From Pemmican Trails
Length: 25 km km
Effort: ~11 hrs (2 days)
Ochre River Trail is a wilderness trail located deep within Riding Mountain National Park. The trail begins just off Highway #10 and then winds its way through thick forest down to a parking lot on the north-eastern boundary of the park. Highlights along this trail include scenic campsites, river views, stream crossings, and a serene forest setting.
There are no blazes or signs at frequent intervals along this trail; however, it would be very difficult to lose your way. The trail is wide and surrounded on both sides by thick bush, there are no side trails and all junctions are clearly marked by large green signs.
Both campsites on this trail are well equipped with a privy, fire-pit, food storage bins, and even an ample supply of dry firewood. There is also a log cabin (called Cairn’s Cabin) located about 800m off the trail, near the Ochre River Campsite. This cabin is for winter use only, and it must be booked (ph. 204-848-7275) and paid for in advance.
This trail can be used at anytime of the year. During the warmer months the trail is used by hikers, horseback riders and bikers. Skiers can make an over-night trek on this trail from the South Trailhead to Cairn’s Cabin for the night, returning the following day.
Dangers and Annoyances
The ten kilometer stretch from the North Trailhead (the eastern one) to Ochre River Campsite can get very muddy at times. After heavy rains this section of the trail gets ripped up by horses and becomes a mud bath.
There are five or six minor stream crossings on this trail. Use proper technique when fording streams and always wear protective footwear. Remember, heavy rain can cause streams to swell, making them difficult or even impossible to cross.
Many wild animals live near or on this trail. Be sure to use the food storage bins provided at the campsites and don’t be overly alarmed if you hear or see animals dart off the trail ahead of you.
At the time of writing, entry into the park costs 7.80$ per day. Youths can get in for half that price. A backcountry camping permit is required for each night you stay on the trail and costs 9.80$ per night. For permits call (204) 848-7275. Cairn’s Cabin costs 24.50$ per person to rent for the night. Be sure to check with Riding Mountain National Park for the most recent price scheme.
- If you go looking for Lone Coyote Campsite, you will find that it no longer exists.
- Ochre River is deep enough in spots to bath in, but it is very rocky on the bottom.
- Gators or some other form of lightweight shoes are useful for crossings and around camp.
This trailhead has a large parking lot, privy, and a garbage bin. The trail starts behind a steel gate and is clearly marked by a large green sign.
Elk Creek Campsite
This campsite is located near a small stream and has very little in the way of views. There is a large steel fire-pit, a supply of wood, two picnic tables, a privy, food storage bins, and a hitching post for horses.
Located about 800 m off of the trail is a beautiful log cabin built by the Westman Wilderness Club that will accommodate about 8 people. It has a wood stove, a loft for sleeping, a table, and a privy outside. Cairn's Cabin must be booked (ph. 204-848-7275) and paid for in advance and it is only to be used during the winter. There is a stream located a short ways north of the cabin.
Ochre River Campsite
This campsite is the larger and nicer of the two; it features riverside views and gurgling noises. In order to get to this site from the trail you need to ford Ochre River (usually easily done). There are two fire-pits, a supply of wood, four picnic tables, a corral and two hitching posts for horses, a privy, and food storage bins.
This trailhead is only a grass parking lot with a map of the trail. The start of the trail is clearly marked by the usual large green sign.
A free visitors guide is available upon entering Riding Mountain National Park. This guide contains a small map of the park which is quite sufficient for hiking this trail. Larger water-resistant versions of this map are available from the Visitors Center (open Spring to Fall) in the town of Wasagaming.
The following is a print-quality image of the freely available park map. Click on the image below to view a larger version of the map and then click on "Full Resolution" to view the full-sized image. You can right-click the full-sized image and select "Save Image As" to save the map to your hard drive.
The following maps were taken off of the sign at the trailhead.
Getting to the southern trailhead from Winnipeg takes about 3.5 hours (~280 km). Take the Trans-Canada Highway #1 West out of Winnipeg and past Portage la Prairie. Turn north onto Highway #16 for about 120 km and then turn north again onto Highway #10. This road will take you straight into the park, the trailhead is about 20 km past the park gate and clearly marked by road signs.
Getting to the northern trailhead from Winnipeg is trickier and takes about 4 hours (~300 km). Take the Trans-Canada Highway #1 west out of Winnipeg and past Portage la Prairie. Turn north onto Highway #16 for about 85 km and then turn north again onto Highway #10. Follow this road for another 74 km and then turn west onto PR 480. Drive for about 11.5 km, passing through Laurier, to where the road bends right. Turn south (left) onto a gravel road and follow it for about 300m, then turn west (right) onto another gravel road. Continue driving west for 1.6 km, around a bend, north for 1.6 km, turn west for 4.9 km, north for 3.3 km, and then finally turn west and follow the road to its end (it goes west for about 2 km and then bends south).
Some groups take two cars, drop one off at a trailhead, and then drive to the other trailhead. This allows them to hike the whole trail and still have transportation at the other end. However, it is not really worth the effort of driving between trailheads for a short trail like this.
To drive from the southern trailhead to the northern one, take Highway #10 north and then turn east at Highway #5. Near the junction with Highway #20, turn south onto PR #582 and drive for about 8 km to the point where the PR #582 goes east. Turn west onto a gravel road for 800 m, south for 1.6 km, east for 800 m, south for 3.6 km, and then turn west and follow the road to its end (it goes west for about 800 m and then bends south).
Currently there are no shuttle services offered to, from, or between the two trailheads.
Please see Photos of the Ochre River Trail for a gallery of images taken along this trail.
You can find up-to-date trail conditions online at the web site for Riding Mountain National Park.