The Great Trail is the world’s longest network of recreational multi-use trails, connecting active Canadians, preserving green space and promoting conservation. It is so expansive, that 4 out of 5 Canadians live within 30 minutes of the Trail.
In Manitoba, one stretch of The Great Trail has a great deal of historical significance. The Crow Wing Trail was pioneered in 1844 by free Métis trader Peter Garrioch and his crew, after being marooned in the town of Crow Wing, Minnesota by Dakota patrollers. With hopes to make it back to the Red River before winter, Garrioch and his men cut trails through the forest, with some 80 ox-carts following in their path. Today, the Crow Wing Trail stretches from Emerson to Winnipeg.
If you are embarking on a cross-country cycling tour or simply exploring sections of The Great Trail, here are 4 stops to make as you travel along the Crow Wing Trail in southern Manitoba.
1. A Maze in Corn
If travelling along the trail from Winnipeg, make your first stop at A Maze in Corn. This well organized family-friendly destination features different attractions for each season of the year. If you visit in August or September, stop into the Sunflower Expo and explore over 8 acres of sunflower fields and over 40 varieties, including purple sunflowers.
To get to the Expo, hop aboard the tractor-pulled wagon and travel 10 minutes to the nearby sunflower field, where you will be greeted by live music, a snack cart (with freshly squeezed lemonade, wine or craft beer) and sunflowers as far as the eye can see. Admission includes one cut sunflower, which you get to pick-and-snip yourself.
Of course, there's also the corn maze which is now fully up and running. This winding maze features a scavenger hunt to follow along the way; which is a great way to stay focused as you make your way through the corn stalks.
If you have an animal lover in your group, there's no doubt the biggest draw to A Maze in Corn will be the petting zoo. Here, you can interact with bunnies, alpacas, kittens, a baby cow and a donkey. Cuteness overload!
2. St. Pierre-Jolys
This quaint Francophone village makes for an excellent stop along your journey. If you are just starting here, there is an access point to the trail directly beside the Musée St-Pierre Jolys. The museum offers insight into the early years of the french community, housed in a teaching convent that served as a public school. Also on the museum grounds is the Goulet House, dating back to the late 1800's. The home is an excellent example of a Red River style house, built with hand-cut logs and owned by Moïse Goulet, a freighter who transported merchandise by Red River oxcart from the United States up into Manitoba.
If you happen to pass through during the month of April, you will see the museum come alive for the Sugaring-Off Festival, where visitors can learn about the production of maple syrup and taste delicious “taffy on the snow”.
St. Pierre-Jolys is also the place to stop if you need a bite to eat. There are several options in town such as Oma's Schnitzel Stube and Lucky Luc's, but while you're at the museum - try a new arrival to town: J'em Bistro. This cute little eatery located right inside the museum serves up homestyle food, made with fresh, local ingredients (including the always delectable Bothwell Cheese). If visiting in the summertime, you MUST try the homemade lemonade.
Before you leave town, check out a few local establishments: from the Boulangerie St-Pierre Bakery to Art on 59.
3. St. Malo Provincial Park
Entering from the eastern side of the park, The Great Trail will take you through this lovely town and provincial park that has long been beloved by families and beach goers. The trail passes by the St. Malo Grotto, which is a reproduction of France's Grotto in Lourdes, before continuing on to cross Rat River.
4. Senkiw Swinging Bridge
Continue 20 kilometres south of St. Malo for a unique little piece of Manitoba history. The Senkiw Swinging Bridge was constructed in 1946 so that children could cross the Roseau River in order to get to school; an excellent alternative to the previous method, in which children would simply be hoisted across in a hand-powered cable basket.