Moose Mountain Provincial Park & West to Regina
About 106km (66 miles) southeast of Regina, south down Highway 9 from Whitewood, is Moose Mountain Provincial Park (tel. 306/577-2600; www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca). This 388-sq.-km (150-sq.-mile) forested wilderness is dotted with lakes and marshes. The park harbors a variety of waterfowl and songbirds -- blue-winged teal, red-necked duck, blue heron, red-tailed hawk, ovenbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, and Baltimore oriole -- and animals, including deer, elk, moose, beaver, muskrat, and coyote. The Beaver Lake Peninsula trails take a little over 1 hour each and are easy to follow. You can also bike along the nature trails, swim at the beach south of the visitor center, and camp in the treed campground. In winter, the park has more than 56km (35 miles) of cross-country ski trails and more than 120km (75 miles) of snowmobiling trails.
At the park entrance is the summer village of Kenosee Lake. Here, you can cool off at the super-fun Kenosee Superslides (tel. 306/577-4422), which include an eight-story freefall slide; play golf at the 18-hole course; go horseback riding; or play tennis.
The modern, comfortable Kenosee Inn off Hwy. 9 (tel. 306/577-2099; www.kenoseeinn.com), offers 30 guest rooms and 23 cabins overlooking Kenosee Lake. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, and hot tub. High-season rates are C$111 to C$141 for a double, C$99 for a one-bedroom cabin, and C$140 to C$170 for a two-bedroom cabin. Outside of summer, discounted rates are available. The park also has two campgrounds.
Moose Jaw gained notoriety as Canada's rum-running capital; it was known as "Little Chicago" in the 1920s. Today, some restored buildings still retain the underground tunnels used for the illicit trade. The Tunnels of Moose Jaw (18 Main St.; tel. 306/693-5261; www.tunnelsofmoosejaw.com) provides two guided tours of the tunnels, one detailing the "Chicago Connection" -- including stories of Al Capone beating the heat up north -- and the other, "Passage to Fortune," telling the story of Chinese immigrants who came to Moose Jaw looking for economic opportunity through work in the tunnels. There's also a small museum archive of documents and pictures from Moose Jaw's heyday. Individual tours cost C$14 adults, C$11 seniors and children 13 to 18, and C$7.50 children 6 to 12; there are discounts if you take both tours on the same day. Tours last around 50 minutes and are generally offered every half-hour Monday to Friday 10am to 4:30pm, Saturday 10am to 5:30pm, and Sunday noon to 4:30pm.
Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery (461 Langdon Crescent, in Crescent Park; tel. 306/692-4471; www.mjmag.ca) has a fine collection of Cree and Sioux beadwork and clothing, plus plenty of contemporary art and history exhibits. It's open daily noon to 5pm; admission is by donation. Moose Jaw is also known for its 46 outdoor murals depicting aspects of the city's heritage. Visit www.moosejaw.ca for a detailed list of the murals and a downloadable map.
The Western Development Museum's History of Transportation branch, at 50 Diefenbaker Dr., by the intersection of highways 1 and 2 (tel. 306/693-5989; www.wdm.ca), showcases the roles that air, rail, land, and water transportation played in opening up the West. The highlight is the Snowbirds Gallery, which pays tribute to the Snowbirds, Canada's famous aerobatic squadron. Another exhibit lays out the various threads of history that led to the founding of Saskatchewan, using dioramas. It's open daily 9am to 5pm. Admission is C$8.50 adults, C$7.50 seniors, C$5.75 students, C$2 children 6 to 12, and C$19 families; free admission for preschoolers.
Wakamow Valley (tel. 306/692-2717; www.wakamow.ca), which follows the course of the river through town, includes six parks with 14km (8.7 miles) of walking and biking trails, 6 picnic areas, canoeing, and skating facilities.
If you stop overnight in Moose Jaw, the place to stay is Temple Gardens Mineral Spa (24 Fairford St. E.; tel. 800/718-7727 or 306/694-5055; www.templegardens.sk.ca), offering 179 rooms, including Signature Suites with mineral-water Jacuzzis. It's a full-facility resort with an expansive indoor and outdoor mineral pool complex where guests enjoy complimentary access. The spa offers a full range of body treatments. Rates are C$139 to C$159 for a double and from C$199 for a Signature Suite.
For more information, stop by the Moose Jaw Visitor Centre (450 Diefenbaker Dr.; tel. 866/693-8097; www.moosejaw.org), on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway as it passes through town (look for the giant moose out front).
Swift Current (pop. 15,000), Saskatchewan's base for western oil exploration and a regional trading center for livestock and grain, is 167km (104 miles) west along the Trans-Canada Highway from Moose Jaw. It's known for its Frontier Days, on the first weekend of July, which is anchored by one of Canada's largest rodeos. For more information about Swift Current, visit the Swift Current Visitor Centre (44 Robert St. W.; tel. 306/778-9174; www.tourismswiftcurrent.ca).
From Swift Current, it's a further 201km (125 miles) west to the Alberta border along the Trans-Canada Highway, with the following two very different parks well worth visiting.
Grasslands National Park
About 121km (75 miles) south of Swift Current along the U.S. border stretches Grasslands National Park (tel. 360/298-2257; www.pc.gc.ca) -- two areas of protected land separated by about 27km (17 miles). On this mixed prairie and grassland, there's no escape from the sun and the wind. The Frenchman River cuts deep into the West Block, where you can spot pronghorn antelope and bison. Black-tailed prairie dogs, which bark warnings at intruders and reassure each other with kisses and hugs, also make their home here. In the East Block, the open prairie is broken with coulees and the adobe hills of the Killdeer Badlands, so called because of their poor soil.
Although the park doesn't have facilities, there are two self-guided nature trails, and you can also climb to the summit of 70 Mile Butte and practice no-trace camping. The Visitor Reception Centre (tel. 306/298-2257) is in Val Marie, at the junction of Highway 4 and Centre Street. It's open mid-May to early September daily 8am to 5pm, early September to mid-May Monday to Friday 8am to noon and 1 to 4:30pm.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park & Fort Walsh
Straddling the Saskatchewan/Alberta border is Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (tel. 306/662-5411; www.cypresshills.com). En route to Cypress Hills, off the Trans-Canada Highway, is Maple Creek, a thoroughly Western cow town with many heritage storefronts on the main street. On the park's Saskatchewan side, it's divided into a Centre Block, off Route 21, and a West Block, off Route 271. Both blocks are joined by Gap Road, which is impassable when wet. The park's core is in the Centre Block, where there are six campgrounds; an outdoor pool; canoe, row/paddleboat, and bike rentals; a 9-hole golf course; tennis courts; a riding stable; and swimming at the beach on Loch Leven. In winter, there are 24km (15 miles) of cross-country skiing trails. Entry to the park costs C$7 per vehicle per day, or C$17 for 3 days. Camping costs C$13 to C$26 per day, or you can stay at Cypress Park Resort Inn (tel. 306/662-4477; www.cypressresortinn.com). Off Highway 221, this largish resort offers nice hotel-style rooms for C$115 to C$175, cabins with one to three bedrooms for C$115 to C$160, and condominium accommodations from C$125. Resort amenities include an indoor pool and a pleasant restaurant with a wide-ranging, well-priced menu.
In the park's southern reaches, Fort Walsh National Historic Site (tel. 306/662-3590; www.pc.gc.ca) can be accessed from Route 271 or directly from the park's West Block via an unpaved road. Built in 1875, the fort's soldiers tried to contain local Native tribes and the many Sioux who sought refuge after the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, as well as keep out American criminals seeking sanctuary. It was dismantled in 1883. Today, the reconstruction consists of five buildings and a trading post staffed with folks in period costume. Victoria Day to Labour Day, it's open daily 9:30am to 5:30pm. Admission is C$9.80 adults, C$8.30 seniors, C$4.90 children 6 to 16, free for children 5 and under, and C$22 for families.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.