6 reasons to visit Cypress Hills this summer
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Everybody loves the mountains, but nobody likes the long drive out to see them. If you make the trek, you’ll often find yourself among throngs of tourists, standing in queues from sunrise to sunset. It’s a beautiful landscape, but one full of selfie sticks, elbow bumping and mounting frustration.
Thankfully, there’s an alternative to the Rocky Mountains, and it’s only half the distance away.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park straddles the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, making it a full day’s drive closer than that of the Rocky Mountains. One of the reasons people love the mountains is their towering height, and since Cypress Hills is nowhere close to the mountains, one would assume it must not be very tall. In fact, Cypress Hills is home to the highest point in Canada between the Rockies and Newfoundland and Labrador, sitting at about the same elevation or higher than Banff.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip out to Cypress Hills this summer, here are six reasons you should:
Cypress Hills is home to a vast network of hiking trails, dating back to the 1950s. These trails range from small, half-kilometre loops to nine-kilometre, one-way journeys. For long hikes, such as the Spruce Coulee Trail, there’s often a campsite at the end for weary travellers to spend the night. These trails will take you along the rugged cliffs, past rushing rivers and through the deep woods.
If hiking isn’t your thing, biking is a popular alternative to getting around Cypress Hills. Thanks to local Mountain Bike Club, The 670 Collective, the paths around the Elkwater campsite are constantly evolving, providing you with over 60 kilometres of trail to explore. If you’re into competitive racing, the Battle Creek Showdown is on Aug. 26, 2017, and features a four-hour race around Elkwater.
When was the last time you looked at the stars? Recently, scientists announced that a third of the global population cannot see the night stars due to light pollution. For centuries humanity lived under and worshipped the stars, and gazing at them is still considered an other-worldly experience. To carry on this tradition, Cypress Hills was declared a Dark-Sky Preserve in 2004. A midnight drive up to Head of the Mountain or Horseshoe Canyon will offer a stargazing experience like no other – and bringing a camera that can take night photography will leave your friends back home speechless.
One of the most curious things about Cypress Hills is the topography surrounding it. Situated in the middle of the Canadian prairies, its towering size seems almost out of place. Thanks to the ice sheets that once scraped and clawed their way across Canada, mounds of earth were pushed up and an oasis away from the ice and snow was formed. This oasis became Cypress Hills, and today is home to some of the most dynamic and diverse topography in Canada. From lakes to hills to cliffs to prairies, Cypress Hills has it all, and more.
5. Canoeing and Kayaking
There are plenty of opportunities to canoe and kayak around Cypress Hills, and you have your fair share of lakes to choose from. While I have canoed before, kayaking is something I have never tried. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it, but once I got over the fear of getting a little wet, I had a blast. For those who don’t own a canoe or kayak, both can be rented from the marina for $15 an hour, or $30 for three hours.
6. Disc golf
The last number of years has seen the rise in popularity of disc golf. For those who don’t know, disc golf is a cross between regular golf and Frisbee. You start at the beginning of a course and throw your plastic disc towards a target – which is usually a metal basket – aiming to get it there below the par of the course. If you’re interested, you can rent discs from the Elkwater Information Centre for $5. The lighter disc they’ll provide you with is called a “driver” and is used for long-range throwing, while the smaller, heavier disc is called a “putter” and is used for short-range throwing.