park.
It borders the main beach and offers access to all sorts of fun activities including sunbathing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, boating, and more.
If you are visiting the park with little ones, they would love building sand castles on the beach and treading water in the shallow waters of the Clear Lake shoreline.
For even more fun, you can rent a motor boat, kayak, paddleboard or pedal boat at the Clear Lake Marina and venture out on the lake for an afternoon of fun!
2. Watch Bison at Lake Audy
Bison used to roam the Manitoba plains until they were hunted into extinction.
In 1940, a group of 10 bison from Elk Island National Park were re-introduced to the park in the Lake Audy Plain. About 40 bison now live on the 500+ hectare enclosure referred to as the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure.
It took two tries to Lake Audy, but we eventually saw the famed bison of the Riding Mountain National Park. A morning visit to Lake Audy seems to do the trick…follow the turn to the Bison Enclosure right at the entrance for your best chance at seeing them feeding.
Huge beasts they are!
3. Enjoy a Guided Martese Boat Cruise on Clear Lake
The afternoon Martese cruise costs $19 for adults, $12 for youth (13-17 years old) and $8.50 per child.
This interpretive cruise is one way to learn about Clear Lake and the park’s historical and cultural history. The cruise lasts one hour and you can make bookings online or at the Clear Lake Marina shop on-site.
They also have a two-hour Dinner Cruise that offers a 4-course meal and costs $70 for adults and $35 per child. The evening cruise runs between 5:30pm and 7:30pm.
4. Hike the Ominnik Marsh Trail
The Ominnik Marsh Trail is an easy hike for kids at about 1.9km roundtrip.
It has a boardwalk that loops through the marsh and offers a good view of the marsh and the animals that live there.
Watch out for frogs, beavers, insects, leeches, and a lot of other critters. This trail was very quite and we were the only ones present during our walkthrough.
5. Get a Photo-op at the Historic East Gate
The East Gate registration complex is the last log entrance to the Riding Mountain National Park.
Built in the 1930s with logs and stone walls, the East Gate Comples is located on Highway 19. It was designated as a national historic site in 1992.
6. Golf at the Park
The Clear Lake Golf Course is one of the most beautiful 18-hole golf courses you will find in Canada.
Located at 1 Johnnie Lawrence Drive in Wasagaming, you can book a tee time online or call them at 204-848-4653.
There was a men’s tournament ongoing at this course during our visit, so we opted to play at the Poplar Ridge Golf Course instead. It is just as picturesque.
At 6,642 yards, it offers several long par-5s and challenging elevated greens.
7. Enjoy Fishing at the Lakes
Freshwater lakes abound within the park and they are teeming with fish including walleye, perch, northern pike, and whitefish. We purchased annual fishing permits at a cost of $34.30 per adult.
It is worth noting that you will hardly find shore fishing opportunities in the park. If you are planning to go fishing, you will need a water craft such as a boat, canoe, or kayak to venture out onto the water.
Some of the main fishing spots we visited in the Riding Mountain National Park include:
- Lake Audy
- Moon Lake
- Deep Lake
- Lake Katherine
- Grayling Lake, and of course
- Clear Lake
Many of the lakes have picnic tables and firepits along the shore where you can have a picnic and barbeque or cook food over firewood.
8. Relax at the Wishing Well
The Wishing Well is a great spot for taking photos.
Right next to the Clear Lake Golf Course and the eastern shore of Clear Lake, you can relax and take in the views of Clear Lake from two iconic Parks Canada red chairs placed in a lovely garden.
Some of the best photos can be obtained here at sunset. If you take the Martese cruise, the captain usually points out Wishing Well when making the turn.
9. Explore the Backcountry on Horseback
Enjoy a guided trip into the backcountry on horseback.
Elkhorn Riding Adventures offers private rides and is located inside the park. The minimum age for riders is 12 years, so we passed on trail rides during our trip.
Their 1.5 hour “Thru The Tunnel” ride costs $100 and the longer 3 hour “Lake Shore Trek” has a $200 price tag. Reservations are required.
If you are bringing your own horse, you can also check out their boarding facilities as well.
A second horse riding service in Lake Audy, Trailhead Ranch, appeared to be closed while we were there.
10. Camp in Style in the Park
There are a multitude of camping sites where you can pitch your tent, park your trailer, RV or motorhome.
Wasagaming Campground is equipped with how shower washrooms, electricity, water and other amenities.
You can also check out Park Canada’s oTENTiks. These A-frame cabins are available in Wasagaming, Moon Lake and Lake Audy.
They offer a propane barbeque, electric heat, power outlets, lights, sleeping platforms, woodstove, and a table.
An oTENTik can be occupied by a maximum of 6 people and will set you back by $122.64 per night during peak season.
11. Enjoy Wildlife Sightings
Watch out for wildlife as you move around the park. This is bear country!
We observed black bears, coyotes, white-tailed deer, moose, a fox, bald eagles, and a garter snake. This is in addition to the various birds species seen as you navigate trails in the boreal forests.
Follow the warnings provided by Parks Canada, do not feed wildlife, and keep a safe distance.
12. Discover the Red Chairs
Look out for the red chairs placed in strategic locations around the park through the Red Chairs Experience Program.
You can find the chairs at Lake Audy, Wishing Well, Moon Lake, Deep Bay, Bald Hill, South Lake, the Visitor Centre, and a few other locations.
Here are the Red Chair Locations in the RMNP and their UTM locations.
13. Watch Sunset at Clear Lake
Seat on one of the docks butting into Clear Lake and watch the sunset. It is said that you can actually catch the Northern Lights in the skies above Clear Lake at night.
14. Hike The Trails
The Riding Mountain National Park has many well-maintained trails winding through its forests to the lakes – over 400km of trails.
Here are some of the popular ones:
- Brule Trail: 4.2km (we took the shorter 2.1km loop)
- Burls and Bittersweet Trail: 2.2km (another great one for kids)
- Kinosao Lake Trail: 3.9km
- Moon Lake Trail: 9.2km
- Grey Owl Trail: 14.2km
- George Creek Trail: 11.6km
- Bald Hill Trail: 9.5km
The mosquitoes we encountered on the trails are relentless! Be sure to carry insect repellent.
15. Play Mini-Golf
Play the 18-hole adventure mini-golf located close to the main beach at Clear Lake. Adults pay $7 and juniors pay $6.
There are also six outdoor tennis courts and a play structure for kids in the area.
The main townsite within the park has interesting shopping, restaurants, gift shops, accommodation, a log theatre, several boutiques, and more.
Places To Stay in Riding Mountain National Park (Wasagaming)
There are many places you can stay in Wasagaming including hotels, resorts, motels, cabins, bed and breakfasts, Parks Canada’s oTENTiks, and in your own accommodations using the campground.
We stayed at Idylwylde Cabins, one of the cabin accommodations directly across from Clear Lake.
You can also check out:
- Elkhorn Resort
- Arrowhead Family Resort
- Mooswa Resort
- Manigaming Resort
Where To Eat in Riding Mountain National Park (Wasagaming)
The town offers many great places to get a bite, from a quick breakfast to elaborate dinners and various lunch options.
BeaverTails: There are two BeaverTails locations at the park. Try the beaverdog and the various flavoured pastries shaped in the form of beaver tails, and poutine.
- Located at 115 Wasagaming Drive.
Joe Beeverz: Looking for great burgers or a pretzel charcuterie? They’ve got you covered.
- Located on Wasagaming Drive.
The Boardwalk on Clear Lake: Grab a pizza, hotdog, slushie, ice cream, smoothie, pizza, and more.
- Located at 138 Wasagaming Drive.
TR McKoy’s: This Italian restaurant offers tasty food with sizeable portions.
- Located at 117 Wasagaming Drive.
Barnaby’s Grille: Located in Onanole, Barnaby’s Grille offers great menu options for dinner. Their Thai Chicken and BBQ Pork Back Ribs were awesome!
- Located at 392 Central Road, Onanole.
The Chocolate Fox: Discover the best gelato here where it is made fresh from scratch.
- Located at 112 Wasagaming Drive.
Wigwam Dining and Lounge: I tried their bison burger and it was delicious. You can eat indoors or enjoy your lunch/dinner on the outdoor patio. The Wigwam restaurant was originally built in 1929 and is located at 132 Wasagaming Drive.
Other Places to eat include:
- Whitehouse Bakery
- Mano’s Pizza
- Foxtail Cafe
- Sportman’s RV Park and Restaurant
- Wok in the Park
Entry Fees to the Riding Mountain National Park
You need a park pass if you plan on spending some time at the Riiding Mountain National Park. Daily park permit fees in 2020 are as follows:
- Adult: $7.90
- Seniors: $6.60
- Family/Group: $16
- Youth: Free
If you are spending more than a day at the park, an annual pass may be cheaper. For example, we purchased an annual family pass for $80.23.
Considering that we were staying for 7 nights, it was a bit cheaper than the daily adult pass.
If you plan on fishing, be sure to get a fishing permit. The daily rate is $9.80 and it is $34.30 for the annual permit.
A Manitoba fishing license is not accepted at places managed by Parks Canada.