riding mountain
Sunset on Grayling Lake, Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
Proud Dauphinites refer to their home as “the land between the mountains.” And while the mountains in question—different sections of the Manitoba Escarpment—may not meet everyone’s criteria for actual peaks, they do rise up to 1,200 feet above the surrounding prairie. Club-sandwiched as Dauphin is between Riding Mountain National Park to the south, Duck Mountain Provincial Park to the northwest and Dauphin Lake to the northeast, it’s difficult to leave town in any direction without running into a mountainous park or a large body of water. These days, it’s also difficult not to run into leafy fields of hemp. As one of the sunniest regions in Canada (Dauphin gets about 2,305 hours of sun a year), the area is wellsuited to growing the second-most lucrative cash crop in the cannabis family, and local farmers have cultivated it extensively for the past decade. (A group of investors is looking into building a hemp-processing joint in town that would be one of the largest in the world.) For the most part, though, Dauphin remains a straitlaced farming community. Originally a Hudson Bay Co. trading post, it welcomed a large population of Ukrainian immigrants in the 1890s. Which explains why the town now hosts Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival every summer.

Outdoor lowdown

Hiking: Riding Mountain National Park’s underused northern gates lie just 16 kilometres south of Dauphin. Notable among the park’s 400 kilometres of hiking paths is the Birdtail Valley Trail, which cuts a path through fescue grassland, a remnant of the native grasslands that once covered the prairies. If you’d like to go for serious elevation—Manitoba style—head for Duck Mountain Provincial Park. At 2,730 feet, Baldy Mountain, near the south gate, is Manitoba’s highest point.

Sea kayaking: Locals head north to the rugged shoreline of Lake Winnipegosis—Lake Winnipeg’s lonely but no less loveable cousin.

Skiing: Riding Mountain has 120 kilometres of X-C ski trails, and there are three kilometres of lighted trails right in town at Vermillion Park.


About town

What can we say? It’s a fairly small prairie town. Dining options amount to a handful of fast food places and regular chains, along with a few hotel restaurants and watering holes. For a nice night out, locals make the trek to neighbouring Clear Lake and take advantage of its seasonal resorts. The hundred-year-old Dauphin Town Hall has been restored and now houses the Watson Arts Centre, for concert series, plays and local and travelling exhibits. In the summer, Dauphin hosts Countryfest, Canada’s longest-running country music festival, featuring local, national and international artists. Lifetime membership=$250. Sweet!


Other factoids » Near the geographical centre of Canada » home to Manitoba’s only indoor wave pool » famous former resident: one-time New York Islander Butch Goring