The last couple of years we’ve headed to Crimson Lake Provincial Park for a weekend of camping, exploring and playing. Located about 2 hours south west of the city, the Rocky Mountain House Area offers so much to do for families and kids. The Crimson Lake campground is the perfect place to start.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Crimson Lake is a beautiful small lake, it’s clean for swimming with a wide sandy beach. The sand is a bit wet, but that didn’t stop my kids from enjoying every last minute. There’s a roped off swimming area with picnic tables, along with a concession that sells ice cream and treats you could need. The playground is located right near the beach, which makes the area perfect for day trips with kids in tow. There’s a boat launch and fishing dock located along the lake as well (although we were told by locals to not bother with fishing on Crimson lake, but instead to head to Twin Lakes only a couple minutes away). We love the beach and facilities at Crimson Lake- it’s such a fabulous hidden gem and definitely worthy of a day trip from Edmonton.
If you have a couple of days to spare, the campground is beautiful- tons of huge trees, private sites and modern facilities . We stayed in the E-loop which were all power sites- a perk even when tent camping because there’s no noisy generators going off around you, and there’s a plug in for a kettle or a camera charger. The campground offers multiple hiking trails and biking trails, even an option to go all the way around the lake at about 10km. My girls loved the “sandpit” trail, which offers a natural play area full of logs and balance beams and long slides in the side of the hill. There were also 2 more playgrounds and a clean shower house. There is also pretty extensive programming in the amphitheatre including movies under the stars. My girls joined in on a scavenger hunt and participated in one of the nightly shows at the theatre. We’ve fallen in love with the campground and the area, and we have decided to make it a yearly visit- it’s so beautiful, quiet and family friendly.
Just down the road from Crimson Lake there’s Wilderness Village. It’s a popular RV park (with cabin rentals!) open to bookings from non-members. The resort is complete with hot tubs, swimming pools and family focused activities. While it isn’t directly on the lake, I have heard rave reviews from friends who love it. We drove up to the gates and enjoyed the free petting zoo and inexpensive pony rides. They also offer Trail rides for 8 and up, which is something I can see my girls begging to do in the near future.
Rocky Mountain House
We started off exploring Rocky Mountain House with a visit to the National Historic Site. The costumed interpreters gave my girls an awesome history lesson and the indoor museum was hands-on with costumes to try on, York boats to “fill” and games to play. There were also tipis to visit, playforts to explore and a full size York boat to climb in. The Historic Site also offers “Heritage Camping” in a First Nations tipis or a Metis trapper tent. In the town of Rocky Mountain House there is also a Museum attached to the town visitors’ information centre which is full of ideas for hikes, lakes and activities for your family.
About a hour west of Rocky Mountain House is the Nordegg area. It’s a dream- quiet, beautiful, and just enough off the beaten track to escape the crowds . We spent an entire day out here last year- there’s a ton to see, with lots of backcountry hiking and rustic camping. Between Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg there’s multiple first come-first serve quiet campgrounds if you are looking for something quieter the Crimson Lake, but don’t want to forge your own campsite on crown land.
The most popular spot for visitors would be Crescent Falls, which is up a bendy gravel road but well worth the drive. You can view the falls from above behind railings, or hike down a tricky cliff to the bottom (there are mounted ropes for support). At the bottom there are no protective railings and there are steep cliffs and rushing water, so it wouldn’t be appropriate from young children or those who may escape from hand holding. But it’s truly a spectacular sight. Don’t forget to stop at the outlook on your drive way up to the falls- the views into the canyon below are breathtaking (and might make you queasy if you’re scared of heights!).
Abraham Lake is stunning, with crystal blue-green water and gorgeous views. Boating, canoeing and walking along it’s edge at the day use area are worth the drive about 20 minutes west of Crescent Falls.
Brazeau Collieries offers tours of their mining site for $30 per family. By the time we arrived at the Miner’s Cafe for a late lunch all the tours were sold out of the day, so go early to avoid disappointment if you’d like to check out the mine. The little cafe was lovely with home made sandwiches, soup and large slices of fresh baked pie at reasonable prices. There’s also a playground outside the museum and an adorable ice cream stand that we definitely had to stop at. Everything is located right on the main road in the hamlet- you literally can’t miss it 😉
Also in the area is Siffleur Falls, Goldeye Lake, and Nordegg Heritage Museum. Most people who visit the area are there for the outdoor experiences like the hiking, horseback riding and river sports but there’s also families like ours- just out to enjoy the sights. We love the area because the views are spectacular and the area still feels like a sleepy abandoned mining town. It’s a slice of Alberta history surrounded by the some of the best experiences central Alberta has to offer.