If you live in Canada you don’t have to cross the ocean to see magnificent desert landscape. Just make the drive to Southwest Saskatchewan.
It had been on my list for a while but some part of my subconscious believed it wouldn’t be all that it claimed to be. Thus I put it off for several seasons until a friend mentioned it last summer and my interest was renewed.
For the record, I would like to state that my subconscious had no clue what it was talking about.
If you’re ever been to Saskatchewan or have heard the rumours (yes, it’s quite flat) you know that we (can I say “we” now that I’m a mountain dweller?) take a huge amount of pride in our province. Ask a Saskatchewanian why it’s the best and you’ll get a variety of responses. Almost always someone will mention the Roughriders.
What you won’t hear so often is mention of the Great Sandhills near the town of Sceptre in the southwest area of the province. I admit, I didn’t know it existed for the longest time either. Which is why I’m so glad I went and experienced it for myself.
The best experiences are the ones you don’t expect or plan for. I was in complete awe of the place when we arrived after a very dusty, hot drive. There were only two other people in the area; a couple older ladies and their little dog sunbathing, picnic basket and all, on the side of a large dune.
At first glance, it looks like the most god-forbidden landscape on earth and as you walk around you realize, it is. Nothing but miles of golden sand and the only sound you hear is the breeze re-shaping each tiny particle. It is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen (after the mountains of course).
But don’t take my word for it. Go yourself and see what most people are missing.
Access: Take the grid road on the east side of Sceptre (off Hwy 32) for 9.6km, follow the curve to the right at the T junction, travel west for 1.6km, then south for approximately 10km to the parking lot with interpretive signs
There is a single lane trail that heads up the first large dune right from the parking lot. If you turn left you climb quickly up the side of a hill to where locals built a monument to a local rancher who died a few years ago. It’s a wooden structure covered in old cowboy boots he apparently collected. It’s pretty neat!
After that it’s bushwhacking and off-roading if you want to keep going. The two ladies and their dog informed us to make sure we could always see a large tree up on a nearby hill in order to find our way back.
*Note: You will most likely be covered in a coating of fine sand by the time you return to your vehicle. And if you’re bringing a dog, beware of the many cows that roam freely past the initial trail. They respond to “mooing”.