As we headed to Riding Mountain National Park, the trees that lined both sides of the highway were already draped in their brilliant fall colours as far as the eye could see. It was a 3-hour long drive from Winnipeg to the Bowerbird Black Pine Lodge cabin in the woods, but the fall scenery kept us captivated the entire way.
We had been looking forward to our fall getaway to Riding Mountain. With diverse terrain and excellent opportunities to view wildlife, it’s a must-visit in Manitoba. It’s a hidden gem among the Canadian national parks, being relatively unknown compared to Jasper or Banff. As a result, it never feels overrun by tourists and we often found ourselves alone on the trails and enjoyed a peaceful fall cabin stay.
Tucked away between towering paper birch trees, their white barks topped with bright yellow leaves, you’ll find a true cabin in the woods. Black Pine Lodge lies on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park, close to the south entrance but far enough away from any through roads making this a quiet oasis in the forest.
The cabin is easily accessible from all major cities in Manitoba and from the south of Saskatchewan. It’s a 3-hour drive from Winnipeg, a 1-hour drive from Brandon and a 4-hour drive from Regina, SK. The last section is on a dirt road which is well maintained throughout the year.
As we drove up to the cabin, it almost felt like we were entering a secret hideaway, our own little quiet piece of paradise. Four acres of private forest surround the cabin, providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
A striking dark colour, the cabin stands out between the white barks of the surrounding trees. This 1500 sqft completely renovated log-style cabin is spread over two floors. With four bedrooms, one downstairs and three upstairs, this cabin makes for a perfect family or friends getaway.
Kitchen & dining room
The large kitchen included all essentials for our weekend getaway. It is equipped with standard appliances such as a fridge, stove, oven and microwave as well as all dining ware. There are two dining areas: one is by the entrance at the back of the cabin, perfect for a quick breakfast. The main dining room is at the front of the cabin, with large windows letting in ample daylight and offering stunning views of the forest.
The living room, with its vaulted ceiling and wood stove, made for a cosy place to relax. There’s enough room for the whole family to gather, with a corner couch and several comfy chairs. This is where we found ourselves most often when we weren’t out exploring the great outdoors.
The cabin boasts four bedrooms, one downstairs and three upstairs. Apart from one bedroom with a bunk bed, the others feature a comfy queen bed and plenty of storage. Although the downstairs bedroom was smaller than the upstairs ones, we decided this would be our room for the weekend. It had a homey feel and we had a great view of the stars from our bed at night.
With two bathrooms, you won’t have to wait too long to get ready in the morning. Both include a shower over bath, sink and toilet as well as shelving to drop your clothes while getting ready.
Upstairs on the mezzanine level, there is a corner couch with TV, which can also serve as the perfect reading nook post dinner. There is no WIFI at the cabin or TV connection, but there are DVDs for your viewing pleasure as well as board games to keep you entertained.
One of the most exciting features of the cabin is the panoramic bubble sauna on the back porch. We retreated to the sauna in the evenings, when the sun was setting and the autumn colours were at their most vibrant. It’s the perfect place to sit during the day while taking a break from exploring the park, with the panoramic window offering stunning views of the forest around the cabin.
In the evening, we gathered around the firepit located behind the cabin. A cabin getaway is not complete without reminiscing about past travels and drinking hot chocolates while roasting some s’mores.
If it’s a bit too chilly outside, you can huddle around the woodstove in the living room. Why not have a warm drink while playing cards with your friends by the fire?
On warmer days, the BBQ with propane tank is available to whip up some delicious grilled meals. Make sure to clean the BBQ and not leave any food outside as Riding Mountain National Park is bear country.
Things to do around Riding Mountain National Park
With over 2,969 km2 of protected area to explore, you won’t get easily bored in this vast park that combines grasslands, upland boreal and eastern deciduous forests.
As of October 2022, there’s substantial damage to roads in several areas around Riding Mountain National Park due to late snow storms causing washouts and erosion this spring.
Many areas are closed, such as access to the bison enclosure and access to the whole east side of the park from the Clear Lake side.
Check the visitor centre to get the latest information on road closures.
There are a variety of hiking trails winding through the park, from easy 30 min walks to full day hikes around the east area. If you’re short on time, check out Ominnik Marsh which leads you on an easy loop trail around a floating boardwalk with several interpretive signs along the way.
For a longer hike, Bead Lakes or Brûlé Trail to Kinosao Lake are an easy 1-hour and 2-hour respectively loop trails taking you past tranquil lakes with a chance of seeing wildlife in the early mornings.
Riding Mountain National Park is perfect for wildlife spotting. We saw many deer, several bears and a red fox on our visit in the fall.
The park is also home to a captive herd of around 40 bison at the Lake Audy Bison enclosure. In this 500 hectare enclosure, the bison are free to roam while visitors can observe the herd from a distance. Unfortunately, the road to the bison enclosure was closed during our visit. Make sure to check in with the visitor centre about the latest info regarding road closures and visiting the bison herd.
Other, more elusive, animals also call the park their home, such as moose and wolves. Head out early in the morning or evening to increase your chances of seeing these amazing animals.
As always, be aware of your surroundings when hiking and know what to do in the event of an encounter, especially with a bear or moose.
Food, drinks & shops
Wasagaming is the main town in the park where you’ll find many restaurants and stores. The town is by the south gate to the park at the shore of Clear Lake.
Lakehouse is an all time favourite and includes a restaurant serving comfort food, a cafe for all your coffee needs and a shop selling a whole range of goods including their own branded adventure products, from blankets to scented candles.
Just outside the south entrance is the town of Onanole, which is a short drive from the cabin. Here you can find a grocery store to stock up on everything you might need at the cabin.
Things to know before you go
- We brought our own blue jug with us since the water is well water at the cabin, however there is a separate tap with filtered water in the kitchen which is safe to drink.
- There is no WIFI at the cabin, but there is cell service. We managed to download a couple of movies through our phone hotspot (albeit at a very slow rate), but I would download a few movies beforehand just in case.
We were hosted by Bowerbird Stays on our trip. As always, all opinions are our own and you will always read our genuine thoughts and experiences.