Manitoba is a province full of vast open fields, lush forests and thousands upon thousands of lakes (110,000 to be exact). Combine those with unusual desert-like terrains, archaeological sites, granite ridges and mesmerizing sand dunes, and you will be left awe-struck by how much natural beauty is spread out across the Manitoba provincial parks.

And you don’t need to venture too far away from Winnipeg to immerse yourself in nature. You’ll find granite-faced tunnels, 12-metre high sand dunes and everything in between within two hours of the city. With a handful to choose from, add these Manitoba provincial parks to your list of road trips to take from Winnipeg.

Whiteshell Provincial Park Manitoba

Image by @pauleppic, Courtesy of Travel Manitoba.

Whiteshell Provincial Park

Situated just 130 km east of Winnipeg, Whiteshell Provincial Park is the quintessential image of the Canadian outdoors. With almost 2,000 square kilometres of protected wilderness parkland and 200 lakes, Whiteshell is a summer oasis for hiking and paddling, and a winter wonderland for snowshoeing and ice fishing. Expect natural beauty, boreal forests, bare granite ridges, sandy beaches and even archaeological sites.

Explore Whiteshell Provincial Parks’ deep Indigenous cultural roots at the Bannock Point Petroforms, an area with bedrock of stones laid out in the shapes of animals and geometric designs. The signature feature of the park, however, is Caddy Lake. Kayak or canoe through the water to the Caddy Lake Tunnels, granite-faced tunnels that were created as a result of railway construction. Another highlight is West Hawk Lake, the deepest lake in Manitoba created by a crashing meteorite. 

Spruce Woods Provincial Park Manitoba

Spruce Woods Provincial Park

One of the province’s true gems, the landscape of Spruce Woods Provincial Park is unique among Manitoba parks. Head just 180 km west of Winnipeg and you’ll stumble upon desert-like conditions, full of sand dunes, a remarkable mirage-like pond and even some species of cacti.

Wander the 10 km long (round trip) trail through the unexpected Spirit Sands and Devil’s Punch Bowl, and you’ll be left in awe from the expanse of the unusual Manitoba landscape. The trail presents a varied scenery, ranging from the arid desert to grassy meadows to dense forests. Ahead on the trail is the picturesque Devil’s Punch Bowl, a crater-shaped small lake with a variety of blue-green turquoise colours. The diverse conditions of Spruce Woods also make it the perfect home for all of the species of snakes in Manitoba as well as the Prairie Skink, the province’s only lizard.

Pinawa Dam Provincial Park Manitoba

Pinawa Dam Provincial Park

Just 188 km east of Winnipeg is Pinawa Dam Provincial Park, home to the crescent-shaped ruins of the historic Pinawa Dam. Built in 1906, Pinawa Dam was Manitoba’s first hydro-electric generating station, developed due to the demand for residential and commercial power. The dam delivered power to the area until 1951 when it was decommissioned to allow the full flow of the Winnipeg River to serve the Seven Sisters Hydro Station.

Now, Pinawa Dam Provincial Park is a tranquil environment with mixed forests, large open spaces, various hiking trails and diverse wildlife. Full of history, you’ll be able to wander around the site on a self-guided tour and appreciate the beauty of the Pinawa Dam.

Birds Hill Provincial Park Manitoba

Image by Travel Manitoba.

Birds Hill Provincial Park

Located in the Boreal Plains ecozone, not far north of Winnipeg, Birds Hill Provincial Park will often be near the top of the list of best provincial parks in Manitoba. Aside from being well-known as the site of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, an annual summer festival featuring a variety of local and international artists, Birds Hill offers an array of beautiful views and ample opportunities to venture off and explore.

Exhibiting hills and ridges formed by ancient glaciers, aspen and oak forests, and a serene lake, Birds Hill Provincial Park is a retreat for Winnipeg urbanites. Grab a pair of binoculars and a bag of bird seeds as the provincial park boasts over 200 species of birds to spot throughout the year. Spanning across 35-square-kilometres, the seven self-guided trails in Birds Hill Provincial Park will also show you native prairie wildflowers, a cedar bog and potentially a herd of white-tailed deer that roam the park.

Grand Beach Provincial Park Manitoba

Image by Travel Manitoba.

Grand Beach Provincial Park

Looking for warm sands and gentle waves? Then look to Grand Beach Provincial Park, an iconic beach situated on eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg. Aside from its jackpine forest, spruce bog and large lagoon, Grand Beach is most noted for its fine, white sand backed by 12-metre high sand dunes. The high ground developed 14,000 years ago, during the last ice age.

Grand Beach Provincial Park stretches for miles and miles, giving you ample opportunity to wander along the shoreline, swim in the freshwater lake or hike one of the three self-guided trails: Spirit Rock Trail, Wild Wings Trail and the Ancient Beach Trail. A 100 km drive north of Winnipeg, Grand Beach is truly meant for those looking to unwind and enjoy Mother Nature.

Special thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn South in Winnipeg, MB for their suggestions.

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