SASKATOON TO PRINCE ALBERT NATIONAL PARK
YOU AREN’T ALONE if you think the snow-dusted hay bales found along the wide-open Saskatchewan prairie in winter resemble giant Frosted Mini-wheats. But these breakfast-cereal-confection look-alikes are just part of the appeal of driving a route that offers a glimpse of First Nations and Métis history, Francophone farming communities and a national park, not to mention the experience of seeing the seemingly endless prairiescape metamorphose into an enticing playground of snow-laden grasslands, rolling aspen parkland and boreal forest dotted with frozen lakes. Start your journey just outside Saskatoon at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a meeting place for First Nations people for more than 6,000 years. The park’s enriching programming includes traditional Indigenous games, arts and crafts, exhibitions and tipi construction. Continuing north on Highway 11, a.k.a. the Louis Riel Trail, detour east onto Highway 312 at Rosthern and cross the Gabriel Dumont Bridge, which spans the South Saskatchewan River, and enter the Batoche region. Highway 225 will lead you north to Batoche National Historic Site, where a small force under the command of Métis leaders Riel and Dumont lost the Battle of Batoche in 1885.
When Highway 225 meets Highway 782, head east along the former route, making for the Francophone farming community of St. Isidore-de-bellevue, where you can sample a traditional meat pie at the TLC Cafe. From there, it’s north on Highway 2 to the city of Prince Albert, the gateway to Prince Albert National Park. Once inside the park, watch for wildlife (Narrows Road, on the western side of Waskesiu Lake, is a prime spot for sightings) such as elk, fox and otters. You might also see wildlife while snowshoeing around the hamlet of Waskesiu Lake’s beach area or cross-country skiing the groomed pathways along Fisher Trail (loops of 7.2 and 8.4 kilometres) or Crean Lake (19 kilometres return). If this all sounds a tad too placid for you, then get a major adrenaline boost kite skiing or kite boarding on Waskesiu Lake, where Saskatchewan’s notoriously fierce winds will see you catch some serious air. Before returning to Saskatoon, stop at the Elk Ridge Resort (off Highway 264 and just outside the park’s boundary) for dinner at the Fireside Dining Room and Terrace, where the elk feature of the day will give you all the fuel you need for the gorgeous drive ahead.
Cross-country skiing at Elk Ridge Resort outside Prince Albert National Park.