Located within the western ranges of the southern Rocky Mountains, Elk Lakes Park is an easily accessible wilderness park characterized by outstanding sub-alpine landscapes, remnant glaciers, rugged peaks, and productive lakes.
Elk Lakes offers a variety of hiking experiences including some maintained trails that are appropriate for all family members with some experience in back-country hiking.
Established Date: May 18, 1973
Park Size: 17,245 hectares
National Topographic Series Map 82J/11 (Kananaskis Lakes) at a scale of 1:50,000 covers the Elk Lakes vicinity. Map 82J/6 (Mount Abruzzi) at a scale of 1:50,000 depicts most of the Cadorna Creek watershed. Map 82J/7 (Mount Head) depicts the southern park entrance and access points in the Elk Valley.
These maps are available from most map retailers in British Columbia and are very useful if traveling off trail. Topographic maps do not show park trails.
There is a hike-in campground located 1km from the parking lot on the northeastern shore of Lower Elk lake, which provides pit toilets, fire rings, food cache, and tent pads.
BC Parks reservation service allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although the system does not reserve a campsite, the system provides visitors the convenience of prepaying for their trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.
For in-park registration, please fill in a self-registration envelope and deposit payment into the drop box. The camping fees are collected by the Alpine Club of Canada. Retain your permit for presentation to the ACC custodian during routine campground check.
See the wilderness camping section for other camping opportunities in the park.
The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is the successful proponent for the Park Operator Agreement in Elk Lakes Park to maintain and operate the Elk Lakes Cabin and Lower Elk Lakes Campground for another ten-year term, ending March 31, 2030. Beginning March 16, 2020, the ACC will be accepting reservations for overnight bookings in the Elk Lakes Cabin for April 1, 2020, and onward. For reservations, contact the Alpine Club of Canada at 403 678-3200.
Wilderness camping is permitted at several areas in the park. There is no camping fee for these locations.
Petain Creek: Camping is permitted in the Petain Creek Valley and Petain Basin.
Cadorna Creek Watershed: Camping is also permitted in the Cadorna Creek Watershed. The backcountry campground at Abruzzi Lake offers a pit toilet, fire ring, and two tent pads. Please use existing rock rings and impacted campsites throughout the Cadorna Watershed.
Fox Lake: Camping is prohibited.
Please practice wilderness camping Leave No Trace ethics.
Visitors to Elk Lakes Provincial Park have a number of hiking trails to choose from. Developed trails exist in the core area from the trailhead to Upper Elk Lakes and connect Peter Lougheed, an Alberta Provincial Park, to Elk Lakes. For the adventurous, a less developed trail system leads into Cadorna, Wolverine and Abruzzi Lakes. For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
A favourite activity of many park visitors is angling in the Elk River, Cadorna Creek and lakes throughout Elk Lakes Park. Species include Bull Trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish and Cutthroat trout.
Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate licence. Consult the B.C. Sport Fishing Regulations for special restrictions.
Biking is permitted between the Elk Lakes trailhead parking lot and the Lower Elk Lake campground. Biking is not permitted beyond the campground or on any other trails. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
For details on e-biking within Elk Lakes Provincial Park, see the e-biking section.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are permitted on signed or designated trails within Elk Lakes Provincial Park, provided they meet the definitions and criteria for e-bike use as outlined in the BC Parks cycling guidelines.
Elk Lakes Provincial Park is open to hunting. Check the B.C. Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis for more details. Horses are only permitted in the Cadorna watershed.
Elk Lakes Park is located in southeastern BC, about 104 kilometres north of Sparwood. Turn off Highway 3 at Sparwood and go north on Highway 43 until you reach the community of Elkford, a distance of 35 kilometres. From here, travel the gravel road on the west side of the Elk River. Approximately 47 kilometres north of Elkford the road crosses the Elk River and joins the Kananaskis Power Line Road. It is 5.8 kilometres from the crossing to the Cadorna Creek trailhead; the Elk Lakes trailhead is a further 16.1 kilometres.
Driving time from Sparwood to the park is approximately two hours. Access to the park is also possible from Alberta’s adjoining Peter Lougheed Park.
This park proudly operated by:
Alpine Club of Canada
Much of the park is above treeline. At lower elevations alpine fir, Engleman spruce and lodgepole pine predominate, interspersed with juniper, twinberry, false azalea, white rhododendron, and buffalo berry. Yellow violets, foam flowers and bunchberries add a touch of colour. The meadows are alive with scrub birch, cinque foil, Saskatoon berry and gooseberry, while alpine flowers such as fireweed, castilleja, blue violet, elephant’s head and giant ragwort splash the area with vivid displays of colour. Flowers, trees, and shrubs are part of the park’s natural heritage, please do not damage or remove them. The area surrounding the Elk Lakes is a mature old growth forest and includes dead snags that provide excellent habitat for cavity dwelling birds and small mammals.
The wildlife at lower elevations includes scores of red squirrels and snowshoe hares. Beavers reside near the Elk Lakes and upper reaches of Cadorna Creek. Elk, white-tailed deer, and moose frequent the meadows throughout the park. Occasionally a mountain goat, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, grizzly bear or black bear may be seen by the observant visitor. Birdlife is common in the area. While hiking or sitting quietly, one might see spruce grouse, wrens, juncos, snipe, flickers, or the Clark’s nutcracker. A variety of waterfowl is transient in the lake areas, as are osprey and blue herons.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.