Long weekends. They’re few and far between. I relish the chance to unplug at a campsite while laying in my hammock or enjoying a campfire. Three months ago, I frantically scoured the Alberta Parks website to find something for the August long weekend. About 45 minutes later, with more sweat than a Monday morning spin class, I had finally booked Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park!
This year, I’ve become much more familiar with Kananaskis Country, but last weekend was my first time staying in Peter Lougheed—one of Alberta’s largest provincial parks. The campground is about two hours from our home in Calgary. The drive into Kananaskis is spectacular; surrounded by the towering Rocky Mountains. Jen and I arrived on Friday evening, set up our tent and hammocks, and settled in for a relaxing evening. After driving across the country a few weeks ago, it felt nice to arrive at our campsite before midnight and not need to drive 12 hours the next day.
Saturday morning was quiet and peaceful. I cooked bacon and eggs on my Coleman Stove purchased second-hand from Trailblazers in Cochrane—a great little outdoor shop. We finished our tea before packing up for our day-trip. After a quick stop at the Boulton Creek store, we came across an adolescent GRIZZLY chowing down on bushes near the bike path entrance. Park staff kept watch until he eventually moved along. This turned out to be one of at least five different bear sightings in the area, including another in our campground and others near Upper Kananaskis Lake. Should we be surprised? This is the heart of bear country!
Canoeing on Lower Kananaskis Lake
Following the bear excitement, we made our way to the Lower Kananaskis Lake boat launch to start our canoeing adventure. We packed our gear in our Mad River canoe and left the shore behind. Ahhhhh, it felt great to be back in the canoe. Sticking to the left shore, we paddled south on the lake and cut across close to the Upper Kananaskis Lake dam. The rocky beach below the steep slopes of Mount Indefatigable was an enjoyable spot to swim and watch the white suckers go by. These glacier-fed Kananaskis Lakes are generally too cold for swimming, but the water was perfect on this 30-degree day. Plus, the campground showers were closed (likely for the season), so the quick dip helped clean my smelly feet…. After our refreshing swim, we paddled back to the boat launch along the base of the mountain. It would’ve taken too much time to paddle the whole lake, but we were happy with our 13 kilometre trip in about four hours.
Biking from Boulton Creek to Upper Kananaskis Lake
Our appetites were strong after an afternoon of paddling. Chicken and couscous was a good choice. After supper, we planned to cycle from our campsite to Upper Kananaskis Lake for another swim. We hopped on the bike path (yes, the same path where the grizzly was earlier!) and connected to the Upper Kananaskis pathway by the Boulton Creek Trading Post. There are 12 kilometres of bike paths in the park. The ride to the Upper Lake is only four kilometres but may seem longer if, like us, you get caught in a torrential downpour during a massive thunderstorm!! What an adventure.
Hiking around Upper Kananaskis Lake
On Sunday, we went back to Upper Kananaskis to do the loop around the lake. The weather was sunny and warm, and the trail wasn’t too busy—at least not when we started around noon. This 19-kilometre hike took us about five hours and included stellar views of the turquoise lake and mountain landscape. Read Hiking the Loop Around Upper Kananaskis Lake for the full experience.
Overall, Boulton Creek Campground is a great place to set up camp for the weekend. We enjoyed it. There are many nearby day trips with fun options for hiking, swimming, and paddling. If we had more time, we would have paddled the Upper Kananaskis Lake and hiked the short trail beside Lower Kananaskis. There are also more advanced hikes that I would love to do, like Pocaterra Ridge, Grizzly Peak, and Mount Indefatigable. The paved bike paths are great for cyclists and the two lakes are fun for everyone. If you forget anything, the Boulton Creek Trading Post is handy for groceries, some gear, firewood, and delicious ice cream!