BY MIRA OBERMAN, COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER, CPAWS MANITOBA
Bois-des-Esprits is the perfect introduction to winter hiking.
More than 20 tree carvings turn the trail into a treasure hunt, enchanting and mystifying adults and children alike.
The woods are filled with deer and birdsong.
And there is no intimidatingly long drive or risk of getting lost in the cold.
Located along the Seine River in St. Vital, Bois-des-Esprits is big enough to feel like you’re in a forest and small enough that you can see your way out at any point. It’s also accessible by bus.
Bois-des-Esprits (“Woods Where the Spirits Dwell”) is the largest remaining riverbank forest in Winnipeg.
The 117-acre urban forest is packed with a variety of natural attractions: oaks and aspen forests, grasslands, and wetlands dotted with fuzzy cattails. Rolling hills and plenty of winding side paths enhance the experience.
Children and adventurous adults will enjoy climbing along the many fallen trees and exploring shelters made out of fallen limbs. The river becomes another well-loved pathway once it freezes over and is often dotted with homemade skating rinks.
The forest’s most popular attraction — Woody-Mhitik, the three-metre-tall tree spirit carved out of the remains of a 75-foot elm tree in 2004 by Walter Mirosh and Robert Leclair from Les Gens de Bois Woodcarving Club — is sadly no more. It toppled over in August 2021.
Many tree spirits remain, carved out of dead trees throughout the forest. Keen eyes will also find carvings of an owl, chickadees, a dove, a heron, and much more. A map of the carvings and more information about Bois-des-Esprits is available from Save Our Seine.
How to Get There
- A great starting point is at the south end of Bois-des-Esprits in the greenspace on Shorehill Drive just past the Royalwood Bridge.
- Bois-des-Esprits is accessible by bus — the 59, 93 and 96 — and by bicycle.
- The easiest place to park is in the Southglen Shopping Centre at St. Anne’s Rd and Shorehill Drive (look for the No Frills).
- There are plenty of shops and restaurants along St. Anne’s Road.
- There are no public washrooms in the park.
How to Dress for Winter Hiking
- The key to enjoying winter activities is to stay warm and dry.
- Layers are your best friend. Hiking is good exercise. You don’t want to get sweaty while you’re moving and then catch a chill when you stop. So be aware of your body temperature and take layers off — or pile them on — as needed.
- Start with a lighter puffer jacket or windbreaker supplemented by a sweater or fleece and a long sleeve shirt (a moisture-wicking fabric baselayer if you have one, cotton if you don’t). You may overheat in a heavy parka unless it’s very, very cold out.
- Snow pants or windbreaker/shell pants are well worth the investment. They don’t have to be expensive. They just need to keep your bottom half warm and dry, especially when you sit down for a snack break.
- Don’t forget a warm hat, mitts, and either a scarf or neckwarmer. You can layer thin gloves under heavy mitts for added warmth and flexibility.
- Warm, comfortable, and sturdy boots are a must. You don’t need expensive hiking boots. But you will not enjoy walking through the woods in sopping wet sneakers or leather boots with a high heel.
What to Bring on Your Winter Hike
- Bring at least two bottles of water: you can leave one in your vehicle on a short hike; you’ll want both on a long hike.
- Snacks are a great way to keep your energy up along the trail. Many trails don’t have restaurants or stores nearby so you may also want to pack a picnic lunch.
- Hand sanitizer (Most trails have outhouses, not modern toilets.)
- Any medication you may need (like antihistamines, your asthma inhaler, or an EpiPen)
- A safety whistle, pocket flashlight, and a basic first-aid kit (not required, but a good idea any time you’re in the wilderness)
Do you want to go on a group hike with like-minded people? Our free group hikes part of our Outdoor Fun programming are an easy way to get outside and explore Manitoba’s beautiful provincial parks with other people.
About the CPAWS Manitoba Nature Club
CPAWS Manitoba’s Nature Club is designed to help Manitobans get outside, make new friends, and learn about the wonders of nature.
We’ve developed a wide range of programming and activities to help Manitobans of all ages and abilities enjoy the health and wellness benefits of nature.
This program is possible thanks to the generous support of The Winnipeg Foundation and the Conservation Trust, a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Initiative delivered by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.