Located in the southwestern corner of Saskatchewan right on the Montana border is Canada’s best kept secret. Grasslands National Park is an absolutely stunning park that has been mainly used for research and conservation over the years. This park is chock full of history, culture and amazing vistas. While you may only be able to spot a total of 4 trees in the entire park, it is teeming with life and beauty.

Grasslands is also unique in that it was the only National Park without any formal trails. With only 6-7,000 visitors per year, the park decided to let their visitors roam the open prairie or follow suggested routes. Two years ago the product development team, along with the visitor experience team, got together and put together a plan to get trails in the park.

On October 4, 2010 construction began on the very first official trail in Grasslands National Park. The trail, which is less than a kilometer long, crosses through a prairie dog habitat and brings you to a telescope that overlooks Frenchman River Valley and the Laouenan coulee.

The Trail Care Crew was on hand all week to do design work. Their first project was to design a 2 kilometer loop around Eagle Butte, the area most heavily accessed by visitors. The lack of trees to anchor the trail and the ability to see the parking lot from a very long distance provided the Crew with some unique design challenges. Trying to provide hikers with an efficient trail through the prairie while still maintaining a 10% maximum grade was also incredibly difficult. After three days of pin flagging the loop was completed and construction began. While the asset crew worked on the Eagle Butte trail Chad and Deanne headed out separately with park staff and local interest groups to design two more conceptual loops, one heading out to 70 Mile Butte and one taking visitors to the northwest corner of the park. While the park staff learned about the intricacies of designing trail the Crew learned about the history and ecology of the area.

Both Chad and Deanne learned a great deal over the week and have fallen in love with the little prairie town Val Marie and with Grasslands National Park. A huge thank you to Colin Schmit and the whole crew at Grasslands who came together on this project and contributed their expertise.