Grasslands National Park: Valley of 1000 Devils (2 days / 20 km)

A beautiful camp night in grasslands valley of 1000 devils

The Valley of 1000 Devils is a wilderness area in Grasslands National Park-East Block. Located in Southern Saskatchewan (about 3 hours from Regina), Grasslands NP is one of the only swaths of native prairie left in the country. In the East Block of the park, the epic prairie landscape is broken up by unique badlands, caused by the erosion of clay formations. In the Valley of 1000 Devils, hikers can explore the prairie and badlands at their leisure. There are no official trails or campsites. Hikers can explore for the day, or set up camp in the shelter of the hoodoos and spend a night in one of Canada’s best dark sky preserves, after watching an epic sunset in the Land of Living Skies.

I have explored the Valley of 1000 Devils twice, in June 2017 and April 2021. This report will cover the April trip.

Trip Completed: April 2021

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Grasslands East Block Visitor Center / Rock Creek Campground

Ending Point: Grasslands East Block Visitor Center / Rock Creek Campground

Total Distance: 20 km

Elevation Gain: 150 m

Duration: 1 night / 2 days

Difficulty: Easy hiking, but intermediate-advanced level navigation and wilderness skills are required.

Location

This route takes place in the East Block of Grasslands National Park, near Fir Mountain. The route outlined in the map was populated with the GPS coordinates we tracked during the hike.

Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of the Niitsítpiis-stahkoii (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi), Michif Piyii (Métis) and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: There are no official guidebooks to my knowledge, however, there are online resources available, including the Parks Canada Grasslands National Park Trail Guide.

Map: Horse Creek – Canada 072G02

Campsite Reservations / Backcountry Permits: There are no specific campsite reservations, however a backcountry permit is required. You can pick up a permit at the Visitor’s Centre / Park Office.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Shuttle: No shuttle is needed as this route starts and ends at the same point.

Outfitters: There are no outfitters operating in this area, so you’ll need to have your own backpacking gear.

Trip Report

Day 1: Rock Creek Campground Into the Badlands (13 km)

6.5 km to campsite and 13 km total walking

We left Regina around 12:00 noon and drove south. The drive to Grasslands is very pretty, as the surrounding farmland slowly gives way to large ranches and open pasture, and the roads begin to twist through low hills. We gave the customary “country wave” to every truck we passed, and spotted mule deer and antelope along the highway. We arrived at the park around 3:00 pm. After a final re-pack of our bags, we walked down through Rock Creek Campground, across a cute bridge and into the backcountry.

The first 3 km of the hike is through the grassy prairie. Cattle roaming the area have made trails that allow for easier travel through the grass and bushes, but also meander aimlessly. I had been in the area four years prior and confidently led on toward what I thought was the Valley of 1000 Devils. After an hour of walking, I checked the GPS software on my phone. To my surprise, we were on the western edge of the park, nowhere near the valley! Realizing that my confidence had led us astray, I sheepishly charted a new course toward the correct area. Luckily, due to the open nature of the prairie, we were able to beeline directly to our new destination.

The Valley of 1000 Devils is a badlands area and stands out against the backdrop of blowing grass. Buttes, hoodoos and multicoloured strata make the dry clay formations look like the surface of another planet. When we reached the valley we took off without a real destination, choosing to walk from high point to high point, and following only our curiosity. The badlands are about 3 km long and 1 km wide. Though they can be disorienting, the high points are easy to climb and make good markers. We walked to the south end of the valley and chose a sheltered spot on the valley floor to set up camp out of the wind. Then, we hiked up a nearby butte and watched an epic sunset over the prairies as we heated up curry and drank wine.

The lack of campfire and chilly April evening led up back to the tent after dinner. We hung out in our sleeping bags for a couple of hours while waiting for darkness to fully settle in. Grasslands NP is a dark sky preserve, and watching the stars there is a real pleasure. As the area is only a few kilometres from the US border, some other friends of mine had noticed patrol drones in the night sky on previous trips. We stayed up late watching the stars and taking long exposure photos. Then, we settled into the tent for a cold and windy night. 

Campsite: No official campsites. 

We found a spot on the valley floor that seemed sheltered from the wind. When choosing a campsite at Grasslands, be sure to take wind direction and erosion channels into account. Water travels quickly across the surface of the badlands, and in the rain the bentonite clay layers become a sticky mess!

Day 2: Hiking Out of Badlands Back to Rock Creek Campground (6.5 km)

6.5 km back to

We woke up early and quickly packed up camp. The wind had changed direction overnight, making our night in the tent very noisy. We hiked to a new sheltered area and huddled out of the wind while cooking a breakfast of scrambled eggs and tea. After breakfast, we took off for the car. We followed a cattle trail on the edge of the badlands while trending to the north. We crested a rise and watched as the park office, tipis and OTentiks came into view. The distant ‘settlement’ reminded me of scenes from an old western movie. We were back at the car by 11:00 am and immediately dove into the bags of chips that had been stashed there. We took off on a slightly different route back to Regina to get one more view of the vast southern prairie.

Reflections

Every time I go to Grasslands it renews my love of Saskatchewan and the prairies. Despite the wind and cold April weather, I loved this trip. The badlands were drier than expected, and the cooler weather was great for hiking. Doing this trip in the shoulder season also meant that we had the whole park for ourselves!

This is a wilderness area without official trails. Cell phone service is very limited. Backcountry users should be familiar with line-of-sight navigation and have a strong sense of direction. Using a GPS is highly recommended.

Water in the park is not safe to drink, even when filtered (due to the presence of heavy metals). The park sometimes provides a water cache in the summer, but users should be prepared to carry water for the duration of the trip.

Due to dry conditions and the susceptibility of the area to grass fires, campfires are not allowed and camp stoves are sometimes banned in the driest seasons. 

Gallery


Author Bio

Hey! I’m Liam! I am passionate about paddling and hiking, and have guided paddling trips in Manitoba and in Algonquin Provincial Park. My favourite river is the Bloodvein in Manitoba, followed closely by the Manigotagan. When I’m not paddling I work as a geologist.

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