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48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
3,161 posts
47 reviews
48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

A group of us recently did a mini road trip from southern Alberta to southwestern Saskatchewan for a few days. I rarely see Trip Reports on the Saskatchewan forums and, so, thought that I would recount our little adventure. It was an “adventure” for us coming from the west coast because we had thought of Saskatchewan as consisting of mile after mile of wheat fields. We were, however, surprised by the varying topography in such a relatively small area.

The TR is set out in post #1 below

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
3,161 posts
47 reviews
1. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

DH and I flew from Vancouver to Alberta where we met our friends. We drove in their car – a good thing because some of the driving involved gravel roads, which would not have met the approval of car rental companies.

I had inquired about accommodation on the Saskatchewan forum last year and whether we should stay in Medicine Hat, Swift Current or Maple Creek. Among the suggestions in response was the Cypress Hills Resort Inn, which is located in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Because much of our exploration focussed on the Park and the area around the Park, we decided to stay there and found it to be a good choice. We reserved a three bedroom condo with kitchen facilities, which worked really well as we could make breakfast and picnic lunches in the morning and then go out to dinner after we had finished our daily jaunts.. We ate both our dinners at the Star Café & Grill, back in Maple Creek.

I have done a review of the Star Café & Grill. It had been recommended to us by a frequent contributor to the Saskatchewan forums and, as the title of my review states, it was a “real find”. The Cypress Hills Resort Inn was what I think of as “typical park accommodation”. It was not luxury accommodation, in fact was a bit rustic. However, it was in the midst of lovely surroundings, and we would book there again.

I was not prepared for the beauty of Cypress Hills interprovincial Park. It was a small gem. It did not have the spectacular scenery of Banff or Jasper. However, it was unexpectedly full of trees and has its own charm. I would love to return there sometime, perhaps when it was less hot and humid (the degree of humidity during our visit was quite unexpected and perhaps unusual), wimp that I am. It must be particularly lovely in the autumn with its cool, crisp, but sunny, days.

We had several goals in exploring this part of Saskatchewan. Some of us, with an interest in history, wanted to see Fort Walsh. Here is the link, which describes this important site in the history of the North West Mounted Police.

www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/sk/walsh/index.aspx

Fort Walsh is located in the “West Block” of the Park. From the TransCanada, you take Highway 21 south through Maple Creek and then branch off onto Highway 271 just south of the town. The highway is paved up to the Visitors’ Centre. However, because of the switchbacks higher up, there is a spot at one point where visitors should leave trailers. The Visitors’ Centre has very helpful information, a theatre with a most interesting film on why the fort came to be and a small food area. You take a bus down to the fort, itself, and tour as a group. The tour was quite well done. We enjoyed our visit very much. The site would appeal to anyone with an interest in Canadian history.

Some of us were interested in the sandhills, about an hour north of Maple Creek. Here is some more information for any interested reader.

http://www.greatsouthwest.ca/great-sandhills/

There is a museum in Sceptre that tells more about them. However, we tried to time our visit for later in the afternoon, when it was cooler and also when there was better light for taking photographs. By the time we drove up there from the Park, the museum would have been closed. So, we focussed on the sandhills themselves. This was a part of the trip that involved driving on gravel roads. There are apparently two entrances to the sand hills. We accessed them from the northern entrance via a “township road” leading off Highway 21 south of Leader. The township road was gravel with few markings and to find the further cut-off to the sandhills was a bit of a challenge. Although we had a detailed road atlas and a “bucket list” book on Saskatchewan, it took a bit of effort.

We found the entrance at a parking lot about 9 km, I think, from where we turned off the township road. Up the hill from the parking lot was an empty frame covered with cowboy boots. It was a steep climb up and a tricky climb down. Although there were a couple of bare sandhills visible from the top, the more interesting area seemed to be about a km (or ½ mile) away. Ideally, we would have gone earlier in the day wearing backpacks filled with water bottles and food and trekked out there. I rather suspect that “if only” we had done that, my pictures would have turned out better.

Our final foray was to visit Eastend. We had hoped to also visit the Old Man on his Back Nature Conservancy site. I am a Sharon Butala fan and wanted to see where she sited her books. (Sharon and her husband donated the family ranch to the Nature Conservancy of Canada when they retired and it is being allowed to return to natural prairie.) Unfortunately, the visitors’ centre is only open on weekends (and during the summer) and, although it is possible sometimes, to visit at other times by advance arrangement, it was not possible on the particular day we had available to make the trip. Here is more information about OMB –

natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/saskat…

We did, however, make the drive to Eastend and back, travelling on a scenic gravel road from Ravenscrag to Eastend one way (along the Frenchman River) and back to the Park on paved Highways 13 and 21. Eastend has an interesting museum, the Wallace Stegner House and the T. Rex Discovery Centre. It was quite interesting how much drier this part of southwestern Saskatchewan (i.e., south of the TransCanada Highway) was than the part we saw along Highway 21 north of the TransCanada Highway before we left the Highway to find the sandhills.

We really enjoyed our little road trip. We were able to explore a part of Canada that we hadn’t seen before. Although I grew up on the Prairies, it was “urban Prairies”, and trips through Saskatchewan largely consisted of driving along the TransCanada Highway out to “the Coast”. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return one day.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,070 posts
66 reviews
2. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

This sounds like a great little trip. I didn't know that Saskatchewan had such interesting treasures. It is quite remarkable how the colours and visual textures of the crops and fields on the prairies are so beautiful and NOT boring.

Kipling. SK
Destination Expert
for Zion National Park
Level Contributor
7,052 posts
131 reviews
3. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Nice that you were able to see the Cypress hills region. Many from my area in Eastern SK have made it over there. If you return you will have to visit more to the North, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Battlefords region.Thanks for the report.

Saskatoon, Canada
Destination Expert
for Saskatoon
Level Contributor
1,261 posts
151 reviews
4. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Sounds like a great trip! I second the suggestion to visit northern areas of the province if you ever make it back.

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
3,583 posts
5. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Glad you enjoyed your trip. Saskatchewan is a much under-rated province and scenically much nicer than people realise.

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
1,734 posts
77 reviews
6. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

"some of the driving involved gravel roads, which would not have met the approval of car rental companies"

We faced this issue a few years back in SK/AB/BC. In the end we used Enterprise who would let us drive on any public road, paved or unpaved.

On a more recent trip to NL the same applied with the exception that they would not let us go beyond Red Bay on 510 "because the surface is so bad".

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
3,161 posts
47 reviews
7. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Thank you for the information about Enterprise. It's good to know, for future reference, that there is at least one car rental company that will allow gravel roads. When I was looking at a Sastchewan road atlas, there did seem to be a lot of gravel roads to places that we might like to include in a future trip (perhaps flying into Regina and renting from there).

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
1,734 posts
77 reviews
8. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

It would be sensible to check those rules still apply, of course. We raised the question through their online enquiry centre before booking so had a record of the answer in case of any later argument.

On the later trip we went to NS after NL and there I actually read the terms on the agreement I had signed which seemed to ban gravel. When returning the car I asked the agent about this and got the answer that any road was OK.

Swift Current...
Level Contributor
3 posts
3 reviews
9. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

Great post! Glad to see I'm not the only one who loves this corner of the Province!

10. Re: 48 Hrs in SW Saskatchewan - A Trip Report

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