Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Just a short hike away

No need to drive for hours to have a good walk

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As a person with few commitments outside of work and a reasonable amount of holiday time, I'm guilty of forgetting some Winnipeggers who love the outdoors find it difficult to actually get there.

So after I wrote a column extolling the virtues of hiking trails in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- eight hours by car from Winnipeg -- I received a reality check from readers who prefer to know more about trails closer to home.

"I want to go on a hike with great scenery, have a decent workout and not see other people. I want to drive less than an hour. Where can I go?" asked a reader on Twitter.

My response: No such place exists.

There's great hiking and backpacking within a few hours of Winnipeg, in Whiteshell Provincial Park (driving time: 1:45), Spruce Woods Provincial Park (also 1:45) and Riding Mountain National Park (three hours). There are also acceptable trails at Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park (90 minutes), Pembina Valley Provincial Park (90 minutes) and Grand Beach Provincial Park (one hour).

But the combination of solitude, stunning scenery and challenging terrain can not be found at a single destination within a short scoot of the Perimeter Highway. This is not a complaint, just a geographical fact of life in the middle of the Red River Valley.

But since there is a huge demand for ideas about places to walk or hike that do not require major travelling time, here are several destinations to consider:

Inside Winnipeg

Assiniboine Forest: Yeah, you know the park. But if you've never explored the forest, the City of Winnipeg's largest natural area, you'll be surprised by the vast network of wood-chip walking trails, closed in by a canopy of trees. Cycling on these trails is annoying without fat tires, so head out on foot and pretend you're actually outside the city. Only the constant roar of aircraft overhead -- and a steady stream of dog-walkers and joggers -- will shatter the illusion of solitude. There are many entrances to the forest, as well as a parking lot near the intersection of Grant Avenue and Chalfont Road.

Henteleff Park: No, you probably don't know this park, which occupies a sliver of riverfront land in South St. Vital, along a bend in the Red River. One of the city's newest parks, this former market garden and tree nursery only attained official status in 2002. The loop trail to the end of the park and back can be walked in under an hour; head out at dusk or dawn if you want to see white-tailed deer. The parking lot is located west of St. Mary's Road, just north of Normand Avenue.

Kilcona Park: North Kildonan and Transcona residents are justified in calling this place a dump; Northeast Winnipeg's largest park sits on the site of a former landfill. While it's a stretch to call this a natural area, there's a lot of room to stretch your legs, especially in the undeveloped west side of the park. Don't go if you dislike dogs, as there's a large off-leash area. Park entrances sit alongside both Springfield Road and Norris Road.

Seine River: In late December or early January, when the city's rivers freeze, the third-largest river turns into a wooded walking path. The entire stretch from Creek Bend Road near the Perimeter to Whittier Park at the confluence with the Red River is more or less scenic, golf courses notwithstanding.

Less than 15 minutes away

Beaudry Provincial Park: This well-trodden park in the R.M. of Cartier is heavily used by cross-country skiers from January to March. But you can also walk the loop trail along a bend in the Assiniboine River the rest of the year. Go on weekdays to avoid crowds. The parking lot is north of Provincial Road 241, a western extension of Roblin Boulevard.

Birds Hill Provincial Park: Wilderness purists can scoff all they want, but this heavily used park has 16 walking, cycling and horseback trails. The generally ignored Tamarack Trail (12 kilometres) in the north side of the park offers the best approximation of wilderness, but can be monotonous at times. Other trails are little used on weekdays; the short Cedar Bog walk is arguably the prettiest. Park entrances are located off Highway 59 and Provincial Road 206.

La Barriere Park: Like all parks near the city, La Barriere sees heavy use and is best visited on weekdays. Even better, see it from a canoe or kayak on La Salle River: Put in at the town of La Salle and paddle toward the Red River and Winnipeg. On foot, the park entrance is off Waverley Street in the R.M. of Macdonald.

Little Mountain Park: Created around an old City of Winnipeg limestone quarry, this partly wooded area in the R.M. of Rosser is worth a look if you've never been before. The parking lot is located on Farmer Avenue, which is what Jefferson Avenue becomes west of Brookside Boulevard.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 C10

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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