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Grasslands National Park

Horse Users' Guide

Horseback riders
Horseback riders may go anywhere in the Park.
© Carol Masecar

Grasslands National Park Overview:

Grasslands National Park (GNP) is located in southwest Saskatchewan near the Montana border. While the West Block is centred on the Frenchman River Valley, the East Block is home to the Wood Mountain Uplands and Badlands region. This semi-arid rangeland is characterized by gently rolling hills, coulees, badlands and wide open spaces! Grasslands National Park is the only national park in Canada to represent the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem.

Recreational Horse Use in GNP:

Horseback riding is a traditional form of recreation and is considered one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of this prairie setting! The park is a rustic, wilderness area with little to no services, so prepare for your trip well in advance.

Please read the following information in this brochure to help make the most of your time in Grasslands National Park. Happy Trails!

Young Horseback rider 
Horseback riding is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of this prairie setting!
© Carol Masecar

Horse Use Information:

A. Grazing & Feeding - “Hay! What ‘bout those vittles!

  • Horses, while hobbled, tethered or corralled may graze in GNP. However, avoid grazing crested wheat grass after May 31st to avoid the spread of this non-native plant species. Crested Wheat grass is an aggressive, exotic plant that is a potential threat to native prairie.

  • Bagged cubes, pellets and rolled or steamed oats are the preferred feed. Weed free hay is permitted only at the McGowan and Belza Campgrounds. Hay containing crested wheat grass or smooth brome is not permitted. See park staff for a list of invasive plant species.

  • Plan ahead and bring your own feed, as it may not be available locally.

B. Horse Facilities & Staging Areas - “Where can a horse kick off theirshoes?”

  • The McGowan yard site is the staging area in the East Block. This site contains hitching posts, a round pen, dry toilet, fresh water creek, mowed camping area and shelter provided by trees and various buildings.

  • The Belza yard is a staging area in the West Block. This site provides a mowed area for self-contained camping, dry toilet and fresh water creek.

  • Individual horse trailers may be parked at any of the following locations: Ecotour Road pull-offs, Two Trees Trail, 70 Mile Butte, McGowan's or Belza's. For overnight trips or large groups use Belza's or McGowan's. Leave areas close to houses for non-horse campers.

  • Pack out garbage and leave staging areas clean. If possible, pack manure out or scatter any remaining piles. There are currently no manure dumping facilities in the park.

  • Temporary corral panels or electric fences may be set up at the Belza and McGowan staging areas. Set up your pen back from the main visitor camping area in consideration of other visitors. After taking your pen down, please clean up any left-over hay and manure piles (see above).

  • Hobbling and tethering are both acceptable. Avoid hobbling or tethering close to other campers for safety reasons. Avoid Crested Wheat Grass after May 31st to help avoid seed spread. Move tether lines frequently to avoid excessive tramping in one location.

C. General Visitor Information - “Good stuff to know when tramping around these parts!”

  • Day-use riders do not need to register before entering the park. If camping overnight, please register at the visitor reception centre in Val Marie or the Rodeo Ranch Museum in Wood Mountain.

  • Call ahead or stop at the visitor centre to receive current information such as closures, road conditions, weather forecasts, special events and other pertinent information.

  • Horseback riders may go anywhere in the Park. Respect private landowners around the park and remain on Park owned lands.

  • Be aware of posted closures, ie: fire, nesting.

  • Please respect wildlife and plant species. Ask park staff about designated, safe creek crossings.

  • Bison are free-roaming in the GNP West Block. Always remain a minimum of 100 metres away. Never startle or try to chase bison. If you encounter bison unexpectedly, it is best to cautiously move away.

  • Open campfires are not permitted. Camp stoves are permitted, except for times during extreme fire hazard. Check with park staff for current fire conditions.

  • Back country campsites must be set up a minimum of one kilometre from any main road.
Horseback riders (East Block) 
Happy Trails! 
© Parks Canada 

Other Important Horse Bits:

Although holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing, sometimes we get sick, blow a tire or meet other misfortune. The same is true for our equine friends. For emergency vet and farrier information please contact our visitor centre.

Remember that fuel stations (especially diesel) are few and far between in these rural areas. Keep gas tanks as full as possible.

West Nile and Sleeping Sickness vaccinations are recommended 3 weeks prior to travelling to Grasslands due to the large volume of mosquitos the park sees every summer. It is also a good idea to bring mosquito repellents for you and your horse.

If travelling with pets, remember they must be kept on a leash while in the park.

During times of extreme fire risk, it is not advisable to shoe horses that will be travelling in the park. Sparks may result from a horse clipping a rock or their shoes.

Watch where you ride. Many prairie species, including rattlesnakes, are highly adapted to the prairies and therefore camouflage well. Prairie rattlesnakes have a poisonous bite. If you or your horse is bitten, stay calm and seek medical/ veterinary attention immediately or call 911. Most bites are not fatal and can be treated, but prompt attention is best.

When riding out in the park, you may come across neat discoveries such as arrow heads, tipi rings and other artifacts. Please leave objects where you find them. Record the location and report to park staff, but do not remove. This action ensures that future generations receive the same rewarding experience in our National Parks for years to come!

Thank you for choosing Grasslands National Park as your horseback riding destination. Enjoy your time and let the prairie horizon be your guide!