I Backpack Canada » Accommodation http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Fri, 15 May 2015 19:13:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 5 Reasons to Stay with Country Inns & Suiteshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-reasons-to-stay-with-country-inns-suites/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-reasons-to-stay-with-country-inns-suites/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 16:32:53 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7178 As I age, I can’t help but lean more towards hotels these days. I’m a married fellow who very much enjoys his privacy. While I still love making detours to random hostels and hitting up campgrounds in the summer, when I’m on the road and require the luxuries of home, one of my go to […]

5 Reasons to Stay with Country Inns & Suites is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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As I age, I can’t help but lean more towards hotels these days. I’m a married fellow who very much enjoys his privacy. While I still love making detours to random hostels and hitting up campgrounds in the summer, when I’m on the road and require the luxuries of home, one of my go to hotels are the Country Inns & Suites. I’ve stayed with them nearly a dozen times and find they suit my newfound love into the world of hoteling. Here are 5 key reasons why I’m choosing to stay with Country Inns & Suites more and more.

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1. Complimentary Breakfast

I’m cheap. Like stupid cheap sometimes. It can be frustrating for my wife at times, but I like to pinch every penny, and like to make what little money I make last. So when I’m shelling out the shillings on a fancy bed I like to know that I’m getting a bit of a kick back for my service. I see complimentary breakfasts as the ultimate bonus. Pancakes, waffles, muffins, eggs, sausages, bacon, yogurt, those sugary cereals Mom never bought. The breakfast bonanza is a welcome sight at Country Inns & suites. Second helpings… don’t mind if I do.

2. Read It & Return It

I am a sporadic reader. Some years I’ll crush books like icy drinks on a hot summers day, other times, you’d think I’m illiterate. Judging by some of the typos I’ve caught in this blog throughout its 5-6 years, I wouldn’t say that’s too far off. Country Inns & Suites has a cool Read it & Return It book swap program where travellers can ditch finished books and pick up new ones. I’ve seen this same setup in countless hostels across Canada, but seeing it in a hotel is a welcome change!

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3. Gain Frequent Flyer Points

Country Inns & Suites is currently promoting their Double the Fun campaign. Where travel point hoarders such as myself can book a night and gain double the frequent flyer points. Tie this in with a credit card setup with Travel Points and you’ll be rolling in promotional currency that will hopefully someday get you someplace new and exciting.

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4. Awesome Amenities

Some people travel to hotels for their convenient location. Others for their customer service, and yet some are in it all for the amenities. Whatever you’re reason for staying in a hotel, Country Inns & Suites is proud to boast a well rounded experience, some of the best amenities you can find in hotels in Canada. From free Wi-Fi, Business Centre, and fridge & microwaves in nearly every room, you’re sure to be able to make this your temporary home away from home.

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5. They Know Local

Anytime I’m somewhere new, even if it’s just the next city over, I like to find out what’s new in town. What’s the latest restaurant to open, any parks nearby to check out, where’s the “it” place on weekday nights. Fortunately Country Inns & Suites staffs very knowledgeable service agents, prepared for a bombardment of questions such as mine. They are as local as can be, and are a valuable source of information on the city or neighborhood you find yourself in.

It can sometimes be a headache choosing which hotel to stay with when you’re on the road. It can be a huge decision, and in my experience it’s hugely beneficial to know that in nearly every major city in Canada you can find a Country Inns & Suites that is sure to treat you as nice as they’ve treated my wife and I in the past. Book Now with Country Inns & Suites, the The Rest Comes Easy!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Country Inns & Suites By Carlson. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Double The Fun with Country Inns & Suiteshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/double-the-fun-with-country-inns-suites/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/double-the-fun-with-country-inns-suites/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 00:14:23 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7172 I’m a huge fan of travel promotions. Typically the most expensive part of any travel is flights, and accommodations. If you’re like me, you hoard airline rewards points. After you accumulate enough of those bad boys, you earn a free stay, or a free upgrade, or if your score enough, even some free flights. It’s […]

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I’m a huge fan of travel promotions. Typically the most expensive part of any travel is flights, and accommodations. If you’re like me, you hoard airline rewards points. After you accumulate enough of those bad boys, you earn a free stay, or a free upgrade, or if your score enough, even some free flights. It’s the kind of perk that makes you think “That was very much worth sitting on that piece of plastic for the last 6 months”.

Country Inns Suites are located across North America, and are one of my go-to hotels. The smart folks in their marketing department decided it was time to really boost loyalty amongst us die-hard travellers. This spring, they decided to partner up with Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Air Canada to provide double the airline loyalty points when you check in with your Airline Rewards Card.

This is the perfect opportunity for anyone staying somewhere for more than a couple nights to really crank up their loyalty points and score some cheap travel. Staying with Country Inns & Suites was great before, but I’d go so far as to saying this is awesome.

The Double the Fun promotion is active during the following dates:

  • Southwest Airlines – Earn Double Rapid Rewards Points March 1st through May 31, 2015
  • American Airlines – Earn Double Miles April 15 through June 30, 2015
  • United Airlines – Earn Double Miles April 15 through June 30, 2015
  • Air Canada – Earn Double Miles April 15 through June 30, 2015

All you need to do is flash your Airline Loyalty Card and The Rest Comes Easy!

What can you expect when staying in Country Inns & Suites?

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The Rooms

Rooms at Country Inns & Suites are spacious, with quality beds, strong WIFI, and each with dedicated business stations, great for hammering out those last minute emails on the road. Quality flat screen tv’s let you veg out like the king you should feel like when you’re staying in their rooms.

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The Breakfast

Nothing beats a morning breakfast buffet. Country Inns & Suites are famous for their choices. Whether you’re after something healthy or something to absorb that extra drink you had at the hotel bar the night before, they’ve got you covered.

Lobster Chowder

Country Inns & Suites Staff

The friendly staff is superbly helpful. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve asked for recommendations on local restaurants or pubs and have been given a winner. I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad experience with Country Inns & Suites.

Interested in scoring some extra points? Book Now!

I fully expect travel hackers to rejoice knowing they can spend a weekend in a swanky hotel and come out with more than a good nights sleep. Nothing says “We appreciate your business” like throwing double the airline points at me. I’d love to hear about your experience with Country Inns & Suites and what you spend your loyalty points on! Comment below or tweet me @ibackpackcanada

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Country Inns & Suites By Carlson. All opinions are 100% mine.

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5 Things You Need To Bring Camping With Youhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:43:51 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7030 Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded […]

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Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded to pack light. What needs to make the cut in your pack? Without further ado, let’s get into the items I think you absolutely should bring on your next camping trip!

1. A Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife runs about $15 – $20 and the knife is well worth the cost. The one I linked above does slightly more than function as a knife (it has scissors, nail file/screwdriver, and tweezers), which makes it good for both daily usage and camping trips. I’ve had my own for around five years; I bring it everywhere because I use it almost daily, and I can personally attest to its dependability, though I have to admit those scissors are just a  waste of space.

Bringing a on your camping trip is a must. A decent knife can save your butt, and can be used in a variety of situations, including cutting rope, sharpening sticks, and even as an emergency weapon (albeit a Swiss Army Knife may not be a very effective one).

While there are definitely better knives out there, for entry-level campers the Swiss Army Knife is a great item to bring with you when you’re camping.

2. Cordage

The next essential for camping is cordage. Having rope can come in handy, especially for survival purposes. It’s cheap, and serves countless purposes, from bundling wood, to tying up an injury, or just hanging your wet clothes to dry. I personally use this small Bear Grylls bracelet cordage when I’m out in the sticks. While I may not think all that highly of Bear Grylls, his products are surprisingly decent.

Some varieties of cordage are brightly colored and highly reflective, making it a very handy tool for survival. Another product that you might consider is the Kelty TripTease Lightline, but I can’t say too much about this as I haven’t used it before. You can use cordage for quite a wide variety of things, such as attaching your gear to your pack and making a hammock.

3. A Compass

I won’t say much about having a compass. I believe you should always carry one around with you when you’re out camping, especially if you’re in an area with poor cell phone reception. It doesn’t have the be the fanciest most expensive compass, but something that can re-orient you is key. Of course, you should also know how to use a compass, but I’ll leave that to Wikihow to explain (I’m a lousy teacher).

Compass prices range from $10.00 – $100.00 depending on the quality and brand you’re after. :

Suunto M-3DL Compass

Suunto A-30L Compass

Silva Sighting Ranger CLQ Compass

4. Fire

Keeping warm is incredibly important for survival. If you’re going to be staying in an area with low elevation (< 10,000 – 12,000 feet), then you won’t have many issues with making a cheap lighter work. However, at higher elevations, due to the lack of oxygen in the thinner atmosphere, finding a lighter that strikes all the time can sometimes be a difficult task.

I’ve found that cheap Bic lighters that you can get at the gas station for a dollar or two work most of the time. However, I’m sure some die-hard campers would spit, snarl and scream at that notion. Sure, you can fight with striker sticks, matches, and or just rubbing sticks together and saying a prayer, I’m a bit of a lazy camper and have no shame in letting technology help me out.

If you’re looking for refillable lighters, I personally like Zippo lighters even more than the cheap Bic lighters. The Ultimate Survival Technologies Floating Lighter (seen above) is actually a waterproof-floating zippo style lighter, which is handy if you’re going to be on or near water at any time.

If you like to be extra careful, I’d recommend carrying a few waterproof matches as well as a Carbon Strike Fire Starter which produces sparks for those hypothetical emergency situations where none of your lighters make fire.

5. Water

Staying hydrated while outdoors is just as important as staying warm. Water is probably one of the most important resources, so finding a suitable container for it is important because you don’t want to risk having any contaminants in it. A good water bottle can be used to boil water or to melt snow, giving you a source of fresh water in a survival situation.

I use a Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle because it’s both light and sturdy, and I usually clip this on to one of my belt loops (so I guess it isn’t really a “pocket item”). These are currently $25 – $32 USD on Amazon. An important thing to note is to avoid getting a double-walled container. Although they keep cold drinks cold for the entire day, the added insulation makes it difficult to boil water in when you aren’t near safe water. Or just be a smart camper and carry some Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

I hope you enjoyed this article! Remember to follow us on social media using the links below.

Disclaimer: The links on this post will send you to Amazon Products with my personal affiliate code. If you purchase anything Amazon will share 4% of the profit with me. It’s not big money, but any bit helps keep my site going.

Special thanks to @fakejourneys for contributing to I Backpack Canada! 

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Check out these Canadian Backpacker Tour Companieshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-backpacker-tour-companies/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/canadian-backpacker-tour-companies/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 03:47:20 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4480 There are many different types of travellers. From long term travellers, to weekend warriors, finding something that will suit you is crucial to getting the most bang for your buck. If you’re short on time, but want to pack in as much adventure, sights, and memories into a week or two, then these three Canadian […]

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There are many different types of travellers. From long term travellers, to weekend warriors, finding something that will suit you is crucial to getting the most bang for your buck. If you’re short on time, but want to pack in as much adventure, sights, and memories into a week or two, then these three Canadian backpacker tour companies are definitely worth checking out.

Moose Travel Network Backpacker Tours

moose-travel-network backpacker toursI’m going to start with Moose Travel Network, because they’re the only one I’ve had a chance to experience. Their staff are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. When you book a tour with them, you can pick from several routes, allowing you to see a variety of regions throughout BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. You’ve got a ton of flexibility as well, as they allow you to setup hop on and hop off style itineraries. If you decide mid way through your trip that you want to explore Banff a little while longer, it’s just a matter of letting your driver know, and then you take care of your hostels and you’re set. When you’re ready to pick up where you left off, just inform Moose Travel Network and you can hop back on the tour.

Their drivers ensure that they break up the drives between destinations with fascinating stops at stunning panoramic views, random trips and excursions, and some of the best food and drink joints along the way. Good music, laughs, and company are easily found on their trips.

Check out my interview with a Moose Travel Network Guide.

Read my experiences in the Rocky Mountains with Moose Travel Network.

Salty Bear Adventure Travel Tours

Salty-Bear-tours canadaSalty Bear Adventure Travel was started by a local Nova Scotian backpacker who was keen on showing off the maritimes to people from across the world. Salty Bear hires local Canadian drivers with a passion for their locale, ensuring you’ll know that what you’re seeing and experiencing authentically Canadian. Salty Bear is similar to Moose Travel, as they do drop offs at hostels, but will accomodate anyone if you’re staying elsewhere. They also supply tours along the way, ensuring that you get to experience the best tours along the way.

West Trek Tours

West trek tours backpackerWest Trek provides high quality adventure tours to backpackers both young and old, interested in seeing and experiencing the best of Canada. Explore the Rocky Mountains, mountain bike in Whistler, Surf in Tofino, Explore Victoria, Vancouver, and even parts of USA. Their award winning tour company is rated highly by visitors across the world.

Am I missing any other awesome Canadian Backpacker Tour companies? Don’t hesitate to share below in the comments.

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Volunteer on Organic Farms in Canada with WWOOFhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/volunteer-organic-farms-canada-with-wwoof/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/volunteer-organic-farms-canada-with-wwoof/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:07:24 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5889 IWWOOF, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is another great online community, similar to HelpX, but concentrating specifically on organic farmers. Volunteers interested in working on Organic Farms are invited to stay with hosts, where they’ll receive free accommodations and meals. Volunteers that sign up with a host in Canada can expect anywhere from 3 – […]

Volunteer on Organic Farms in Canada with WWOOF is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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IWWOOF, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is another great online community, similar to HelpX, but concentrating specifically on organic farmers. Volunteers interested in working on Organic Farms are invited to stay with hosts, where they’ll receive free accommodations and meals. Volunteers that sign up with a host in Canada can expect anywhere from 3 – 6 hours of work, depending on the arrangement with the host.

Volunteer In Canada: Free Accommodation on Organic Farms with WWOOF

wwoof-volunteer-canada-logoHosts keen to take on Volunteers allow you to easily get access to information about them. Including Region, smoking tolerance, what type of meals they prepare, percentage of food that they eat that’s organic, which languages they speak, how many people they allow to volunteer at once, and what type of work you can expect. On top of the free acommodation that hosts provide, you’ll also receive free meals, you’ll learn all about sustainable living, organic growing, and will get a sneak peak behind life as a farmer.

While the website is a bit of out of the dawn of the 90’s, the information is regularly updated. The membership cost at WWOOF is $50, or $62 for joint 2 year membership. WWOOF Canada allows you to preview their hosts before signing up, which can let you know if WWOOF might be right for you.

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Superb Snowboarding and Luxury Resorts in the Columbia Valleyhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/superb-snowboarding-and-luxury-resorts-in-the-columbia-valley/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/superb-snowboarding-and-luxury-resorts-in-the-columbia-valley/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 02:35:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5734 Superb Snowboarding and Luxury Resorts in the Columbia Valley is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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I recently took a weekend trip to Columbia Valley, in beautiful British Columbia. My girlfriend and I were set on experiencing some of the famous snowboarding of the Purcell Mountains. With dozens of mountain resorts within a close distance perfect for skiing and snowboarding, we opted to check out Panorama Mountain Village, and the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Resort.

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A Scenic Sunset Drive Through Columbia Valley

The Columbia Valley is  only a 10 and a half hour drive from our home in Saskatchewan. We were incredibly fortunate with safe and clear highways, which allowed us both to enjoy the scenic drive much more. Our drive west through the Rockies and into the Purcell Mountains was stunning. Somehow we managed to time it perfectly, so just as we were on the last hour of our trip, we were greeted with a superb sunset.

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We were surrounded by the silhouettes of mountains as we pulled into the small town of Radium Hot Springs. After a brief 10 minute tour of town we came across the Bighorn Meadows Resort, a luxurious all-season resort in conveniently located close to just about everything in the Columbia Valley. As luck would have it, this was to be our stay for the weekend. Checking in was a breeze, and within no time my jaw was dropped & I was gushing over the suite. Heated bathroom floors, jacuzzi, king sized bed, kitchen, and a gorgeous patio view of the Purcell Mountains, leaving this place wasn’t going to be easy come Sunday.

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The alarm sounded and we were greeted by a beautiful winter sunrise. After some coffee we proceeded to pack up for a day on the slopes. My girlfriend, being a novice snowboarder, was incredibly intimidated by the size of these mountains. Having snowboarded these parts almost a decade ago I was able to assure her that if young Corbin could survive it, so could she. Up until now, she had only ever experienced the small valley snowboarding found in Saskatchewan. She laughed nervously, but it was clear she was excited to see what it’s like in the “big leagues”.

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We suited up, grabbed the gondola, and proceeded to the chalet of Panorama Mountain Village. We stared up at the panorama of mountains, and laughed at how well named this place is. Getting good photos of this place was going to be a breeze.

Stay tuned for a photo essay of the Columbia Valley! Special thanks to Columbia Valley Tourism and Bighorn Meadows for hosting us in this beautiful part of Canada.

 

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A Winter Adventure Awaits in the Columbia Valleyhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/a-winter-adventure-awaits-in-the-columbia-valley/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/a-winter-adventure-awaits-in-the-columbia-valley/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 04:50:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5717 After 10 long, incredibly scenic, hours driving from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, I’ve finally arrived in Radium Hot Springs, home of some of Canada’s most well known luxury resorts including Bighorn Meadows Resort, along with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Canada. With the help of Columbia Valley Tourism, I’ve been asked to […]

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After 10 long, incredibly scenic, hours driving from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, I’ve finally arrived in Radium Hot Springs, home of some of Canada’s most well known luxury resorts including Bighorn Meadows Resort, along with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Canada. With the help of Columbia Valley Tourism, I’ve been asked to join a group of writers and bloggers to partake in as much of this little slice of Canadiana as possible.

The gameplan includes snowboarding at Panorama where I’ll no doubt enjoy a couple coffees and a bite to eat at their mountain village. Après-ski will likely include a cold BC Beer (or two), and a hot soak in the Hot Springs. It’s been more than a few years since I’ve been able to make it to BC for some snowboarding, so I fully expect each and every bone & muscle to be aching the following day. Hopefully the Hot Springs will heal me up as best as possible, because the next day I’ll be strapping the bindings back on, and heading to Fairmont Resort to do it all over again.

In between snowboarding and hitting the spa, I’ll be sampling the food, drinks, culture, and keeping an eye out for the any local fauna that get within range of my camera, so be sure to follow along on Twitter or Instagram.

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Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Parkhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 14:46:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5591 Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, […]

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, it can be slightly disheartening. Given the size of Saskatchewan (651,900 km²), it’s to be expected. With that being said, there is a clever way to guarantee seeing some unique wildlife.

grasslands-national-park-sunset

Grasslands National Park

Grasslands National Park is a Saskatchewan staple. While it does require some driving (it is Saskatchewan after all), it does mean you have a much higher chance of seeing something photo worthy. Four and a half hours south west of Regina, a stones throw from Montana, USA, Grasslands National Park is one of the truest forms of prairie landscape. This preservation is not only home to some beautifully unique flora, it’s also home to countless species of birds, wild bison, rattlesnakes, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, short-horned lizards, black footed ferrets, and many more.

grasslands-national-park-hills

Untouched Prairie Beauty

The drive south from Regina will lead you through some of the flattest lands, which evolve into gentle rolling hills, only to be suddenly changed into a grass valley carved out by ancient glaciers. Dry cliffs and rocky buttes poke out from the landscape, creating a beautiful view that many would describe as “non-saskatchewan”. What many people often forget is that before large scale agriculture was introduced to Saskatchewan in the late 1800’s, much of the Saskatchewan landscape was exactly what you see at Grasslands National Park. Raw, untouched prairie beauty. A topography that evolved hand in hand with the flora and fauna of the region.

Frenchman River

A Hiker’s Paradise

During the day, there are countless hikes for every skill level, from quick jaunts, such as the Rock Creek Trail (2km loop) to the more skilled trails, such as the Butte Creek / Red Buttes Trail (16km loop), or the Zahursky Point Route (11km loop). There’s also countless square kilometers of back country hiking for those interested on exploring the park without trails. Each hike offers a different view of this beautiful locale. From stretching landscapes of the badlands of Saskatchewan, to creek crossings and surreal views of the Frenchman River.

Pro Tip

For more information on Hiking Trails at Cypress Hills, grab a copy of the Grasslands National Park Visitors Guide at Parks Canada.

Saskatchewan’s Darkest Dark Sky Preserve

Come nightfall, you’ll be in for one of the starriest nights of your life (clear skies depending of course). The Grasslands National Park is the Darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. For astronomers & amateur stargazers, this is one of the best places to be on a clear night. The recently announced Dark Sky Preserve is not only good for bringing in additional tourists, it’s also good for the habitat of nocturnal species, such as the black footed ferret, which was recently re-introduced into the area.

Grasslands Macro

Snakes, Safety, and Friendly Park Staff

My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of camping in the Park a few weeks back. Park staff at Val Marie were immensely knowledgable and friendly, and ran through all the safety procedures before setting out to hike the Grassland trails. It’s made very clear once you’re this far south in Saskatchewan that you’re in rattlesnake country. My girlfriend, having never entered a land dominated by poisonous reptiles morbidly laughed, “Great, so this is the way I’m going to die!“. The Parks Canada staff laughed and reassured her that it’s fairly rare to come across them, and even if you do, giving the snakes their distance will ensure everyone leaves safe.

The Park Staff even went so far as to offer her snake garders, which are basically thick reinforced fabric leggings which they claim will protect you if one of the slithering fellows decide to strike. The Visitor Center at Val Marie offers anyone who’s going to be doing a lot of hiking the garders, but they’re strictly optional. We decided not to take the leggings, being risk takers & all.

Wild Plains Bison

Wild Plains Bison

After leaving the Parks Canada Visitor Center in Val Marie, we were fully supplied with maps, visitors guides, and a couple of safety brochures. We drove into the park, and without even trying, came across our first group of wild plains bison. Technically, it was just a pair; however, they seemed content to claim their part of the gravel road as their own. Our car approached them slowly, we both nervously laughed, “I hope they don’t charge the car“. Fortunately, they didn’t. Rather, they moved as slow as possible out of the way. During which time we managed to get a few photos. We high-fived over the first encounter. Success! 

History of the Bison in the Area

Back in December 2005 the Plains Bison were re-introduced to the park. Prior to European Settlement, Bison dominated this region. With millions upon millions of herds stampeding across the country. A significant animal in first nations history, it was one of the first to be effected by European Settlement. By the 1880’s, most of the Bison were gone, due to over hunting, and due to their natural habitat being transformed into agricultural land. What was once 71 re-introduced bison, have now become over 300 bison and 40 calves. Without a doubt, one of the most majestic creatures you can find in Saskatchewan. For more information on the Plains Bison, check out Parks Canada’s Bison Updates.

Camping Grasslands National Park - Tent Sunset

Camping in Grasslands National Park

We setup camp just before sunset in a small campground with a handful of lots. Located a kilometer or so from the Frenchman River, we opted to save the hiking for the next day. We were the only ones camping that weekend, and an eerie soundscape of prairie noises calmly sang to us. Waving grass, crickets, gentle blowing wind, soothed the often stressful time known as tent setup. Looking out from our campsite, a 360 degree view of grasslands and rolling hills surrounded us. Parks Canada had setup an in-ground binocular set to allow the viewing of animals slightly further than the eye could make out. In one spin of the metallic eyepiece, I spotted bison, antelope, and a group of kayakers who recently packed up from the Frenchman River.

Antelope Grasslands

Pro Tip: Ask Park Staff About Fire Regulations

Due to the dry nature of the grasslands, there is typically a fire ban in the area. Propane camping stoves are allowed, but open fire’s are not. Park’s Canada will advise you to be as careful as humanly possible. A handful of years back a large part of the park burned away due to fire, and they’d really like to prevent that from happening again.

Sunset Grasslands

Sun Setting Over Grasslands

As the sun dropped below the horizon, it’s remaining light shone through purple, pink, and orange clouds, covering the park in a warm orange glow. Our mosquito net was propped up, keeping the blood suckers out while we waited for stars to come out. Within an hour, the twilight exploded in a vivid starscape. The milky way spread across the sky. The grasslands began to erupt in activity. Panning my head, I noticed how completely alone we were in the park. There wasn’t a single light to be found. A band of coyotes began howling from the north east, not more than a handful of kilometers away. Their dog like calls echoed through the valley. Then like clockwork, another band of coyotes from the north west, joined in, howling for comfort, for territory, or just because it was a nice night out.

Prairie Dogs

Saskatchewan Prairie Dogs

Day finally broke, and we drove to the Prairie Dog sanctuary. These cute little critters are often seen as enemies by farmers, due to their innate ability to turn a perfectly healthy field into a labyrinth of holes. With agriculture dominating Saskatchewan, there aren’t many places they can safely call home; however, in Grasslands National Park, they seem to have found a corner (or two) to call their own. As we pulled the car over and stepped out of the vehicle, we began to walk along the road. Prairie Dog’s barked, alerting their family & friends of our presence. We gave them their space, feeding into their apparent confidence. This was their land, and no camera touting tourist was going to take it from them. We smiled, snapped a few pictures, and left.

Bison Grazing

Plains Bison Grazing

As we packed up for the day, we went on one final hike, one of the quick 2 kilometer loops. We stepped off the trail in hopes of finding more bison, rather than a snake. As we hiked over a hill, making careful progress, a plains bison was grazing within thumb-covering distance (the scientific measurement of safety with wildlife). It’s surprising how easy they are to spot. We stopped, ensuring we wouldn’t spook him. The last thing we’d want is a charging buffalo coming out way. We snapped our pictures, stared on the open landscape, and began our travels back home. A superb weekend trip that will surely be done again.

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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