Regions of the Park
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - Alberta
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park spans the borders of two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan and includes Fort Walsh National Historic Site of Canada.
Here you will find information on the Alberta section of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The main access route to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - Alberta is via the TransCanada highway #1 to highway #41 south. Medicine Hat is the closest city, located approximately 70km away.
The majority of facilities in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - Alberta, including the Visitor Centre (open year round) and 7 campgrounds with over 350 individual campsites, are concentrated along the south shore of Elkwater Lake in the Elkwater townsite, located just off highway #41. In addition, 3 smaller campgrounds with more than 50 sites, as well as viewpoints and hiking trails, are found scattered throughout the Hills.
With its unique climate and mix of montane forests, wetlands and grasslands, it is home to an astonishing diversity of plants and animals. More orchids grow in these hills than anywhere else on the prairies. At least 18 species have been recorded here. Over 220 bird species, 47 mammal species, and several species each of reptiles and amphibians – Cypress Hills is a wild and wonderful place!
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is open year round so visitors can enjoy all seasons. Warm weather activities include camping, hiking, biking, sightseeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, swimming in the lake, playing on the beach, and golfing. Popular winter activities include cross country skiing, downhill skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and winter camping.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park-Alberta has over 50 kilometres of trails for hiking and mountain biking, varying in difficulty. A paved wheelchair accessible trail along the lakeshore offers great waterfowl viewing opportunities from its boardwalk areas. The rest of the trails are in natural form with easily accessible trailheads. Trail guides are available from the Visitor Centre or businesses in Elkwater.
About 15 km of trails in two separate trail systems are groomed and track set for cross-country skiing. The Spruce Coulee and Spring Creek Cross Country Ski Trails offer a variety of difficulty levels. There are also additional non-groomed back country trails. Trail guides are available from the Visitor Centre or businesses in Elkwater.
There are several lakes and reservoirs in the area for fishing. Elkwater Lake (where all boats are allowed) has naturally occurring Northern Pike and Yellow Perch; Spruce Coulee (where only hand powered boats are allowed) is annually stocked with Brook Trout; Reesor Lake, Bullshead Reservoir and Michelle Reservoir (where only hand or electric powered boats are allowed) are annually stocked with Rainbow Trout. Ice fishing is allowed in some areas, but please check your Alberta Sportfishing Guide for all related information including seasonal closures.
Two outstanding features of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park–Alberta are Horseshoe Canyon Viewpoint and Reesor Lake Viewpoint. Looking north on a clear day, you can see rolling hills, coulees and flat prairie landscape for more than 100 km. The cliff faces of Horseshoe Canyon expose the conglomerate caprock that protects the underlying bedrock. From the plateau at Horseshoe Canyon, there are no obstructions so sunsets are spectacular and the lights of Medicine Hat can be seen in the distance.
The Cypress Hills, which were never glaciated, have a rich and exciting history. They are known as an erosional plateau, having been formed by millions of years of sedimentary deposition followed by millions of years of erosion. An archaeology project started in the 1970’s at the Stampede Site near the Elkwater townsite, has revealed human inhabitation of the hills for more than 8,500 years. The focal point of the displays in the Cypress Hills Visitor Centre is the archaeological peel that was removed from the site.