|Hiking in Writing on Stone Provincial Park|
Writing on Stone Provincial Park is located one and a half hours SE of Lethbridge on the United States border, just north of Montana. The campground is located in a valley bottom beside the Milk River and is surrounded by an incredible landscape of hoodoos, coulees, and native rock paintings. The park has been nominated by Parks Canada as a World Heritage site and is a sacred place for many aboriginal peoples.
|Looking at the native petroglyphs|
|Rock paintings or petroglyphs|
Hiking trails abound throughout the park and visitors are generally allowed to freely climb around the hoodoos and wander at will in the non-restricted areas through the campground . We appreciated this after camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park where signs instructed us to constantly stay on the trail. While I understand the reasoning, it's hard to resist the draw to climb the hoodoos, to play in the coulees, and to explore. Some sacred aboriginal petroglyph markings were fenced off for protection and some areas required an interpretive guide to access but we had plenty of room to run wild in the park.
|Hiking the Hoodoo Trail|
|Boys will be boys|
|Very cool exploring on the Hoodoo Trail|
|Tight canyons on the Hoodoo Trail|
|Free to wander, explore, and discover|
|Hiking near the Visitor Centre the following day|
|Hoodoos near the Visitor Centre|
Paddling the Milk River
Other than hiking, we also wanted to paddle the Milk River while we were there. We were fortunate that water levels were high because you can usually walk across the knee-deep river by August. While this is great for families who want to try tubing the river, we were hoping to paddle with kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards. We got out for two short trips on the river during our stay and set up car shuttles to meet us at a bridge downstream one day. The other day we drove to a bridge up stream and paddled back to camp. There is a great map of the put in and take out spots beside the playground with distances between points and estimated times it will take to float by canoe or by tube.
|Paddling down the Milk River|
|SUPing the Milk River - maybe a first?|
|Surely, three girls SUPing the Milk River is a first for this stretch of water|
|The inflatable kayak and party barge|
|Beautiful scenery on the Milk River through the native prairie landscape|
|Great place for a nap!|
|Paddling past some awesome hoodoos on the Milk River|
Other things we liked about the campground
There was a small beach area with sand beside the river and the water was very shallow in August. I imagine it would be deeper earlier in the summer but it was a nice beach regardless.
There were no bike trails in the campground but we could bike around the campground roads and we generally occupied ourselves hiking around the hoodoos. The playground was also located right next to our group site so we could send our gaggle of kids off to play there.
|The Writing on Stone Beach|
|It doesn't take much to entertain a toddler|
|Playing in the shallow river|
We were camped in group site A which was a pretty incredible group campground. We had a private cook shelter with picnic tables and a fridge! We even had a freezer. We had a large field for the kids to run around in and for tenters to set up in. We also had a large gravel parking area for the trailers and vehicles with bathrooms, a water tap, and garbage bin on site. Communal meals were made easy with a giant fire pit in the field and a dozen picnic tables or so. We had a big Mexican Fiesta the one night complete with margaritas which are now becoming a staple on every camping trip. Our group site was located right beside the hoodoo hiking trail so when kids are older, I imagine we would just unleash them into the hoodoos to go play. Just a few more years!
|Group Site A at Writing on Stone Provincial Park|
|Happy Hour calls for Margaritas!|
|Swinging from one of the big trees in our campground|
|Group meals were awesome and a highlight of the trip|
|Great way to bond with friends|
|Evening hike on the Hoodoo Trail to tire the kids out for bed|
We only had to have 5 families to book our group site (up to a maximum of 8) but we could have easily fit a good dozen tents or more. 5 trailers is definitely within the comfort zone though for what can fit on the gravel space along with other vehicles. Any more would have been a stretch. And if you had too many other vehicles, you would have had to find off-site parking in the day use area. We had 9 vehicles total and 5 trailers - which was about the max. we could have fit in the parking area.
|Trailer city in Group Site A|
|It wasn't ideal to set up our trailers in the parking area but it worked well|
While Writing on Stone Provincial Park is a bit far from Calgary for a weekend trip, it's certainly worth visiting for a long weekend or extended summer camping trip. It can get quite hot down there so it's also a great place to go in spring or fall. We will definitely be back and would recommend it to anybody.