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Elk Lakes Provincial Park
About This Park
Located within the western ranges of the southern Rocky Mountains, Elk Lakes Provincial 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.
Know Before You Go
- Trail Report [PDF] (October 19, 2021)
- Snowmobile not permitted in any area of Elk Lakes Park. The previous special exemption to use snowmobiles to access Abruzzi Lake along the seismic corridor is no longer in effect. The entire park is closed to all motorized activities. Non-compliance of the motorized closure will result in enforcement actions.
- Persons visiting Elk Lake Provincial Park are reminded that the park is a wilderness area, without supplies or equipment of any kind. All arrangements for supplies and transportation must be made beforehand.
- Bring your own drinking water, as potable water is not available in the park.
- All park visitors should wear strong waterproofed, lug-soled boots and carry a daypack with raingear, extra warm clothing and food. Weather conditions can change suddenly in this area and lightning storms with hail and snow are common in summer. For overnight trips a sleeping bag, groundpad, waterproof tent or bivouac bag and lightweight stove are essential. Only experienced climbers practiced in crevasse rescue and properly roped, should venture onto snowfields and glaciers.
- Loaded logging trucks and other industrial traffic may be encountered while accessing this park. Drive with extreme caution and for your safety, always yield to industrial traffic.
- Public communications are not available at this park. Visitors are reminded to use provided caches for food and garbage storage and to keep a clean camp.
Elk Lakes Provincial Park is located in southeastern BC, about 104 kilometres north of Sparwood. Turn off Highway 3 at Sparwood and go north on Highway 43 till 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 Provincial Park. Please click onto the “hiking/trail information” page for a description of the route.
Nature and Culture
- Conservation: Much of the park is above treeline. At lower elevations alpine fir, Englemann 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, Indian paintbrush, 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.
- Wildlife: The wildlife at lower elevations includes scores of red squirrels and snowshoe hares. Beavers are resident 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 fairly common. While hiking or sitting quietly, one might see spruce grouse, wrens, junkos, snipe, flickers or the Clark’s nutcracker. A variety of waterfowl is transient in the lake areas, as are osprey and blue herons.
- Management Planning Information
- The approved Elk Lakes and Height of the Rockies Management Plan is now available in PDF format. Because of the large size of the file, the plan is divided into twelve separate files for ease of access.
- Introduction [PDF]
- Role of the Protected Area [PDF]
- Relationship with First Nations [PDF]
- Protected Area Zoning [PDF]
- Natural and Cultural Values Management [PDF]
- Outdoor Recreation Opportunities [PDF]
- Communications [PDF]
- Plan Implementation [PDF]
- Appendix A & B [PDF]
- Appendix C [PDF]
- Appendix D [PDF]
- References Cited [PDF]
Activities Available at this Park
- Trail Report [PDF] (October 19, 2021)
Pets on Leash
Ice fishing opportunities exist in the park however both Lower and Upper Elk Lakes are closed to ice fishing.
Facilities Available at this Park
Cabins / Huts
Alpine Club of Canada Park Operator Agreement
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.
Pit or Flush Toilets
There is a walk in campground located 1km from the parking lot on the north eastern shore of Lower Elk lake, which provides pit toilets, fire rings, food cache, and tent pads. The camping fees are collected by the Alpine Club of Canada. Please fill in a self-registration envelope provided and deposit payment into the drop box. Retain your permit for presentation to the ACC custodian during routine campground check.
BC Parks Backcountry Registration System 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.
- Wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed. Facility descriptions are provided in the camping information page.Camping at Fox Lake is not allowed.
- When toilets are not available, bury human waste at least six inches in soil and 30 metres from water.
- To ensure drinking water is safe, it must be boiled for at least 5 minutes.
- Register a trip itinerary with friends, check in and check out.
- When practical, use impacted campsites, otherwise practice “Leave No Trace” camping ethics.
If you have a fire, build it on rocks, or remove sod, have fire, then replace sod.