Grasslands National Park is divided into two blocks, the East Block and West Block, both with very different landscapes.  Access to the park is only possible through driving as there is no public transportation available this far South.  The road conditions can be rough in some places and once in the park they are mostly dirt and gravel roads.  Make sure to check the weather conditions before setting out as recent rainfall can cause the roads to be very slippery or completely impassible at points.

grasslands-dirt-road

Make sure to bring a car that can handle the dirt and gravel roads well – Most 2WD cars will be fine, but if there has been a recent rainfall I would suggest that you bring something with 4WD.  We took a 4WD Jeep Grand Cherokee through on our drive which was comfortable and definitely was useful for getting through a few muddy areas.

— GETTING TO THE WEST BLOCK IN GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK—

To get here from Saskatoon, you are looking at a four hour drive to get to the West Block. You take highway 7 SW all the way down to Rosetown (a great spot to get some food or gas) and then head directly south down Highway 4 towards Swift Current.  Swift Current is the last major town with gas and food that you pass through before you arrive in Val Marie, so it is a good idea to stop if you need anything.  From Swift Current you have another 120 km before you will arrive in Val Maire where you will find the visitor centre (open May-October only).  Some of the roads are not in the best condition, so be prepared to go slower than the posted speed limit at times.  Once you are in the town of Val Marie you will see signs for the entrance of the park, which is a 25km drive.

driving-in-jeep

— GETTING TO THE EAST BLOCK IN GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK —

The East Block is accessible from Highway 18, 47km south of Wood Mountain.  From Val Marie you can take Highway 18 (signs for Fir Mountain) and then will take a right onto Highway 608 and you will begin to see signage for the park entrance.  There is sufficient signage to make the drive as easy as possible for first time visitors.  The McGowan Visitor Centre is located at the following coordinates (49° 4’15.85″N, 106°31’46.92″W).

sign

Another way to get to the East Block is by going through the West Block.  When the Ecotour route comes to an intersection and normally continues right, you can choose instead to continue straight which will lead you towards the East Block. Some of the land is still transitioning into parkland, so occasionally you will come across private land that has been leased to farmers for grazing cattle.  After crossing the river, you will reach an intersection that will take you either North or South – the southern route follows the Frenchman River Valley towards the US border, and heads East back up the steep hills onto the rim of the valley.  This is an incredible view of the beginning of the badlands and the massive valley.  Driving along the top of the rim will bring you to the outskirts of the park and you will find yourself at a T-intersection.  Turning West, the road will take you back into the park (West Block) allowing you to do a full loop if you would like.  Or turning East will take you to Mankota on dirt roads which is a short-cut route to the East Block. From Mankota you remain on Highway #18 and then head South down Highway 608 and follow the signs into the East Block.

MAPS OF GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK

west-block-mapeast-block-map

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