Hiking in Grasslands National Park | Canadian Adventures in Saskatchewan
I’ve hiked all over Canada, from the heights of the Rocky Mountains to the coastal shores of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Ocean. When the opportunity arose to venture to southern Saskatchewan, I was a bit hesitant since Grasslands National Park was one of the lesser-known and least visited national parks. I’m glad I was so wrong!
The landscape was mainly covered with rolling hills. Long and short grass studded with small cactus stretched on endlessly. As I suspected, the area was dry and empty but I was amazed at the infinite desolation and solitude.
Standing on a hill top, with a hot wind drying our lips, we were the only humans around for as far as the eyes could see. Not one other hiker, park employee or even a distant vehicle could be seen in any direction. And staring at the far-reaching prairie, I could swear we could see the curvature of the earth.
I’ve never experience the feeling of absolute isolation and abandonment like this before on an outdoor adventure. It was deserted yet scenic, monotonous yet beautiful. It was like nothing I’d ever imagined on a hike.
Hiking Tips when you're on the prairies
Here are a few tips for hiking in Grasslands National Park:
- Carry lots of water. We were there in July and the air-temperature was +42 C on the open plains. There are no water sources in the valley bottoms.
- I started the grassy hikes in runners and learned that cactus can easily puncture the soft soles. OUCH! Wear proper hiking boots with ankle support.
- The sun roasted our heads under our hats and we wished we brought an umbrella to use to as a sun block. No one would have been around to see our parasols.
- Make sure your car is good operating condition. There are fewer than 10,000 annual visitors to this park so help may be hours, or days, away.
- Most hiking trails are clearly marked with navigation posts. Since the terrain is almost identical in all directions, we stuck to the designated route instead of breaking our own trail.
- Don’t rely on a GPS unit for directions. If the batteries die, it’s easy to get lost in terrain that looks identical in all directions. Cell phone coverage is limited, especially in the valleys.
- We were going to spend the nights camping on the open plains but there were no wind breaks on the land, not even a tree, to shelter our tent from the strong wind. Instead we bunked at a local hotel in Val Marie and made daytrips into the park. Tip - Stores & restaurants close early in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, before 7:00 PM.
- The East Block section of the Grasslands National Park has some of the highest concentration of dinosaur fossils in Canada. Keep your eyes peeled for a paleontology discovery.
- Don’t miss the night sky. It had been years since we viewed the brilliance of the Milky Way. Parks Canada offers astronomy tours and also night-time guided tours of the black-footed ferret colony.
View Hiking in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan in a larger map
Hiking in Grasslands National Park may not sound too exciting but this landscape is absolutely different from anywhere we’ve gone before. The isolation and desolation was indescribable. As the saying goes, “You’ve got to see it to believe it”. And we left with some fantastic memories that words and photos can never express.
Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.