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Forestry Trunk Road near Cataract Creek

Camping Along the Southern Section of Alberta’s Forestry Trunk Road

It’s been a while since I went random camping along Alberta’s Forestry Trunk Road, the gravel road that run’s parallel to the Rocky Mountains and provides Albertans with remarkable access to their forests.

Since so many of our visitors have expressed an interest in the forestry trunk road and random camping along it, I thought I would explore it again in order to give everyone a fresh perspective. Last week I did just that.

For those not requiring an outhouse, electricity or the other conveniences provided by traditional campgrounds, random camping provides a way to truly reconnect with nature; to pitch your tent, free of charge, on public land, as many of Alberta’s ranchers have done in this area since the 1800’s. To this day you still have to keep an eye out for cattle grazing along the side of the road.

The stretch of the forestry trunk road I explored this week was the 100 km stretch north of Coleman, Alberta. I’m fond of this stretch since it is where much of my youth was spent exploring, camping and fishing the amazing rivers and streams in the area.

The area hasn’t changed much since then, other than its increased popularity among the average camper and the size of the RV’s that frequent it. These days its not unusual to see a 40 foot trailer tucked into a spot that in my youth would have housed a tent or two at best.

During this particular trip, I was reminded of how beautiful the area is and how amazing the campsites, available to whoever comes across them first, are.  Truly, a campers dream come true!

As you wind your way North of Coleman you will come across hundreds of pathways leading into the bush, nothing more than overgrown trails, evidence that many have explored these roads before you.

If you take a moment to either drive or hike down these trails often you will come across some of the most remarkable campsites that, more often than not, are already equipped with a nice firepit as well as other camping conveniences that will make your stay more pleasant; thoughtful additions left by previous visitors.

Random Camping Along the Forestry Trunk Road

Random Camping Along the Forestry Trunk Road

Travelling along the road you will come across side roads that parallel creeks and streams and offer the adventurous an opportunity to explore further west away from the Forestry Trunk Road itself.

For instance, the road following the Oldman River toward its headwaters can be followed for approximately 27 km before coming to a gate. The road following Dutch Creek is another worth exploring.  Bear in mind these side roads can be a bit rough, narrow and at times scary if you value your vehicle.

It is always wise to heed the signs along the way since there is active logging on many of these side roads as well as oil exploration and fire fighting activities.

For those not entirely comfortable with the idea of random camping there are several Provincial Recreation Areas along the way that provide nice campgrounds at a reasonable price. These campgrounds are a little more rustic than those you would find elsewhere, but they have cattle gates to keep the cattle out as well as outhouses and hand pumped water.

From south to north these campgrounds are located near:

Racehorse Creek Campground
Dutch Creek Campground
Oldman River Campground
Livingstone Falls Campground
Cataract Creek Campground
Etherington Creek Campground
Strawberry Equestrian Campground

There are a number of ways to gain access to this section of the forestry trunk road but be sure to check for road closures prior to leaving on your trip on Alberta Parks website.

Coming from the North if you wish to travel the entire length of the road you can access it from highway #40 in Kananaskis Country at the “Highwood Junction”, which is the junction of highways #40 and #940. The first several kilometres of this route have few random camping opportunities, but you will pass Cataract Creek Campground, Etherington Creek Campground and Strawberry Equestrian Campground, not to mention some spectacular scenery.

Heading North across the Oldman River Bridge

Our favourite way to access the forestry trunk road is via highway #22 which runs parallel to the Rocky Mountains and cuts through some of the most beautiful ranchlands in Alberta.

Highway #532 west of highway #22  is a great way to access the northern section of the road. From the junction of highway #532 and #940 travelling south, the random camping opportunities begin in earnest. At this point of the road the Livingstone River begins to parallel the road for many kilometres.

If you would like to camp along the southern section of the forestry trunk road it would be wise to follow highway #22 south heading west on highway #517  known locally as the the Maycroft Road. From the junction of #517 and the forestry trunk road there are many random camping opportunities travelling either north or south. This route is also the most direct route to access the Oldman River and Dutch Creek roads.
I hope that helps you with your trip to the Forestry Trunk Road. There are so many visitors from Alberta and around the world, that are interested in this area. Please leave a comment with your suggestions or thoughts. The forestry trunk road is a truly amazing place to camp.