The first camping trip of the year started off at a park I have never visited before. Riding Mountain National Park is Manitoba’s only National Park and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally visit it. It had been my birthday on the Friday of the May long weekend so we didn’t leave until Saturday morning. It’s nice not to rush right after work and we could take our time doing a little bit of birthday celebrations with my family.
My family drove out in the RV and Mr. Darcy, Fionn and I drove out in our own vehicle. It took us about 3.5 hours to drive from Winnipeg with a few short pee breaks for Fionn. Once we got past Brandon the drive became more interesting and beautiful. The leaves were just starting to appear on the trees and the hills in the distance had a slight tinge of green to them. I didn’t do a lot of research for this trip so I was relying on the park guides to provide directions and maps. We paid our park pass and picked up our camping permit at the Wasagaming Campground. Super easy and the park staff gave us all the information we needed.
My family missed the turn off to the campground so they drove a good distance of the park way until I called them wondering what happened. So Mr. Darcy and I explored our campsite while we waited for them to turn around. Overall the campground was very spacious, nice hot showers, modern washrooms, firewood available for purchase ($8 a bundle), lots of picnic shelters and wonderful walking trails that take you right into Clear Lake. We didn’t bring out bikes but they would have come in handy for going into town easily instead of driving.
As soon as we all got settled in we headed right into Clear Lake for a walk around. We went to the Visitor Centre first to see the exhibit of the local wildlife and take some photos of the beautiful building. Everything is really close so we walked the town in a couple of hours. We stopped at the gift shops of course, the pier at the beach and several little photo spots.
Dad, Darcy, Fionn and I even got a quick hike in down the Ominnik Marsh Trail. Lots of birds and a beautiful boardwalk through the marsh. Was a nice break from the tourist town.
My Mom had remembered there was an area where you could view the bison roaming wild. We looked it up on the map and decided we had a few hours to drive there and hope we could catch a glimpse of the bison. The road was gravel for a good 20 kms and very winding. We kept wondering if we were headed the right direction and if we should just turn back around since we hadn’t seen any signs for a long time. We took 2 cars and I got to the gate first but noticed the second car wasn’t behind me anymore. Turns out they spotted a black bear just off of the road and stopped to take some photos. I was worried they threw in the towel and turned back. Once they caught up we drove slowly through the bison range. Right off the bat we spotted a small herd of about 5 bison. They were shedding their winter coats and were a lot larger than I was expecting. Especially the ones with horns! It’s a nice short drive through the range and we stopped at a nice viewing platform but the bison were all right at the entrance. So we drove back and took a ton of photos until our stomachs started growling.
Then it was time to head back and start preparing dinner at the campsite and a fire to end a relaxing first day at Riding Mountain National Park. Dad and I talked about our plans for the next day and we had an idea to get up at 5am to view the wildlife. Could we get up that early?
We sure did! At the crack of dawn we jumped in my car and somehow Darcy managed to drag himself out of bed and came along for the ride. We got to see the sun rise. That never happens! We drove down the parkway and already spotted several deer grazing in the ditches. We turned off down the bison range road and stopped to view the lake. The colours of the sunrise tinted the water pink and we watched a beaver swimming past. So beautiful!
Off we went back down the long winding road to stop at some of the marshy areas in hopes to glimpse a moose. We did happen upon an elk that walked out on the road and then immediately ran away. Elk are huge! That was the first time I’d seen one in the wild. We stopped at the marshy area and Dad and I got out and walked down by the creek. The birds were chirping and singing away. It was so silent otherwise and really wonderful to listen to the peacefulness of the early morning. No luck seeing any other wildlife so we headed back to the campsite for a nap and then breakfast several hours later.
Time for an afternoon hike! Dad, Darcy, Fionn and I headed over to the Brûlé Trail for a 4.2km hike through pine tree forest with a view of Lake Kinosao. I took lots of photos and had fun with Dad singing hiking songs or at least we were trying to make some up. Always important to make noise when there are lots of bears in the area.
Speaking of bears, on our way back I spotted movement in the distance on the side of the road and it turned out to be a mother black bear and two cubs! Wow! Darcy grabbed my camera for me and thankfully my zoom lens was on. One of the cubs was a cinnamon colour which was really different. I actually had no idea that black bears come in a variety of colours! They seemed very used to the attention they were getting since many cars had pulled over and were also taking photos and watching them walk along. Then they wandered back into the woods and we were grateful for the chance to see that beautiful little family of bears. Back for another rest and some lunch!
We spent the rest of the day in Clear Lake wandering around and Darcy got to try a beaver tail. He’s wanted to try this dessert since our trip to Grouse Mountain a few summers ago. I bought a t-shirt with a Moose on it and played Pokemon. We’d come back to see the sun setting and walk along the pier one last time.
We slept in a little bit on the Monday which was Victoria Day and a holiday in Canada. We packed up and I still had a craving for one more hike. This time we headed for the 3.4km Arrowhead Trail. I convinced my Mom to join us this time and told her it would be an easy trail since the Brûlé Trail had been pretty flat and really pretty. She brought her camera and was ready for an easy hike but it was nothing like I had told her. Oops! There were a lot of hills and steep inclines but luckily a lot of little rest points so we made sure to make use of them. She was pretty upset and thought I tricked her into it but I really had no idea what to expect. In the end she made it so I’m pretty proud of her. The last thing we did was find a geocache and we were out of there!
We didn’t spot anymore wildlife and knew it was time to start making the drive home. It was a beautiful hilly drive and the leaves were showing even more on the trees. Green was appearing everywhere!
It was a successful May long weekend camping trip!
What is your favourite part about Riding Mountain National Park?
I hope to return again and enjoy things that I didn’t get to experience my first time visiting. Thanks for reading and I hope you are inspired to get outside and explore nature!