Some of the most beautiful national parks in Canada, landmarks in First Nations history, and great outdoor adventures make up the top attractions in Saskatchewan.
1. Discovering the Mounties Storied History
Mounties are right up there with beavers and politeness when it comes to Canadian hallmarks, but they are far more than just red suits and snazzy hats. The iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s well-respected national police force, which has helped shape Canadian identity and protect its citizens since 1873. The birth and development of Saskatchewan is uniquely tied to the history of this world-famous force. Saskatchewan’s capital, Regina, remains home to the sole training academy for new members of the force. Since 1885, all Mounties have been trained here at the RCMP Academy “Depot” Division. On depot grounds sits the RCMP Heritage Centre, a world-class museum offering a fascinating look at the RCMP’s storied history through exhibits and multi-media presentations. While there, watch drill staff put cadets through their paces at the Sergeant Major’s Parade. During the summer months experience the pomp and pageantry of the Sunset-Retreat Ceremony, a sensory spectacle complete with cadets dressed in the famous Red Serge.
2. Towering above the plains in the Cypress Hills
Located in the southwest part of the province, the Cypress Hills is a surprising 580 metres above the surrounding terrain. The highest point is 1,392 m above sea level, that’s higher than Banff (1,383 m). The terrain straddles the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta and is home to Canada’s first and only Interprovincial Park. Cliffs, lookout points, and forest trails are all part of the park. Go camping, fishing, hiking, ziplining, canoeing, skiing, and even golfing. The area is a Dark Sky Preserve, which means almost no unnatural light will impede your incredible view of the stars, planets and satellites in the night sky. Try a new career as a ranch hand at Historic Reesor Ranch, a working cattle ranch that has been run by the same family for over 100 years. Maple Creek is the gateway to the area where there you will discover a quaint ranching town with interesting shops and restaurants that might surprise you.
3. Floating through history on the Churchill River
Northern Saskatchewan is dotted with countless lakes, rivers and falls carved into the Canadian Shield. This is a paddler’s paradise. Made up of a series of interconnected lakes with rapids and the occasional waterfall, the majestic Churchill River is on many paddler’s bucket lists. It is a river for all canoeing abilities. For centuries it was used by Indigenous people as a travel and trade route. It is estimated that they were in this region roughly 8,000 years ago. Their presence has forever been marked by the rock paintings found on shoreline cliffs. When explorers and the fur trading voyageurs began visiting the region, the river continued to be an important travel route. The river is easily accessible at the village of Missinipe where Churchill River Outfitters can help you plan a one or multi-day paddle.
4. Getting lost in the one million acre woods of Prince Albert National Park
One of two Saskatchewan National Parks, Prince Albert National Park is a transitional landscape from aspen parkland to boreal forest with pockets of fescue grasslands. It is one breathtaking and unique place to visit. This expansive 3,875 square kilometres of protected park is filled with an abundance of activities and wildlife. The park is perfect for a soft or challenging wilderness adventure. Soft adventurers can go on an interpretive hike, take a canoe or a paddleboard out for a spin or hit the beach on the shores of Waskesiu Lake. In the evening eat, sleep and even shop in the resort town Waskesiu. For the more adventurous there are documented canoe routes and backcountry trails scattered throughout the park where civilization is rarely detected. One of the more popular trails is the trek into the cabin of the famed conservationist Grey Owl. Learn more about him
5. Feeling weightless on Little Manitou Lake
How does a combined spa/swimming/floating day sound? Little Manitou Lake is known as Canada’s Dead Sea, and is one of the world’s most unique lakes where it is impossible to sink. This lake’s briny waters are unique to the western hemisphere, possessing natural therapeutic skin and body care properties found only at a few places in the world. Minerals found in significant concentrations give the water a buoyancy that helps relieve pressure on tired or aching joints. Take a dip in the lake or enjoy the water in heated form at the Manitou Springs Resort. Manitou Beach is also home to Danceland, a circa 1928 dancehall famous for its maple dance floor built over a cushion of horse hair. The hall harkens back to a time when the town was a bustling resort in the 1920s. Old-time dances and events take place year-round.
6. Absorbing the quiet beauty of Grasslands National Park
Canadian poet Lorna Crozier described Grasslands National Park as a “sanctuary of silence, one of the last on the planet. Under the wind, under our heartbeats, we hear the earth breathing.” One of two national parks in Saskatchewan, Grasslands is the only national park in Canada that preserves native grassland and is truly a must stop if you are travelling in the southwest. The park is comprised of two geographically distinct blocks, the East and the West Block. The Frenchman River Valley is home to the West Block. It is the perfect place to go on a prairie safari along the self-guided Eco-tour road. It will bring you close to bison, burrowing owls, eagles, pronghorn and take you through a black-tailed prairie dog colony. In the more remote East Block you feel like a time traveller in the rugged Rock Creek Badlands where you can visit an archeological dig and learn from a paleontologist. End your night with an unobstructed view of the stars, as the park is a designated Dark Sky Preserve.
7. Stepping back in time at Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Minutes from the city of Saskatoon sits Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Wanuskewin means “living in harmony” – appropriate for an area that has been a gathering place for Indigenous people for thousands of years. The nomadic tribes who roamed the Northern Plains gathered on this site where today visitors can relive the stories of a people who came here to hunt bison, gather food and herbs and escape the winter winds. Today, the park continues to bridge cultures and shed light on the past, while nurturing creativity, healing and a shared vision for the future. During your visit you can observe Canada’s longest archeological dig on an interpretive hike, construct a tipi as a team, create a dreamcatcher, see a powwow dancer, or try bannock and muskeg tea.
8. Feeling the crispness of winter as a pack of sled dogs guide you through the forest
Want to leave the city behind? Explore the million-acre wilderness of Northern Saskatchewan’s boreal forest in winter by dogsled, with Sundog Excursions. Learn to harness and mush Alaskan husky sled dogs as you take in the beautiful terrain. Spot lynx, owls, and moose. Strap on snowshoes and follow Arctic fox tracks. Listen to wolves howl in the serene, silent woodlands. Gain a deeper understanding of this unique eco-system while in the company of an imaginative nature guide. Spend your nights in a 4-star lodge dining on local elk, bison, and Saskatoon berries, or go rustic among snow-covered trees in a canvas trapper’s tent warmed by a wood-burning stove.
9. Viewing a Picasso (or two) on the prairies at the Remai Modern
View world-famous art without the crowds. The Remai Modern is Saskatchewan’s newest art museum located in the city of Saskatoon. Nestled in the South Saskatchewan River Valley, its award-winning architecture emulates the surrounding prairie. It is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts as well as 23 ceramic works from the Spanish master. Wander three floors of 11 gallery spaces featuring modern and contemporary works from national and international artists. Check out a wide variety of programs including films, workshops, talks and more. The Art & Design Store offers a one-of-a-kind Saskatoon shopping experience and be sure to stop at Shift for a Saskatchewan-inspired meal.
10. Flying in to a remote lodge in the rugged northern wilderness
If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, hop aboard a float plane and head to places where the roads don’t reach. Northern Saskatchewan is well known for its isolated lodges on the edges of lakes filled with fish which brings anglers from all over but, there is more than just fishing. Lloyd Lake Lodge has combined a fishing and culinary vacation where you fish and forage from the surrounding area, then learn to cook up a gourmet meal with a professional chef. Experience complete solitude and long summer days on the shores of a serene unnamed lake at Forest House Wilderness Lodge. The log buildings and the surrounding gardens have been lovingly carved from the Precambrian rock over the last three decades. You will experience true serenity as you are the only visitors to the lodge during your stay.