Grasslands National Park is divided into 2 sections, the West Block and the East Block. They are separated by a distance of about 100 miles. The West Block is centered about the Frenchman River Valley and the East Block is centered on the Kildeer Badlands. We only visited the West Block.
Val Marie is just across the US/Canadian border in southwest Saskatchewan and is the closest town to the West Block of Grasslands National Park. With a population of only about 100 people it has its small town charm and quaintness along with a few services as needed by the visiting tourists.
The town even has a small campground which is quite cute and pleasant.
The town has a self serve gas station and a few old grain elevators which can be toured.
Broken Hills Trail
The Broken Hills Trail starts within about a 1/2 mile walk from the campground and is an 11 kilometer loop which takes you on an upward ascent to the Red Chairs and back down again. The hike has wonderful vista views and plenty of opportunity to take in the surrounding scenery. These are 2 red Adirondack chairs which Parks Canada has placed throughout its national parks to encourage people to find them and photograph them and share their experiences on social media with #sharethechairs. Our goal was to hike to the Red Chairs!
Back Country Loop
There are 2 recommended auto routes in the West Block of Grasslands National Park. The first one we went on was the Back Country Loop which is about a 50 mile journey through the back (eastern most) area of the West Block of Grasslands National Park and out into private ranch land. The drive takes you past the Larson Dog Town which is home to the only existing black tailed prairie dogs in Canada. The drive continues to the Borderlands Lookout view point to the Red Chairs (yes, more of them) where you have a view into Montana. We found the red chairs but there was only one of them!! The search will continue!
The other tour is on the west side of the park and is about a 50 mile loop taking you through the grasslands and into bison country.
The black tailed prairie dogs live in Grasslands National Park and their dog town has the prairie dogs everywhere.
The Plains Bison were reintroduced to Grasslands National Park in 2005 after a 120 year absence. They came from Elk Island National Park in Alberta and are very prevalent around the park. As we entered the park from the north they were all around. You can’t miss them.