From Pemmican Trails
Length: 38.5 km km
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Effort: ~11 hrs (2 days)
The Tilson Lake Loop is a multi-use trail located in the western portion of Riding Mountain National Park. This side of the park is not as densely forested as the eastern side, providing views over open meadows and rolling hills. The trail forms a two-day loop that can be joined up with some of the nearby trails to create a longer trip.
Highlights along this trail include lakeside camping and the opportunity to view wildlife in a peaceful and distinctly Manitoban setting. This trail has a rural feel about it and is absolutely stunning in the fall colors.
There are few markings along this trail; however it is very wide and difficult to lose. There are large, green signs clearly marking all junctions along the way.
There are two backcountry campsites on this trail, both located beside small, isolated lakes. The sites have privies, fire pits, food storage bins, stocked firewood, picnic tables and plenty of space to pitch your tent.
This trail can be used at any time of the year. During the warmer months the trail is used by hikers, horseback riders and bikers. It would be possible to snowshoe this trail in the winter; however, access may be difficult after heavy snow fall.
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.
- The Boundary campsite that is indicated on some older maps no longer seems to exist.
East Trailhead (Pick-up Point)
This trailhead is located at the end of a series of winding, gravel roads. There are no amenities here other than some flat dirt to park your car on. If you are planning to hike the whole loop, camping one night on the trail, then starting here breaks the trail up nicely into two segments. No overnight camping is allowed at this trailhead, as it is very close to private property.
This campsite overlooks a small picturesque lake and sports all of the usual amenities for this National park. It has a fire pit, privy, food storage bins, stocked firewood, picnic tables and plenty of room for half a dozen or so tents.
Tilson Lake Campsite
Nestled along the southern tip of Tilson Lake, this campsite is arguably the nicer of the two (both are quite nice). It has a fire pit, privy, food storage bins, stocked firewood, picnic tables, and room for half a dozen tents. Be wary of the trees at this site, some are leaning over precariously and look like they may come tumbling down any day now.
This is actually the “main” trailhead; it has a map of the trail and enough space to park four or five cars. There is a warden's station located about a kilometer north of the trailhead along the road.
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 was taken from the sign at the trailhead.
East Trailhead (Pickup Point)
Getting to this trailhead from Winnipeg takes around 4 hrs. Take the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) west out of Winnipeg towards Brandon. After passing Portage la Prairie, turn north onto Highway #16 and follow it until the junction with Highway #12 (at the town of Shoal Lake). Head north on Highway #12, passing through the town of Oakburn, and then turn left (west) at Highway #45. When you come near the town of Rossburn turn right (north) onto Provincial Road #264 (gravel), stay on this road until it veers left abruptly and make a right turn (east) onto Rd. #123. Follow this road until you reach a T-shaped intersection and then turn left (north) onto Rd. #141 (Mears Rd.). Follow this road until you reach a +-shaped intersection and then turn right (east) onto Rd. #125N. Follow this road until you reach another T-shaped intersection and then turn left (north) onto Rd. 14W, following it to the end. At the end of this road you will find a small parking lot and a sign marking the trail.
NOTE: You should start at this trailhead if you are planning to hike the entire loop, as it breaks the trail up nicely into two segments.
Getting to this trailhead from Winnipeg takes around 4 hrs. Take the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) west out of Winnipeg towards Brandon. After passing Portage la Prairie, turn north onto Highway #16 and follow it until the junction with Highway #12 (at the town of Shoal Lake). Head north on Highway #12, passing through the town of Oakburn, and then turn left (west) at Highway #45. When you come near the town of Rossburn turn right (north) onto Provincial Road #264 (gravel), stay on this road as it veers left (west) for 1.6 km and then right (north) for 3.2 km. Here the road will make another sharp turn to the left, but keep driving straight on another gravel road for another 1.6km and keep your eyes peeled for a trailhead on the right-hand side of the road (just before you reach the warden station).
Please see Photos of the Tilson Lake Loop 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.