How about those lakes though? Inevitably, lakes are one of the best parts about Manitoba. You do not have to travel far outside of the city to get your water fix, either. Some of Manitoba’s most beautiful bodies of water are within a 2-hour drive from Winnipeg. What a time to be alive if you live in southern Manitoba (well that, and the fact that the Jets are absolutely killing their post season run, but I digress…).
Last year, our family purchased a cottage on Pinawa Bay, about 18 minutes past Lac Du Bonnet. Our lakeview property faces west and quite possibly has the best sunsets in all the land (I am not biased whatsoever). But, for real, they are phenomenal – it is the kind of sky where you gasp for air because the view literally takes your breath away. I feel so #blessed that my family found this little piece of heaven.
We obtained the property in spring 2017, so when May Long Weekend arrived, I laced up my Nikes and headed for a trail within a provincial park I had not yet explored: Pinawa Dam Provincial Park, about 15 minutes from my cabin and 1 hour 30 minutes from Winnipeg.
This by far, has become one of my favourite hikes I have trekked, visiting the trail in spring, summer, fall, and winter. The trailhead begins at the dam and there are a variety of things you can explore before beginning your journey: have a picnic in the greenspace, view the mini water rapids, or take yourself through an interactive history lesson through the dam’s ruins.
Once you’ve spent some time basking in this space, head to the trailhead that is on the south side of the parking lot. The trail will take you to the Pinawa Dam Suspension Bridge (this is the furthest I have travelled thus far, although you can venture on if you choose). The distance to the bridge and back to the dam is 18 kilometers (9km there and 9km back). This section is part of the Alice Chambers Trail which is a subtrail of The Great Trail (formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail). Although it is a bit longer, the terrain is suitable for beginner hikers and you do not need any special footwear if you are hiking in the spring, summer, or fall (if it's relatively dry that is). I’ve worn my Nikes many times and it has been A-OK.
The trail begins with an open landscape, where there are opportunities for sneak peaks of the dam. The path parallels the road, but don’t let that dissuade you! In the summertime, the trees and greenery are lush and thick making it feel like you are smack dab in the middle of nowhere. There are many educational signs along the way, should you want to stop and learn about various insects and conservation. The trail has several rewarding views where you can stop and take photos or simply absorb the beauty around you (after all, you deserve it). The majority of the trail is a balance of grasslands, mini bridges, and rock escarpments. You will even run into an old (or at least seemingly old and abandoned) rice boat.
Once you clock in around 9km, you should arrive at the Pinawa Dam Suspension Bride. If you are a 21st century human like me, you will most likely want to assume the role of (un)professional photographer upon arrival because the spot is super cool and photo-op worthy. I haven’t experienced overcrowding at the bridge either, which is an obvious appealing factor. There were typically no more than 3-5 people present at every visit throughout the last year, which to me, is surprising – this spot is an unexploited gem.
My plan is to complete the Pinawa section of The Great Trail in its entirety this spring, beginning at Pinawa Dam and continuing through to Seven Sisters Falls Hydro Dam. It is roughly 27-28 kms, so it will be a full day commitment. I'll be sure to write about it when the time comes.
If you are looking for a day adventure (I would allow for 4-6 hours of time) that is semi-challenging (it is 18 kilometers after all) but are fairly new to hiking, then I highly recommend this trail. If you are a seasoned vet, who has traversed the mountains, climbing the highest of high summits, then I still recommend this trail because, well... it’s Manitoba in all its glory, and I personally believe that’s worth the journey and investment.
Until next time,