Building sandcastles as water laps at the tranquil shoreline, rounds of mini golf under a bluebird sky and late-night ice cream runs are summer staples, and you’ll find all this and more in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP).
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This beloved getaway is a three hour drive east of Winnipeg and especially popular when the hot weather hits, making it one of the most popular national parks in Manitoba.
Here, you’ll find shimmering lakes, thick forests surrounded by the vast, golden fields the Prairies are famous for, and plenty of wildlife spotting with the likes of black bears, deer, elk, wolves, moose and even bison calling the park home.
It’s also part of the Riding Mountain UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, spread out over 15,000 square kilometres which includes the parks, 12 municipalities and four First Nations.
The town of Wasagaming (pronounced wah-saw-gah-ming) is in the heart of the action, and this idyllic, family-friendly spot is the perfect base for exploring RMNP and enjoying all the activities on its doorstep like water sports, hiking, cycling and rejuvenating sauna sessions.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning the ultimate summer adventure in Wasagaming and Riding Mountain National Park.
What to do in Wasagaming Manitoba
RMNP is one of only five national parks in Canada with a resort townsite, and while Wasagaming may be small in size it’s big on charm. Much of the townsite and its landmark buildings were built during the 1930s in the Rustic Tudor style.
A couple dozen restaurants, lodges, gear outfitters and souvenir shops line the main strip along Wasagaming Drive, which is anchored by the Parks Canada Visitor Centre.
Inside, staff share advice on the best trails, road closures and important info about bear safety, and there are also interpretive displays about the history and significance of the park.
A green, leafy park across the road leads to Clear Lake, where a sandy shoreline awaits. The beach is action-packed on sunny summer days, and while the water is cold year-round it’s still full of kids splashing around to beat the heat.
Kayaks, SUPs, motor boats, pontoons and pedal boats are available to rent at The Clear Lake Marina, which also offers afternoon and sunset cruises aboard the Martese.
Other fun things to do in Wasagaming are playing pickle ball or tennis in the park, testing your putting skills on the neighbouring mini golf course, renting an eBike to explore the surrounding trails and going for a nature walk.
For a quick nature fix, head over to Ominnik Marsh where a floating boardwalk winds through the marsh and has dreamy photo-ops. The flat trail is less than two kilometres long and starts conveniently right at the edge of town, making it a great option for all ages.
When it comes to great eats, local faves include Lakehouse, 1929 Dining & Lounge and Canoe which all have huge outdoor patios. Try T.R. McKoys for Italian fare, and there’s always a lineup outside of Whitehouse Bakery thanks to their iconic cinnamon buns.
For dessert, grab a cone at The Boardwalk or a sweet treat at Velvet Dip which serves up specialities like the Fluffy Bunny which is a waffle bowl filled with cotton candy and a vanilla sundae, then drizzled with sprinkles, gumballs and cotton candy dip.
Fun things to do in Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park is at the intersection of three ecosystems (aspen parkland, northern forest and deciduous hardwood forest), and there are all sorts of scenic drives and wooded trails to explore.
Enjoy a round of golf, cycle around Clear Lake, drive up Highway 10 to go kayaking on Grayling Lake, meander across the suspended cable bridge on the Burls and Bittersweet trail or try and spot bears around Moon Lake.
Those who hike the Brûlé Trail to Lake Kinosao will even find a canoe waiting on the shoreline, which is free for visitors to use.
One of the best things to do in Riding Mountain National Park is head over to Lake Audy to see bison. Millions of bison once roamed the prairies, but were nearly driven to extinction during European settlement in the 1880s.
There is now a protected herd living in the Lake Audy enclosure, which are important for the health of the surrounding grasslands. Head out at dawn or dusk when they’re most active to see the animals during a self-drive safari.
No trip to RMNP is complete without visiting the iconic East Gate which features twin turret-like cupolas. The rustic lodge entrance dates back to the 1930, was built by local craftsmen and has been designated as a National Historic Site.
Gorge Creek is nearby, and considered to be one of the best hikes in Riding Mountain National Park. The trail features a deep gorge cut into the Manitoba escarpment, has great views and meandering creeks and takes about three hours to complete.
Back near Wasagaming, swing by the Wishing Well which has tranquil gardens, a bridge and a well where visitors can throw coins which are then donated to help preserve the park.
Note: Roads can sometimes get washed out in the park, so check ahead with Parks Canada for up to date information on closures.
Riding Mountain National Park camping
There are quite a few campgrounds in Riding Mountain National Park, with options ranging from rugged to equipped sites and even what’s essentially glamping.
There are more than a dozen backcountry campsites, and five developed ones: Lake Audy, Moon Lake, Wasagaming, Deep Lake and Whirlpool Lake.
The Wasagaming Campground is the closest to town, just a short walk from the main street and Clear Lake. Along with its convenient location, it also has some of the most unique accommodation in Riding National Park with a yurt, oTENTiks and the micrOcube.
A micrOcube is similar to a tiny home, but without a kitchen or bathroom. The double bed sleeps two people, and there’s a desk with chairs, power outlets, lights and huge floor-to-ceiling-windows.
The site has a fire pit, picnic table and front deck with a bistro table. Public restrooms and showers are close by, and guests bring their own bedding.
This is one of only three Parks Canada campgrounds in Canada that has a micrOcube (the others are in BC and Quebec) which makes staying here a unique and memorable way to stay in Riding Mountain National Park.
Another popular option is booking one of the oTENTiks which sleep up to six people, making them ideal for family gatherings. These A-frame, canvas-covered cabins have heat, electricity and a table, and some also have wood stoves so they can be used year-round.
There are oTENTiks at both Wasagaming Campground and Moon Lake Campground, and some are pet-friendly. The lots are quite large and have a picnic area with space to set up a dining tent. Be sure to pack bedding, and camping chairs for those long nights spent gathering around the fire pit under a star-filled sky.
Accommodations in Riding Mountain National Park
If camping isn’t your style, there are a handful of hotels and resorts in and around Wasagaming. Most are set up well for families, with standalone cabins or rooms with a separate lounge area with pullout couches.
Mooswa Resort: The A-frame chalets at Mooswa Resort are standouts, and there are also cabins and suites that accommodate at least four people. On-site amenities include a large swimming pool, fire pits, BBQs and easy access to the bike trails. Click here to book
Lakehouse: Lakehouse has an incredible location on Wasagaming Drive, just a two minute walk from the beach. The 15 guest rooms are modern yet have a cozy cabin vibe, with separate lounge and kitchenette areas.
Soundproofing can be an issue, so reserve a room on the upper level if possible. Lakehouse also has a great restaurant, coffee shop and hot tub. Click here to book
Globe Guide explored Winnipeg as a guest of Travel Manitoba and Tourism Winnipeg. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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