"Val Marie: Entry Point to Grasslands National Park" Val Marie by Babzz

Val Marie Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 35 photos

Grasslands National Park of Canada

Official park website

The park is divided into two blocks: east and west. The visitor centre is located in Val Marie. Entry to the West Block of the park is also from here. The East Block is further east past Mankota. The West Block is the main touristy area, with a number of trails, a free-roaming bison herd, and the only natural prairie dog colonies in Canada; however, the East Block is home to the park's badlands, which are certainly worth a visit if time permits.

Grasslands National Park is home to a number of threatened and endangered animals and plants, including the burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, Baird's sparrow, and great horned lizard. Many of the wildlife found here is unique to the prairie ecosystem. Did you know that several species of cactus naturally grow in Canada?

NOTE: Best wildlife viewing is early morning or towards dusk, when animals are most active.

Best season for birdwatching is spring, especially from late May to late June when males are courting females (i.e. singing/displaying), although early spring and autumn bring in migrant species, some of which stay through winter.

Wildflowers bloom all summer, but peak from mid-June to mid-July. Species bloom in successive waves and most are short-lived (a reflection of the harsh prairie environment).

Pronghorn antelopes are found individually or in small groups in the warmer months, but form progressively larger groups as the weather turns. In the fall and winter, dozens of pronghorns herd together - a wonderful sight!

Val Marie

Visit the village website for information on shopping, restaurants, and other local amenities.

Prairie Wind & Silver Sage - Friends of Grasslands:
This little museum and gift shop carries souvenirs of the park, such as clothing, postcards, mugs, etc.

Recommended Itineraries

One Day:
1. Visit the visitor centre in Val Marie - get the park map, self-guiding brochures, camping permit (if required)
2. Do the ecotour
3. Do the 70-mile butte trail
4. Do the Two Trees interpretive trail, if time permits

Two Days:
1-4 from above on day one
Visit the East Block badlands on day two.

Three Days:
Spend two days in the West Block, exploring an extra trail or two, or going on an extensive back-country hike and camping rustically.
Spend one day in the East Block badlands.

There are a few small towns along the road between the two blocks. Mankota has two great restaurants for breakfast, and the Grasslands Inn serves a good lunch or dinner.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Expansive vistas, prairie wildlife, few tourists
  • Cons:Remote - long road to get there
  • In a nutshell:Not for everyone, but worth the trip for nature-lovers
  • Last visit to Val Marie: Oct 2008
  • Intro Updated Oct 31, 2008
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