Everybody likes to joke about Saskatchewan – “You can watch your dog run away for three days!”- and most like to fly from eastern Canada to western Canada to avoid the long straight, flat prairies in between.
But if you step off the beaten path – aka The Trans Canada Highway – you discover a place far more complex than the reputation suggests.
From the gorgeous boreal forests that make up the northern half of the province to the roving grasslands of the south, Saskatchewan is full of surprises.
Whether you take the Yellowhead Highway, Red Coat Trail, or the Trans Canada Highway, there’s a lot to see and do in “the Land of Living Skies.”
Here are five things to do in Saskatchewan, other than just driving through:
Grasslands National Park
Set on the Saskatchewan-United States border, the Grasslands National Park covers 907 square kilometres of wide open prairies. The park is the only national park in Canada that protects the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem.
Give yourself and your crew AT LEAST a day for this park, ideally longer, because you’re going to want to explore both east and west blocks. In the west, spend the day hiking the numerous trails, geocaching, and taking an ecological drive through the park.
Don’t forget to take your hiking boots because you’re not going to want to miss the views from the top of the 70-mile butte trail. By jumping out of the car, you’ll be walking pretty far to find the five geocaches hidden within the west block.
The best part about the West block is seeing wildlife close up. You drive past the majestic bison. These giant beasts were driven to near extinction but have been slowly reintroduced into the grasslands where they used to roam in the millions. You can also spot the chattering prairie dogs running from hole to hole yipping and hollering at each other.
You might even be lucky to spot a black-footed ferret or burrowing owl!
The cherry on top of this beautiful park is that it’s a dark sky preserve. You can camp under the stars or even in a tipi. I promise you, you have never seen the stars more beautifully than a clear night in the Grasslands National Park.
The interprovincial park of Cypress Hills is a beautiful area south of the TransCanada Highway that spans both sides of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
There are so many trails to hike, bike, ski or explore on horseback. Check out the lakes, the visitor centres and even a golf course.
Cypress Hills is also a dark-sky preserve so grab your camping gear and marvel at the night sky!
Go see a Roughriders game
There’s no better place to revel in the spirit of the province than at a Saskatchewan Roughriders game. Don your green and join the rambunctious crowd at the mosaic stadium to watch the Roughriders play in front of their home crowd.
I was able to catch my team at a local game in Hamilton. (Go, Roughriders!)
Stand on a sand dune
You wouldn’t necessarily think of sand dune when picturing the prairies of Saskatchewan, but in fact, there are! Slightly north of the TransCanada near the Alberta border lies the Great Sand Hills ecological preserve, the largest active sand dune area in Canada covering 1,900 square kilometres.
When I ran up the side of the sand dune, the sun was starting to set behind it. Racing upward and slipping in the soft sand, I was out of breath when I reached the crest. But the views, oh the views. The first thing I noticed was the silence. No cars or people, just the soft rustling of the sand moving in the wind.
You can also explore the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial park, but it is more remote and not as easy to get to.
Explore the city
Saskatchewan isn’t just rural prairies! There are a number of major cities along the TransCanada, like Regina, Moose Jaw, and Swift Current. Or if you head north, visit Saskatoon, North Battleford, and Lloydminster.
There are so many parks, museums, galleries, and other amazing activities to try in the cities of Saskatchewan, like many other Canadian cities.
Along the Yellowhead Highway, the view coming into North Battleford is beautiful as you crest the valley’s edge to see the town below. In the middle of Lloydminster, you can stand on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
If you like some fun roadside attractions, check out Mac the Moose is Moose Jaw, a buffalo made of barbed wire and an RCMP statue in North Battleford, and a giant weathervane in Swift Current along the way.
So there you have it, a small sampling of the fun things to do in Saskatchewan. Don’t just pass through, stop and enjoy the beautiful province that is easy to love, just hard to spell.
Have you been to Saskatchewan? If so, what’s your favourite joke about the prairies?