Compiled by the Road Trip Manitoba team
Last updated on January 11, 2023
Often called “the hub of the north”, Thompson, Manitoba is a fantastic city to visit. A gateway to the majestic beauty of Northern Manitoba as well as a sightseeing destination in its own right, there’s an excellent mix of nature, culture, and history to explore in Thompson and the surrounding area. As the largest city in the northern region and the sixth-largest city in Manitoba, you can anticipate needing at least a few days – if not a few weeks – to soak up the very best of everything there is to see and experience.
Thompson is also an amazing base for exploring more of Northern Manitoba, including the nearby lakes and provincial parks. Here, then, are the best things to do in Thompson, Manitoba and the surrounding area.
Land acknowledgments: Thompson is located on Treaty 5 territory.
Things to do in Thompson
Walk the Thompson Spirit Way
For a great introduction to Thompson, walk or bike the two-kilometre pathway with some of Thompson’s best sightseeing highlights. You’ll make your way through a small forest, downtown Thompson, MacLean Park, the pedestrian Bailey Bridge, and finally along the Burntwood River. There are 16 points of interest on the walk, including the famous Wolf Mural, the Miner Monument, and the Northern Aviation Tribute.
See the Wolf Mural
If you decide not to walk the Thompson Spirit Way path, you should still make time to see the giant Wolf Mural in Thompson, a tribute to the animal that calls this area home. A reproduction of a Robert Bateman painting, the Wolf Mural is one of the city’s most iconic images and most popular sightseeing destinations. Although you can glimpse it from the highway, it’s worth visiting for a closer look for a photo opportunity. At ten stories high, it’s difficult to miss, but it should definitely be at the top of your list for things to do in Thompson!
Visit the Heritage North Museum
A visit to the Heritage North Museum in Thompson is a must during your stay in the city. Consisting of two log structures, the museum highlights the people who have called Thompson home over the centuries, from Indigenous families to fur traders to miners. You’ll discover dozens of artifacts, a Boreal forest diorama which includes an authentic caribou hide tipi, fossils from the area, and so much more.
Stroll Along the Millennium Trail
Want to see as much of Thompson as possible? Spend a day on the Thompson Millennium Trail, a 13 kilometre path that loops around the perimeter of the city. Popular with both hikers and mountain bikers, the flat trail is also a good place for birdwatching. With multiple access points, you can also choose to break up the trail over many days.
While the trail takes you past sightseeing spots such as City Hall, the Miner Monument, Bailey Bridge, and the Heritage North Museum, you can also enjoy the gravel trail through the jack pine forest and along the Burntwood River for some peace and solitude.
Enjoy Nature in Paint Lake Provincial Park
One of our favourite provincial parks in Manitoba, Paint Lake Provincial Park is a stunning example of the beauty of Northern Manitoba. Dotted with countless islands and home to a fantastic beach, Paint Lake is a great spot for camping, fishing, kayaking, and so much more. Found only half an hour south of Thompson, there’s also the excellent Paint Lake Lodge, where you can enjoy the rental cabins, marina, and lakefront lounge. You can rent boats from the lodge if you don’t have your own, so there’s no excuse to not get out on the water and have some fun.
Marvel at the Northern Lights
There’s nothing like witnessing the dancing light of the Aurora Borealis, and thankfully, Thompson is a great place to view the Northern Lights! While February and March are usually the best months to view the lights due to the cold weather and long nights, there are chances to see them year-round if you’re lucky. Many people drive to Setting Lake, about an hour south of Thompson, for gorgeous views of the colourful sky. Track the Northern Lights in Canada here.
Experience Pisew Falls
Follow Highway 6 south of Thompson for approximately 70 kilometres in order to experience the beauty of Pisew Falls Provincial Park. For a province with very few waterfalls, Pisew Falls is certainly a showstopper! Pisew is Cree for lynx, and the falls were named after the hissing sound of the animal.
There’s a short boardwalk that leads to observation platforms overlooking the falls, while another short trail leads to the Rotary Bridge over the Grass River below them. The forested area surrounding Pisew Falls is absolutely beautiful, but be warned… there are many black bears, wolves, and even cougars in the woods, so always travel in a group and practice proper bear safety.
Ski at Mystery Mountain Winter Park
Calling all ski bums… did you know that there’s a ski hill near Thompson? Mystery Mountain Winter Park is found approximately 20 minutes north of Thompson, past the Thompson Municipal Airport. With 18 runs and 22 kilometres of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, there’s something for every winter adventure junkie. Make sure to warm up with a hot chocolate by the fireplace in the main chalet, or check out the Polar Lounge for an apres-ski drink.
Go Snowmobiling or UTVing
If you’re into the outdoors and adventure sports, Thompson is a dream destination. One of the most popular things to do in winter is to go snowmobiling, and there are plenty of amazing snowmobiling trails to discover in and around the Thompson area. For the ultimate in winter activities, pair that with ice fishing on one of the local lakes. In summer, try your hand at UTVing on the trails for an amazing rush of adrenaline.
Don’t have your own snowmobile or UTV? Contact Sasagiu Rapids Lodge for rentals as well as snowmobiling tours; they also rent out ice shacks for ice fishing trips. You can also get in touch with the Thompson Trailbreakers Snowmobile Club.
Hike the Pisew-Kwasitchewan Falls Trail
For those up to the challenge, the Pisew-Kwasitchewan Falls Trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in Manitoba. Considered a difficult trail, most people choose to camp halfway through the nearly 28 kilometre backcountry loop as hiking the entire thing in one day would be a daunting task.
Prepare for fallen trees, thick vegetation, and lots of possible challenges along the way! That being said, the trail leads you through some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Manitoba, with Kwasitchewan Falls – Manitoba’s highest waterfall at 14 metres – being the ultimate reward. There are designated camping areas along the way, so you can spread this hike over multiple days.
Attend Nickel Days
Considered a mining town, Thompson has one of Canada’s largest nickel mines. The city’s mining culture is celebrated every year with the eventful Nickel Days festival, a summer street fair that includes live entertainment, food booths, rides, games, a parade, and more. One of the most fun aspects of Nickel Days is the King Miner Competition, where people compete to try to be the best at various mining skills. It’s one of the best things to do in Thompson in summer!
Play a Round of Golf at the Thompson Golf Club
Love to golf? Then you’ll love this opportunity to play on one of Manitoba’s most northern golf clubs, the Thompson Golf Club. Experience this nine-hole layout that has a variety of challenges for all levels, including water hazards and bunkers. Designed by Canadian architect Sandy Ferguson in the late 70s, the club offers a great opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy a round of golf in the sunshine.
Visit the Boreal Discovery Centre
An ongoing project, the Boreal Discovery Centre is located at the site of the former Thompson zoo, which is found on the traditional territory of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. Make your way here to learn about the history of the surrounding lands and how Indigenous people survived here for many thousands of years. You can also learn about the wildlife and botany in the area, snowshoe on the many trails, or participate in events such as crafting workshops.