1. Wetland Boardwalk Trail, Winnipeg
Walk on water—almost!—at the wide, floating boardwalk trail at FortWhyte Alive nature centre. The one-kilometre trail criss-crosses Richardson Marsh, taking kids out into the swamp and marsh ecosystems. Get a hand net kit at the Interpretive Centre and get ready to scoop up small marsh insects and larvae from the water to get a closer look, or bring your snowshoes and check out the animal tracks in the snow in winter. There are four other kid-friendly trails, lots of eco-tainment and tasty local organic fare at the Buffalo Stone Café.
Go hiking: FortWhyte Alive 1961 McCreary Road, Winnipeg 204-989-8355 Adults: $7; kids 4 and over: $5; kids under 3: free fortwhyte.org>
2. Spirit Sands Trail, Carberry
Wind-rippled sand dunes and real live cacti? Really! This moderate, self-guided trail in southwestern Manitoba has a number of offshoots and options. But for a five-kilometre round-trip hike, take the sandy, northernmost trail in and out to the rare, fragile sand dune ecosystem. Interpretive signs give you information along the way and, if you’re lucky, you might even see Manitoba’s only lizard, the northern prairie skink, on a grassy hillside. You can also hitch a ride aboard a covered wagon at the beginning of the trail.
Go hiking: Spruce Woods Provincial Park Hwy 5, Carberry 1-204-827-8850, $5 per vehicle gov.mb.ca>
3. Lighthouse Trail, Lake Winnipeg
Not your typical provincial park, Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park is a collection of islands and a peninsula on Lake Winnipeg, as well as a former fishing community that was home to Icelandic settlers. The easy 1.5-kilometre round-trip Lighthouse Trail is found on Hecla Island and winds through old-growth boreal forest onto the shores of Lake Winnipeg to a narrow spit. Kick back at the base of the Gull Harbour lighthouse—constructed in 1926 and still in use—and enjoy the panoramic view of the big lake. Be sure to look for fish-eating birds like pelicans, eagles and cormorants.
Go hiking: Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park Hwy 8 204-279-2056 $5 per vehicle gov.mb.ca>
4. McGillivray Falls Trail, Rennie
Whiteshell Provincial Park takes you out of the Prairies and into the rocky Canadian Shield. Your kids will be delighted by the waterfall at the beginning of the trail. Follow the path of the water, which leads to McGillivray Lake. There are two loops, and the shorter one is a 2.8-kilometre round trip (the longer one, 4.6 kilometres, takes you all the way to the lake). Kids will love seeing the water as it foams over rocks in the creek, several scenic lookouts and the chance to pick and munch on wild blueberries in season.