Every once in a while as we travel the province we come across areas so beautiful and so full of amazing camping opportunities, we can’t believe not everyone knows about them. The area surrounding Rocky Mountain House is one of those.
I remember the first time I traveled to this area, I was struck by the amazing scenery, the sparse population and the huge number of campgrounds that dot its landscape. From its Provincial Park campgrounds to its numerous Provincial Recreation Area campgrounds to its not too distant random camping opportunities, the Rocky Mountain House area is a camper’s Mecca!
Rocky Mountain House
From the beginning, Rocky Mountain House has been a magnet for explorers. From the fur traders that in the 1800’s used the area’s waterways to move their goods to market, to the modern day explorers that use their ATV’s and canoes to explore the very same areas, I can’t help think that each was struck with the same sense of awe I was at the vastness, beauty and isolation of the area.
The early history of Rocky Mountain House is steeped in survival, with traders seeking to move their goods through lands long held by first nations people. Since the land was inhospitable and food scarce, the two cultures were drawn together in their fight to survive.
Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Campground
Nowhere is Rocky Mountain House’s past better showcased than at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, an archaeological site that contains the remains of several of the fur trading forts that were collectively known as Rocky Mountain House.
The campground at the historic site offers visitors a number of unique camping opportunities, including tipis, trappers tents, wedge tents for rent and of course RV and tent sites, available on a first come first served basis, if you’ve arrived with your own accommodation.
Very unique to this campground is the opportunity to purchase an “enhanced heritage camping kit”. This kit provides items such as a Buffalo hide to furnish your tent, a period cooking kit, a blow tube, and a fire starting kit. What a great way to experience life the way the early area residents did.
It seems fitting that this campground is without all the bells and whistles of today’s modern campgrounds given the “back in time” nature of this historical site. Hosted by Metis local 845, the campground offers a kitchen shelter, two outhouses and firepits.
Visit Parks Canada website for more on this exciting “yesteryear” camping opportunity!
Recognizing Albertan’s desire for enjoying the outdoors and seeking to protect the environment, the Alberta government has created several Provincial Recreation Areas/Provincial Parks in the area. Below are are few that we’ve visited and have enjoyed.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Located approximately 17 km Northwest of Rocky Mountain House this Provincial Park is yet another jewel in Alberta Parks’ crown. The beautiful setting, gorgeous lake and spectacular trail system makes visiting this park a must if you’re in the area.
Crimson Lake Campground
Every once in a while we come across a campground that impresses us. Where we’re amazed at everything, from the well spaced, beautiful campsites to the excellent shower facilities that make getting up in the morning that much easier. This is one of those campgrounds.
Open from early May to October Crimson Lake campground is located along the heavily treed slopes above the lake. There are a number of camping loops from which to choose, each with its own water supply as well as washroom facility. Each of the 66 un-serviced and 107 serviced campsites has its own fire pit and picnic table.
I usually try to give readers a sense of the “typical” terrain and foliage they will encounter at the campground, but the campsites at Crimson Lake campground are so unique I would suggest looking at Alberta Parks’ website to get a sense of what you will get prior to booking. I posted an article detailing how to view the campsites online here.
There is a central shower facility as well as a small store, a playground, day use area, interpretative trails, etc.
While the campground closes for the season in October there are numerous winter activities in the park as well as some interpretive programs hosted by Alberta Parks to be enjoyed by winter visitors.
This world class Provincial Park has it all. I suspect you will be impressed and will be glad you chose this campground if you like to have all that facilities that come with a world class campground.
Twin Lakes Campground
Located about 7 km closer to Rocky Mountain House, but still within Crimson Lake Provincial Park is Twin Lakes Campground. While not as “flashy” as Crimson Lake campground, there are some beautiful campsites located here.
I think this campgrounds popularity stems from its great birding and fishing opportunities. The dock was lined with fishermen when we visited and the resident Loons are likely to serenade you morning and night.
The campsites each have a picnic table and firepit and each of the two camping loops have pump water and vault toilets.
There is one loop open year round while the other closes in early September.
Two Popular Provincial Recreation Areas
A short drive Southwest of Rocky Mountain House takes you to several Provincial Recreation areas. These Provincial Recreation Areas (PRA) provide users with fewer services than you’ll find elsewhere but also tend to be less developed than those in the Provincial Parks.
Strachan Provincial Recreation Area Campground
Located approximately 35 km Southwest of Rocky Mountain House on highway #752, Strachan is a gorgeous little campground with 27 un-serviced campsites. Each has its own firepit and picnic table and for the most part offer excellent privacy. Prairie Creek meanders through the campground and provides relief from the sweltering summer heat as well as excellent fishing opportunities.
There are bear proof trash receptacles as well as vault toilets and hand pumped water located throughout the campground. Alberta Parks at this time suggests boiling the water prior to use.
A rustic group camp is also available and there are numerous “unofficial” ATV and snowmobile trails in the area.
With a proper map book (or local knowledge) one can explore the back roads surrounding the campground. The road leading directly north of the campground for instance, will take you along the North fork of Prairie Creek, offering some beautiful scenery as well as picnic or fishing stops.
A great little campground from which to explore the area!
Prairie Creek Provincial Recreation Area Campground
Very similar in nature to Strachan campground, Prairie Creek campground is a little further up the road. It too is open May to October and has limited facilities. There are three camping loops, each with its own vault toilet, bear-proof trash receptacle and self registration kiosk.
ATV trails are located near the campground but there is no ATV access directly from the campsites.
Travelling further west from Prairie Creek Campground there is more exploring to do. With highway #752 eventually meeting Alberta’s forestry trunk road, the random camping opportunities are endless!
More to Explore!
After dusting off my back roads map book and finally taking the time to explore this area, I resolve to return shortly to explore some more.
Whether your preference is Crimson Lake Provincial Park with its interpretive programs and serviced campsites or Strachan Provincial Recreation Area with its laid back “barefoot” atmosphere, the Rocky Mountain House area campgrounds are not to be missed.