Castle Provincial Park, Alberta’s newest park, is worth the drive
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You know your kids are pumped and impressed by the scenery when they’re snapping photos and
singing songs about snow from the back seat as you’re driving down the highway.
That’s what’s happening in our car as we wind our way down highways 507 and 774 toward Pincher Creek.
Bree Kullman would totally understand their enthusiasm. “Every time I drive in from the Pincher (Creek) area, heading west ... You just see this rampart of mountains kick up and there’s this amazing wall of weather or the light’s hitting the mountain in a certain way, and you know you’re stepping into something wild,” says Kullman,
While our drive is just a taste of good wintery things to come - a tempting amuse-bouche if you will - the real treat is hitting the trails.
Bree rhymes off the many ways people can get out and enjoy winter in these parts. “There are people that are out snowmobiling right now and there are people I know that are backcountry winter camping with a Scout group.”
There’s also downhill skiing at Castle Mountain Resort, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, and ice fishing and fat biking trails are also being developed. Amid it all, if you love taking photos you can easily impress friends and family with pretty pictures on your social media accounts.
After strapping our snowshoes on, we begin a guided Adventure Snowshoe Tour. We’re the first people on the trail, which makes it easy to spot animal tracks in the snow. With Bree’s help, the girls determine that a deer and coyote passed by not long ago headed in the same direction we are. The critters chose the roller-packed trail over the deep snow in the trees to save energy.
With snowshoes, however, we don’t need to stay on the trail. We follow Bree - who claims to still be a kid - into the puffy snow and where it’s deepest, fall backwards to make snow angels. The girls’ laughter reminds me we why we visit wild places: to unplug and connect not only with nature, but each other.
Over the next hour and a half, we sample rosehips, learn about lichens and snow, discover how to tell a (young) tree’s age without cutting it down, visit a scenic viewpoint, and hear a story, “a gift from the Blackfoot people,” about how the world was made. The time flies by quickly and soon we’re back at the trailhead for a fire, cocoa, and cookies. When Bree asks, “What’s the most beautiful thing you saw today?” my eight-year-old says, “Snow! And the mountains!”
The unspoiled beauty here is breathtaking. Bree says it best: “Think Banff. Think Kananaskis but think wild. There’s not a huge population down here and how great is that to come and value this landscape and have a little bit of it to yourself? And I think that’s worth the drive.”
Things to Do in Castle Provincial Park
Snowshoe or ice fish at Beaver Mines Lake
Cross-country ski, fat bike, or snowshoe the Syncline Trail System (20 kilometres of groomed trails)
Sign up for a Winter Guided Program: snowshoeing, learn to ice fish, learn to ski, winter survival, night snowshoeing or Nordic skiing
Ski at Castle Mountain Resort
Castle Mountain Provincial Park is located half an hour southwest of Pincher Creek, 1.5 hours from Lethbridge, and 2.5 hours from Calgary.
Where to Stay
The Ramada in Pincher Creek, conveniently located just off Highway 3, has large, modern, and spacious rooms, with a swimming pool, hot tub, waterslide, business centre, and fitness centre.
If you’d like to stay in the park, beautiful Castle River Bridge Campground is open all year. Lodging is also available at Castle Mountain Resort (Castle Mountain Hostel and vacation rentals).
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