Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park

Background: Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park has a very interesting claim to fame: at 1466 meters above sea level, it forms the highest mainland point between Labrador and the Rocky Mountains. The entire region is a breathtaking erosion plateau that stretches in an east-to-west direction for some 120 kilometers and towers nearly 610 meters above the surrounding prairie. The area combines classic prairie grasslands and lodgepole pine forest with rock out-croppings, ferns, and shrubs characteristic of mountain regions. Over 18 species of rare orchids flourish in the Cypress Hills. The area is alive with deer, moose, elk, fox, lynx, bobcat, endangered trumpeter swans, and over 200 more species of birds. Sometimes the conservation officers warn cyclists not to ride off-road due to the risk of being charged by deer or moose.

Most of the riding areas are located within the Nordic ski system. Tight single track stretches through forested areas, winds around small lakes, follows many stream networks, sometimes crossing them via unique wooden bridges, and periodically merges into long channel ways of shrubs and aspen groves. At certain locations, the trail passes over soft soil sections with protruding tree roots and through lush vegetation. The experience of riding these trails often generates the feeling of riding through a dense mountain pass.

Cypress Hills is a popular resort in the summer and winter. It offers deluxe accommodation and restaurants, campsites and recreational areas; all of which are very well maintained year round by park staff. Ask the attendants for maps and information on how to access the bike trails. The more adventuresome will want to enquire about biking opportunities in the "West Block".

Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced - Trails meander extensively throughout the area, and what begins as an easy run can soon turn into a technical ride. This is especially true where the trail narrows into tight single track in forested areas and where tree roots surface above the soil. Most trails are clearly marked and provide "Level of Difficulty" classifications. The best way to plan a ride is to contact park staff about trail information. They can provide detailed maps along with the most recent information on trail conditions, and suggest alternate routes if some areas seem particularly distressing. It is a wise idea to ride slowly the first few times you experience Cypress Hills, becoming familiar with the area, before attempting more difficult sections.

Directions: Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park is located 27 kilometers south of Maple Creek via Highway 21.

What to Bring: The soft soil conditions often conceal sharp object so be sure to bring along extra inner tubes or at least a tube repair kit. Once you embark out into the forest there are no services so remember to bring along food and fluids.