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Heading Through The Second Tunnel

7 of the Best Outdoor Adventures in Manitoba

When you think of outdoor adventures in Manitoba, the first one that likely comes to mind is a trip up to Churchill to see the polar bears – and more often than not, when it’s bitterly cold.

Of course that would be an incredible experience but there are other great outdoor adventures in Manitoba – particularly in the summer. Some are easy to access from Winnipeg while others require a huge investment of time. Here are what I think are seven of the best.

See the polar bears in Churchill

Swimming with beluga whales used to be on this list. For years you could snorkel with them and it’s something I dreamed about doing. But it’s been outlawed since sometime in 2018. Still if you visit Churchill and go out on the water, there’s still a good chance you’ll at least see the belugas.

Many people go up to Churchill to see the polar bears in October and November but if visiting this northern community in the cold months has little appeal, rest assured you can still see polar bears in the summer.

I am told that the premiere time to visit is the last week of July and first week of August when the pink fireweed is blooming – so all those pictures you take of polar bears really pop. Bird watching is reportedly excellent as well.

There are lots of companies running tours including Lazy Bear Lodge, Great White Bear Tours, Churchill Wild and Frontiers North.

Sparring polar bears in Churchill
Sparring polar bears in Churchill – Photo credit: Barbara Dougherty on Pixabay

Canoe the Caddy Lake Circuit – one of the accessible outdoor adventures in Manitoba

Some of the best paddling rivers in Canada’s are located in Manitoba. Most of them are remote and expensive to access plus you often need to be an intermediate or better paddler to run them. 

Fortunately, Caddy Lake, located in Whiteshell Provincial Park, just 90 minutes east of Winnipeg close to the Ontario border, offers an accessible alternative.

Caddy Lake is one of the lakes making up the Whiteshell River System. It’s the launch site for both day trips to the Caddy Lake Tunnels and a 169 km loop trip that takes the better part of a week to paddle. The tunnels are unique and fun to see and the river is a delight to explore.

Read: Canoeing the Caddy Lake Tunnels in Whiteshell Provincial Park

Heading through the second tunnel
Heading through the second tunnel on the Caddy Lakes Circuit
This is what the second tunnel looks like on the return to South Cross Lake
This is what the second tunnel looks like on the return to South Cross Lake

Hike the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park

The 12.8 km (return) Gorge Creek Trail is one of the best hikes in Riding Mountain National Park. It will surprise you with its range of eco-systems and stellar views of the plains.

The hike takes you up and down the Manitoba Escarpment, a steep slope that rises above the plains that you can see for miles when you’re driving towards the east entrance of the park. The gorge itself formed after thousands of years of erosion.

Over the 300 metres of vertical relief on the trail, you are exposed to a variety of tree types that vary as you descend or ascend the trail. Look for aspen and hazel forests, old oak forests and at lower elevations white birch and Manitoba maple.

Beware of the poison ivy. It’s everywhere on this hike so wear long pants and wash well with soap and water after the hike. Bears are in the area so don’t forget the bear spray.

Read: A Hike on the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park 

Walking through tall wildflowers on the Gorge Creek Trail
Walking through tall wildflowers on the Gorge Creek Trail – one of the great outdoor adventures in Manitoba
I was surprised at the steep hills on the Gorge Creek Trail - though the name should have given it away
I was surprised at the steep hills on the Gorge Creek Trail – though the name should have given it away

Hike the Spirit Sands & Devils Punch Bowl Trails 

If you want to see sand dunes in Manitoba, head to Spruce Woods Provincial Park, located about a 2.5 hour drive west of Winnipeg. Called the Spirit Sands, they are located where the Boreal forest meets the Assiniboine River.

Rising to a height of 30 metres they are a great place to hike, play, wander and photograph, especially in summer when the wildflowers make an appearance. Again beware of the large amounts of poison ivy that line the forested trails and stairways.

Read: The Spirit Sands Hike in Spruce Woods Provincial Park

Hiking the Spirit Sands Trail
Hiking the Spirit Sands Trail
A palette of green near the Devil's Punch Bowl
A palette of green near the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Hike the trails of Hecla Island

You’ll find Hecla Island 90 minutes north of Winnipeg on Lake Winnipeg. For a small island it’s got a lot of hiking options; hopefully this summer is better than last when many of the trails were underwater.

You’ll find the Grassy Narrows Marsh Trails, shortly after arriving on the island. Here you have a choice of five trails totaling 25 kilometres along with first rate bird-watching.

One of the most untouched trails is the 22 kilometre Black Wolf Trail. It’s more remote than the others. In addition there are several trails at the north end of the island including the Lighthouse Trail, a three kilometre one way trail that takes you out to the Lighthouse at Gull Harbour.

It’s an easy walk, with prolific bird life. For a look at some local history and an old limestone quarry, hike the 10 kilometre West Quarry Trail.

Read: A Visit to Historic Hecla Island

Hecla Lighthouse overlooking Gull Harbour
Hecla Lighthouse overlooking Gull Harbour
The waters of Lake Winnipeg are higher than normal
The waters of Lake Winnipeg were higher than normal when we visited

Hike the Pisew Falls to Kwasitchewan Falls Trail 

Located seven hours north of Winnipeg by car, in northern Manitoba, Pisew Falls Provincial Park is the start of a 21 kilometre hike – that can also be done as a backpacking trip.

Follow the Grass River, a former fur-trading route, on a marked trail through the forest to reach Manitoba’s highest waterfall – Kwasitchewan Falls. Allow somewhere between six and eight hours for the return hike.

Pisew Falls in Pisew Falls Provincial Park
Pisew Falls in Pisew Falls Provincial Park – Photo Credit: Sancho McCann

Outdoor adventures in Manitoba – canoe the Seal River in the northern part of the province

I haven’t done this trip yet – but it’s on my wish list. It’s one of Canada’s premiere wilderness, whitewater canoeing trips – with only a few dozen lucky paddlers running the river every year.

It was never used by the fur traders so it’s even wilder than most other northern rivers – and only a couple of operators run tours here.

By air it’s 1000 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The trip generally starts on Tadoule Lake and ends at Hudson Bay. You camp on eskers, ridges of sediment left behind by glaciers. Chances of seeing wildlife is high – including wolves, seals, caribou and beluga whales once you reach Hudson Bay.

Other wilderness rivers to consider canoeing include the Bloodvein, Hayes, Pigeon and Manigotagan Rivers.

Canoeing the Seal River in northern Manitoba - Photo credit: Travel Manitoba on Flickr
Canoeing the Seal River in northern Manitoba – Photo credit: Travel Manitoba on Flickr

Further reading on things to do in Manitoba

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

7 great outdoor adventures in Manitoba that include canoeing, hiking & a trip to Churchill to see the polar bears

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. wow!!
    Awesome spots for adventure activities.
    Never heard about Manitoba, but I just loved these places with this blog.

  2. These photos are so pretty, the shot of the waterfall is great! I have to admit I would probably be nervous to snorkel alongside a whale, but what an experience!

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