Biking, boating and comfort camping in Cypress Hills

Like Our Facebook Page

A ZenSeekers' road trip isn't complete unless the destinations include outdoor adventures, and culinary, learning and cultural experiences. During summer 2018, create your #BucketlistAB itinerary in Southern Alberta and come and stay a night and see a sight.

Written and photographed by Chris Istace

One pedal stroke after another, we work our mountain bikes to the top of Old Baldy Trail in Elkwater, Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The climb is less than a kilometre but we are rewarded with stunning views of Elkwater Lake below, shimmering in the late-afternoon light and surrounded by thick forests around it.

We’re in the stunning southeast corner of Alberta, in a park that is still a well-kept secret, all within about an hour of Medicine Hat. We zip back down Firerock Trail on our rented bikes to the far end of the lake, where we find the backcountry FireRock Cabins. Emily Green and Tamara Lybbert, who joined us for the day, had the pleasure of staying there.

What is comfort camping you might ask?

Well, it’s kind of like camping but without all of the work, like staying in a friend’s cabin, with a charming rustic wood interior and the modern conveniences of power and light, and an electric fireplace that goes on with a flick of a switch. All you have to do is show up with food, the most basic of gear like your comfiest sleeping bag to cosy up in the bunk beds, and your favourite foods and beverages.

Cypress Hills
Photographer: Chris Istace

Wow, those sunset views are the perfect end to a perfect day of biking in Elkwater, Cypress Hills.

With the bikes parked, we sat around a crackling campfire and enjoyed the spectacular evening skies in colours of gold, crimson and purple. A family of geese paddled around the lake as we watched them while cooking hotdogs over an open flame.

Cypress Hills
Photographer: Chris Istace

Rent a cabin, for comfortable camping, in Cypress Hills Provincial Park.

The next morning, we all swapped the bikes out for stand-up paddleboards at the full aquatic rental centre at the docks.

Cypress Hills
Photographer: Chris Istace

Get on a stand-up paddleboard and all your cares melt away as you glide along the gate. 

Paddleboard newbies are all always initially nervous and uncertain. But the shaky legs and short paddle strokes soon turn to huge smiles, laughter and we got into the groove of a-relaxed stance on the board.

Tamara and Emily went off to explore and chill out on the beach.

“It was a blast on the SUP,” says Emily. “It was fun to try and tip my own board and see how far I could push myself.”

Cypress Hills
Photographer: Chris Istace

You, the sky and a whole lot of chill time. That's what its like when you're canoeing in Elkwater, Cypress Hills. 

We traded paddleboards for a canoe, paddling through the tall grass marshy areas of the lake. Gliding silently, we snuck close to ducks, geese and other shoreline birds.

Cypress Hills
Photographer: Chris Istace

Disc golf anyone? You don't have to be a golfer to try this crazy fun sport. 

Not far from the lakefront, a nine-hole disc-golf course weaves its way through the trees. We had to check this out. I was new to disc-golf, but I can see why everyone loves it. Who knew golf could be so much fun with a putter and Frisbees?

Our two-day escape in the Elkwater area of Cypress Hills Provincial Park was over way too fast but we all realized we’d truly escaped our daily workaday worries. When you come here, all you need to do is bring your sense of adventure, and the park will get you into a Zen-like state of mind.

If You Go

Cypress Hills Provincial Park is around an hours drive from one of Canada’s sunniest cities, get planning on your Medicine Hat adventure now. 

Learn more about BucketlistAB here.

Grab an awesome itinerary and start your Southern Alberta adventure.

The mountain bikes, canoes, and paddleboards, including lifejackets and oars, can be rented from the park’s Boat and Bike rental booth.

Check into Alberta Parks to start planning your beer tour and other activities in the area.

Travel Alberta also has lots of great information about things to do and places to see in Elkwater, Cypress Hills Provincial Park.

Chris Istace is a ZenSeekers' correspondent, he can be found at The Mindful Explorer and on Instagram and Twitter.

Like Our Facebook Page