They look different each time I visit and I never get bored going back.
The 1900 squared kilometers of active sand dunes are ever changing. Blown by wind or hardened by rain, they are like a canvass that gets repainted every day. Trees disappear for years and then peak through the drifts, sandblasted and smooth and whitened with age.
I am lucky enough to live near the Great Sandhills, south of Sceptre and Leader, Saskatchewan. It’s the first place I take visitors and I always get a kick out of watching their reactions as they see these massive dunes for the first time. It’s a surreal feeling to know that you are standing on sand that was deposited from glaciers so many years ago.
Four Ways to Enjoy Saskatchewan’s Great Sandhills
If you’re able to visit this special part of Saskatchewan, my family has a few favorite things to do at the Great Sandhills Saskatchewan that you might enjoy.
Bone collecting is one of our favorite activities. We usually leave our discoveries for the next explorers, but the thrill of finding the biggest or most unusual piece is the fun part. You will see lots of bone fragments that come from the rare kangaroo rats found here. The sand collapses their burrows and kills them each year, almost wiping out an entire population. It may sound morbid, but finding the remnants of wildlife gives me a glimpse into the life of the creatures found in this ecosystem. I have even found seashells that I like to think came over with the glaciers, but I have not verified that just yet.
Jumping the Sand Dunes
Jumping off the edge of the steep dunes is a favorite challenge of many kids and adults. If you are more coordinated and athletic than I am, you can take a running leap to see how far you can make it. Dig your heels into the soft sand and try not to somersault to the bottom of the steep incline. My kids can do this for hours while I sit and take videos, shouting out reminders to be careful.
Hiking is my favorite thing to do here. If you don’t have a lot of time, there is a large set of dunes right by the parking lot, but it is worth the time to hike to the set farther west. Narrow cattle trails will lead the way through prickly plants and a few bushes. Walking up and down the dunes you can imagine you are in an actual desert. Be sure to keep your bearings about how to get back to the parking lot. There is a cowboy boot display that helps you find your way back. I always tell people that 2 hours is a good amount of time to hike and explore.
Spotting wildlife is always fun. I have seen deer, coyotes, and many species of birds. They say if you go at night you can see the kangaroo rats. I am just happy to see their footprints in the sand. There are also interesting looking beetles that tunnel through the sand, leaving marks like a snake. Don’t worry, there are no rattlesnakes at the Great Sandhills. You will also see cows wandering free, as the Sandhills are on ranch land. Be careful during calving season!
Saskatchewan Sand Dunes
This is one of the most interesting places to visit in Saskatchewan. The contrast of the Great Sandhills to the surrounding Saskatchewan prairies are part of the draw that keeps me coming back. They seem to come out of nowhere as you take the winding trail towards the parking lot. Each time I go, I notice something different, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop enjoying this unique natural site. There’s also camping near Great Sand Dunes, which is in-between Leader Sk and Sceptre.
The Great Sandhills are one of Saskatchewan’s tourist attractions but are just enough off-the-beaten-path to remain quiet. For those looking for more of an adventure, there’s also the incredibly massive Athabasca Sand Dunes in Saskatchewan’s deep North. However, these require a charter flight and cost a lot of money. If you can make it though, we’ve heard it’s very, very beautiful.
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