Hiking in Manitoba
What? You can hike in Manitoba? How can you hike on a flat plain? Yes! Manitoba does have some flat land (heck, we have a “Flatlanders Beer Festival”), but rest assured, you can have some pretty amazing hikes in this province, especially if you venture out of the Winnipeg Area, which is notoriously flat.
Manitoba’s geography ranges from the flat plains of the Red River Valley and the Portage Plains to the rocky forested outcrops of the Canadian Shield and the rolling hills and steep valleys of the Manitoba Escarpment, as well as the expansive shallow lakes in the interior and the forbidding tundra and seashore of Hudson’s Bay.
Pro Tip: don’t hike alone on Hudson Bay; you could be prey for polar bears!
All of these hikes can be managed by anyone who is reasonably fit. They are all-day hikes as well, so no camping is required (unless you want to, I’m not a camper myself).
5. Spirit Sands, Spruce Woods Provincial Park
This is a must-see, and it’s relatively short but still somewhat strenuous. There are 4 square kilometres of open sand nestled within Spruce Woods Provincial Park. It is a tiny remnant of thousands of miles that existed after the last ice age.
It’s often called Manitoba’s desert, but it receives too much precipitation to be a true desert. Still, you will find open dunes and tiny cacti, which, if you’re lucky, will be in bloom. It’s also home to the prairie skink, Manitoba’s only native lizard.
Logistics: Spruce Woods Provincial Park is 2 hours west of Winnipeg on Highway #5 and can be accessed from Highway 1 or 2. The Spirit Sands self-guiding trail is 6.5 km. You will need a Manitoba Parks Pass for entrance. Bring lots of water, as the sands can get very hot in summer.
Allow yourself 3 hours. If you want to hike to the Devil’s Punch Bowl, add a couple of hours for the total hike.
Know before you go: What to Pack for a Hiking Adventure
4. McGillivary Falls
McGillvary Falls is located on McGillvary Lake in the beautiful Whiteshell Provincial Park. The falls themselves are small but bucolic, and the trail has both a long and short loop. Take the long loop as it passes by the lovely McGillivary Lake (pictured above). Tip, go in spring so you can see the falls with the spring runoff. In dry years the falls dry up, although it still makes for a nice hike in the rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield.
Logistics: Whiteshell is 90 minutes east of Winnipeg, accessible by Highway 44. McGillivray Falls is located on #44, about 30 km north of Falcon Lake. The short trail is 2.4 km, and the extended trail is 4.1 km.
You will need a Manitoba Parks Pass for entrance. The trail can be wet, so wear waterproof boots. Allow yourself 3 hours for the extended hike.
Start planning your next trip by visiting Manitoba Tourism.
3. Gorge Creek trail.
What, a gorge in Manitoba? Well’s it not the Grand Canyon or even Ouimet Canyon, but it is a small gorge created from meltwater from the last ice age. Located on the eastern edge of Riding Mountain, it has some steep inclines. You will ascend over 1000 feet from the bottom to the top.
Pro Tip: the trail doubles back, so start at the bottom as it’s easier to go down to get back to your parking spot than to climb the equivalent of the Empire State Building on your way back to your car!
Logistics: Located close to the East Gate of Riding Mountain on Highway 19, about 3 hours from Winnipeg and 45 minutes from Wasagaming, is where you will find the trail. You will need a National Parks Pass as Riding Mountain is a National Park. Please note the East Gate is unattended, so if you access it from Highway 5, you can get a Parks Pass from the Tempo Gas bar in McCreary. Bring lots of water and be careful of poison ivy. Bears are very present in Riding Mountain, so bring a bell or bear spray. The total length is 11.6 km. Allow yourself 5 to 6 hours.
This hiking destination is located in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, as is McGillivray falls, but this is considerably longer and more strenuous. Bring sturdy boots, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous scenery as it hugs West Hawk Lake (Manitoba’s deepest lake, formed by a meteor) and Hunt Lake. The trail is very rocky and full of tree roots, so you really have to pay attention to your footing. But on a hot day, you can take a dip in either lake for a refreshing cool down.
The total length is 12.8 km, so allow yourself 5 to 6 hours to complete it.
Logistics: Hunt Lake is located 90 minutes east of Winnipeg on Highway 1. You will need a Manitoba Parks pass. Bring water or drink the water from West Hawk Lake and Hunt Lake at your own risk. It is a very rocky trail with many trip hazards. Do not hike in poor visibility.
1. Bald Hill.
Located in Riding Mountain near the Gorge Creek trail. Not to be confused with Baldy Mountain in Duck Mountain (Manitoba’s highest elevation). Bald Hill is a steep hill composed of shale with a spectacular view of the Manitoba Escarpment and the forested lowlands below. This hike begins relatively flat but ends up being pretty exhausting with the uphill sections. There are some very steep parts, so best to bring suitable footwear with you.
Logistics: It is on the same access road as Gorge Creek. The length depends on the access route – Bald Hill can be accessed by numerous trails. The shortest is about 11 km, following Reeve’s Ravine. Allow yourself 4 to 5 hours for the Reeve’s Ravine route.
Author: David Lyons
📸: David Lyons