Cypress Hills Provincial Park is a favourite destination among Albertans from this region of the province but may be a bit underappreciated by the rest of the province. It is situated in southeast Alberta or less than an hour from Medicine Hat.
However, the region is not just Alberta’s. There are many things to see, do, and explore all year long in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, which includes both provincial parks on each border with neighboring Saskatchewan.
This article will just cover the Alberta portion of the Interprovincial Park because it encompasses such a large and diverse area overall. This will provide you with all the information you need to plan your upcoming road trip across Alberta.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
There is a place tucked away in the Canadian prairies that is ideal for anyone seeking outdoor activity or a little peace and quiet. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park offers a ton of family-friendly activities.
Cypress Hills is a destination unto itself and so much more than just a provincial park where people can go camping. Every year, families return to their favorite camping area.
Along the south coast of Elkwater Lake are the majority of the amenities for the Alberta portion of Cypress Hills Provincial Park, such as the welcome center (open all year) as well as the 7 campgrounds with more than 350 individual campsites.
Before approaching the Saskatchewan side, there are three more campgrounds scattered across the Hills, in addition to overlooks and hiking routes.
Get comfortable and get ready to learn all you need to know about Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Alberta! On the ancestral lands of the Blackfoot Nations, including the Siksika, Piikani, & Kainai, the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, sits Cypress Hills Provincial Park.
We recognize the numerous First Nations, Métis, & Inuit peoples whose traces have been left on the grounds inside as well as around Cypress Hills Provincial Park for many years.
John Palliser oversaw an expedition in 1859 that traveled through the plains of Fort Edmonton toward Cypress Hills. When he first arrived, he described the hills as a flawless oasis in the desert, & ever since, there has at least been a sporadic settlement or, at the very least, a whisky trading post.
The region of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park has a rich natural resource base in addition to a rich history, so lumbering, coal mining, and cattle grazing have all taken place there.
However, it wasn’t until the CPR reached the brand-new community of Maple Creek that an influx of growers, ranchers, and homesteaders arrived.
Elkwater Provincial Park and Cypress Hills Provincial Park were established, respectively, in recognition of the uniqueness of this diamond in the grasslands. Then, an agreement to build Canada’s first interprovincial park, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, was reached.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park’s – The Best Season To Visit
Cypress Hills Provincial Park is accessible and enjoyable to explore year-round because of its year-round visitor center! What you desire to accomplish while you’re there is all that matters.
May to September is the best month to visit provincial parks for the classic summer experience, which includes swimming, hiking many paths, and riding horses.
Even in the winter, the park remains a worthwhile excursion. If you travel between November and February, the activities will, of course, be more focused on snow activities.
Consider activities like tobogganing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Additionally, it’s a fantastic time to see some wildlife.
Camping and Driving Around Cypress Hills Provincial Park
There are lots of camping possibilities on the Alberta portion of the Cypress Hills, including sites suitable for RVs, tents, and group camping, with over 400 separate campsites.
For those who want to camp close to attractions like the park entrance, beach, shops, and restaurants, Elkwater has a variety of campgrounds to pick from.
Old Baldy Campground, Lakeview Campground, and Aspen Ridge Campground are the most well-liked campgrounds in the community. More remote campsites are close by at Spruce, Reesor Lake, and Battle Creek if you travel farther east.
1. Camping in Comfort
In Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Alberta Parks offers year-round comfort camping options for individuals seeking a step up from traditional camping.
You can choose the amount of comfort that suits you from a variety of cabins that range from bush huts to charming cottages with a mini-fridge & electricity.
There are comfortable cabin alternatives in Elkwater in the Aspen Ridge, Elkwater, and Firerock campgrounds.
2. Lodge at Elkwater Lake
Not everyone enjoys camping, even comfort camping, so fortunately, the Elkwater Lake Lodge in town has suites, condos, & cabins for a more upscale setting to unwind after a day spent in nature.
There is a restaurant at the resort that is well-liked by visitors.
3. Night Sky Reserve at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Cypress Hills is the first certified Dark Sky Reserve in Alberta and one of the biggest in North America because of its high elevation & lack of urban light pollution.
In Saskatchewan of that kind of Interprovincial Park, the Royal Society of Canada hosts a Summer Star Party each year.
4. Beautiful Drives
In Cypress Hills, there really are two driving routes—one for the east section & one for the west section—but both start and conclude in Elkwater.
Keep in mind that both routes primarily consist of paved and gravel roads. Here you can install a map that shows both routes.
4.1 West Road Trip
Horseshoe Canyon Viewpoint, which provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the area’s scenery to the north and northwest, stands out as a prominent location during this trip.
The view of Quarry, which once supplied clay to Medalla near Medicine Hat and was utilized to make pottery, bricks, and tile, would appeal to history aficionados. After that, go to “Head of the Mountain Lookout” to reach the park’s highest point.
4.2 Road Trip to the East
Visit Reesor Viewpoint to see Reesor Lake and the surrounding area of the provincial park. Due to the lake’s convenient dock and management as a lake trout fishery, fishing is a well-liked sport here.
Reesor Lake is not a good place to swim, and fuel motors are not allowed, but electric motorboats are.
Activities in Cypress Hills Provincial Park
There is a ton of activities to do in addition to the incredible variety of attractions to see! Among the most well-liked are:
1. Center for Trex Discovery
The Eastend-based TRex Discovery Center – Visit the location of “Scotty,” the TRex that was found on a hillside near this town. You may take tours of the facilities and see a fantastic display of dinosaur artefacts. Take a picnic lunch with you and take in the scenery while imagining dinosaurs roaming the hills.
If this alternative appeals to you, Cypress Hills also offers tours where you can board a bus and be driven to the facility for a modest fee; for more information, visit the Cypress Hills website.
2. Lake Recreation
By the park’s main entrance, there is a little lake. Directly adjacent to the beach is a rental facility for kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, paddle boats, etc.
Motorized boats are not allowed on this lake. Make sure that you obtain your fishing license at the information desk before you start fishing in the lake.
Elkwater Lake is among the highlights when entering the park, and you drive right by it, so it’s impossible to miss. Its name is a translation of the Blackfoot name for the lake, “Ponokiokwe,” and at 4 km long, it is the park’s largest body of water.
A lake is a popular place for swimming, canoeing, sailing, jet skiing, and windsurfing, among other water sports. The major beach area is near the visitor information center, and there is a dock on the west side of the lake.
A protected swimming area, a playground, and restrooms/change rooms are also present there.
3. Hiking Trails
There are numerous hiking paths spread out over the park’s diverse topography, which includes woodland, marshes, and grasslands.
Make sure to specifically hike in Alberta’s abundant lodgepole pine forest, which is unique to the Cypress Hills, and find pathways through it.
4. Visit the Beach
Elkwater Lake represents the only one of the three lakes in Alberta’s Cypress Hills, wherein swimming is permitted.
Large and sandy Elkwater Lake beach with shallow, clean waters that heat up in July & August; Once you are there, you’ll see why it’s on our list of the top beaches in Alberta!
The beach area features a designated swimming area, a playground, a picnic area, & all other necessary beach-related services.
5. Equine Riding
One of the greatest ways to view Cypress Hills is by horseback, with about 140 km of paths to explore. Watch in awe as the Sweetgrass Hills towards the south, as well as the seemingly endless grasslands to the north, come into view.
For those who need more than one full day to ride the trails, there is also an equestrian-friendly campsite with corrals.
Mountain Bike Riders are drawn to the diversity of routes that are accessible for biking across the area because mountain biking is very popular there.
There is something for everyone from the casual cyclist to the true mountain biking expert on the trails, which range from paved to more difficult and technical.
6. Water Sports
Elkwater Lake is a popular location for a number of water sports, including jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding.
Elkwater Park Golf Club is the only place in Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Alberta where you may play golf. Located in Montana, this 18-hole par-36 golf course offers stunning vistas of the Sweetgrass Hills.
Geocaching is a pleasant, family-friendly method to hike and engage in some outdoor adventure while also taking part in a gift exchange for those who want to wander the hills & pretend to look for treasure.
Finding the coordinates in the park on a GPS device or a cell phone with GPS functionality is all you need to get started.
In Cypress Hills, fishing is a very popular hobby, and there are many stocked lakes & reservoirs to provide plenty of opportunities for some bites.
Along with other fish species, the park is home to rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, and arctic grayling.
9. Watching Wildlife
Moose, elk, cougars, or even wild turkeys live in the park, in the area of lodgepole pine and aspen woodland.
Mule deers also call Cypress Hills home. The greatest times of year to see wildlife in the park are in the spring and the fall. Note that despite Alberta Parks’ claim that Cypress Hills is bear-free, Natural Scenery.
With over 220 bird species documented, this park is one of Canada’s top spots for bird viewing. The plants and flowers, on the other hand, are not to be outdone, as they have a distinctive variety of grasses & wildflowers.
In actuality, the park has wildflowers that are unique to the grasslands. The Cypress Hills are also an orchid lover’s delight; there are fourteen different types of orchids here, and the best times to see them are on hiking routes in the spring & early summer.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park’s – Best Winter Activities
This place offers LOTS of wintertime entertainment, especially whenever the snow is deep. You can go fat biking, go ice skating, go winter comfort camping, and engage in other park activities while exploring the local trails.
*Please be aware that although snowmobiles are authorized in Saskatchewan, they are not permitted on this side of the park.*
1. Skating on the Ice
A popular winter activity in Canada is outdoor ice skating! A conventional outdoor skating rink may be found on 7th Avenue in Elkwater, one of the outdoor skating options in Cypress Hills, Alberta.
Elkwater Campground also offers a skating loop available, while the Old Baldy Campsite loop transforms into an outstanding 1.5 km long skate track in the winter (although not as big).
This isn’t available in Saskatchewan downhill skiing! Once the snow starts falling in the winter, you must visit Hidden Valley Ski Hill.
The facility offers 8 trails to try out, ranging from a basic novice area to the show-off course close to Elkwater. The pro shop offers ski and snowboard kits, including helmet rentals.
2. Fishing on the Ice
One of the best winter sports for ice fishing, which is legal in the Cypress Hills of Alberta at Spruce Coulee Reservoir, Elkwater Lake, and Reesor Lake.
It is crucial to inspect the ice’s quality before stepping upon it, and a handy rule of thumb is that ice must be at least 20 cm thick to be considered safe when ice fishing.
Nevertheless, thin portions may exist at any time during the winter, so be ready and consult the Alberta Guide on Sportfishing Regulations for information on rules and limitations.
3. Holiday Camping
Winter camping is available at the Spruce Coulee and Elkwater campgrounds, as well as at the Reesor Dock backcountry area. During the winter, some of the cottages and bookings made through Alberta Parks also offer comfortable camping.
All groomed trails within Cypress Hills Provincial Park are open to fat biking in the winter, with the exception of the Spring Creek Ski Trail System, which is reserved only for cross-country skiing.
Remember that in the winter, bicycles with standard mountain bike tires are not allowed. The minimum tire width for a fat bike is 3.7 inches, and the recommended tire pressure is 10 psi or less.
Both the tourist center and the Hidden Valley Ski Resort provide snowshoe rentals. Many of the paths in Cypress Hills are ideal for snowshoeing; Alberta Parks only requests that cross-country skiing routes not be used for snowshoeing.
These consist of the Spruce Coulee Trail and the network of cross-country ski trails along Spring Creek.
Alberta Parks looks after the toboggan hill at Snow Luge, which is located on Highway 41, south of Hidden Valley Ski Resort.
You bring your own sledge or utilise one of the disc toboggans for the “backyard luge,” as it is also known. Helmets are advised, and the track will depend on the weather and the amount of snow.
Restaurants in Elkwater Lake Lodge
Despite not having as many dining options as Maple Creek in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Provincial Park near Alberta offers three food establishments.
1. Pub & Café 12-34
Elkwater’s elevation inspired the name of 12-34 Cafe & Pub, which is conveniently situated next to Elkwater Fuel Stop.
While stocking up on groceries or camping supplies, stop in for some classic Canadian food and then go next door for an ice cream cone.
2. Dining Room & Lounge at Buglers
Elkwater Lake Lodge provides access to Buglers, a restaurant that serves a variety of cuisines with a focus on fresh, regionally produced ingredients.
We hope you like this guide on Cypress Hills Provincial Park. In this region, the stars & night sky are amazing. For those who want to appreciate the night sky, there is a designated area of the campground for no-light camping.
We believe that informational events, camping trips, whispering pines trail, and cross-country skis are specifically dedicated to night vision and stargazing!