Fire Restrictions in Effect for this Park
Activites and Facilities Available in this Park - Click icon to view
Activities Available at this Park
Facilities Available at this Park

Elk Lakes Provincial Park

Updated March 6, 2014:
  • ADVISORY: Backcountry travel not recommended at this time due to unsafe trail conditions & limited access.
  • The following trails are CLOSED due to washed out bridges and sections of trail: West Elk Pass to Upper Elk Lakes, Lower Elk Lakes trail beyond the campground (between Lower and Upper Lakes), and Lower Elk Lake Viewpoint trail. Visitors can still access the Lower Elk Lake campground from the trailhead near the cabin but should use caution.
  • Trail closures will be in effect throughout 2014.

    Click here to view the Petain Creek flood plain caution notice. [PDF 282KB]

Know Before You Go

Snowmobile use in the Cadorna valley of Elk Lakes Parks is limited to the seismic road and regular winter route to Abruzzi Lake only, as indicated on this snowmobile map. [PDF 3.27MB] Continuance of this special exemption is dependent upon respect of this route by all motorized users. Non compliance of this exemption will result in closure of this route to all motorized use. Snowmobile use is not permitted in any other area in Elk Lakes Park.

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.

About This Park

Elk Lakes Provincial 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.

Park Size: 17,245 hectares

Special Notes:
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.
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Location and Maps

Please note: Any maps listed are for information only - they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation. 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.

Maps and Brochures

Any maps listed are for information only - they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
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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.
  • General Wildlife, Marine & Outdoor Ethics Information
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Management Planning

Management Planning Information
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Activities Available at this Park

Canoeing

Canoeing

Both canoeing and kayaking can be done in the lakes. The streams and rivers are not navigable. The closest lake to the main access parking lot is a 1km walk with a 30m elevation change.
Climbing / Rapelling

Climbing

Both mountaineering and ice climbing opportunities exist within the park.
Fishing

Fishing

Fishing in Elk Lakes Provincial Park is often rewarding; species found are 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.
Hiking

Hiking

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 well 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.
Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding

Horse use is allowed only in the Cadorna Watershed.
Hunting

Hunting

Elk Lakes Provincial Park is open to hunting. Check the B.C. Hunting and Trapping Regulations for more details. Horses are permitted only in the Cordona watershed.
Pets on Leash

Pets on Leash

Dogs in backcountry parks must be on a leash or under control at all times because of potential problems with wildlife such as bears. Care should be taken to avoid disturbance of wildlife, particularly nesting birds. They must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed in the cabin at Elk Lakes. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement.
Swimming

Swimming

There are limited cold swimming opportunities at this park. There are NO LIFEGUARDS on duty at provincial parks.
Winter Recreation

Winter Recreation

There is limited winter use for ski touring and snowshoeing from British Columbia due to unploughed roads. It is possible to reach the park from Alberta via Peter Lougheed Park ski trails. Please note dogs are not allowed on these ski trails or in the cabin at Elk Lakes. Travel is fairly easy through the lower areas. Do not follow the summer hiking trail to Upper Elk Lake via Fox Lake since there are numerous avalanche paths along the way. Instead, follow meadows in a southerly direction until the power line is reached.

Ice fishing opportunities exist in the park however both Lower and Upper Elk Lakes are closed to ice fishing.
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Facilities Available at this Park

Cabins / Huts / Yurts

Cabins / Huts / Yurts

The Alpine Club of Canada operates a small public lodge at the trailhead and entrance to the core area of the park. For more information or reservations contact the Alpine Club of Canada at 403-678-3200 or through the Alpine Club of Canada website. User fees are payable to the Alpine Club of Canada. The ACC advanced booking policies do not apply to the Elk Lakes Cabin; all visitors are able to make bookings for this facility up to one year in advance.
Campfires

Campfires

Campfires are permitted in designated areas. Firewood and group fire pits are located at Petain Creek and Lower Elk Lakes campsites. Have fires only when necessary and keep them small to conserve trees. Bring a portable stove for cooking. Campfire bans may be implemented during extremely hot weather conditions.
Picnic Areas

Picnic Areas

The Lower Elk Lakes campsite can be used for walk-in picnics.
Pit or Flush Toilets

Pit or Flush Toilets

This park only has pit toilets - no flush toilets.
Walk-In/Wilderness Camping

Walk-In/Wilderness Camping

Wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed. Facility descriptions are provided in the camping information page. Facilities exist at three designated campgrounds (there are user fees for Lower Elk Lakes and Petain campgrounds). Wilderness camping is not permitted within 2 km of a designated site. Hiking trails connect Elk Lakes with the adjoining Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta.

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.

The fees at Elk Lakes are collected by the Alpine Club of Canada who are operating the Hut and campgrounds. There is an Alpine Club volunteer at Elk Lakes who collects the fees.
Backcountry Camping Fee: $5.00 per person / night for all persons 6 years of age or older.

BC Parks Backcountry Registration System allows you to pre-pay your overnight fees for backcountry and/or marine site usage, where designated. This system will not be used for vehicle accessible (ie front country) campgrounds or controlled back country permits (ie Bowron Lakes canoe circuit and Berg Lake Trail). Backcountry Registration System
Winter Camping

Winter Camping

All designated sites are available for winter camping. You will require equipment suitable for camping in several feet of snow. It is illegal to cut vegetation to create shelters or for insulatation.