Situated amidst a sea of agricultural land, Riding Mountain rises dramatically from the prairie landscape. Representing the Southern Boreal Plains and Plateaux natural region, Riding Mountain covers 2973 square kilometres (1145 sq. miles) of rolling hills and valleys. The park forms part of the rise of land known as the Manitoba Escarpment.
Riding Mountain includes expanses of boreal forest, a strip of eastern deciduous forest along the foot of the escarpment, huge meadows of rough fescue grasslands in its west end, and significant tracts of marsh and river-bottom wetland. The park is a crossroads where prairie, boreal and deciduous life inter-mix. This area of wilderness is home to wolves, moose, elk, black bear, hundreds of bird species, countless insects and a captive bison herd.
The national park is the core protected area of Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve. The park was set aside by the federal government in 1929 as part of the Riding Mountain Forest Reserve.