Many pick Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park as the best campground in Alberta, and it certainly does have everything you look for in a campground with kids. And one thing you don’t.
My kind of camping is quiet. I like heavily treed campgrounds. I like roughing it with easy access to comforting amenities (showers, bathrooms, supplies). I like camping near water the boys can play in. I like proximity to places you can explore or hike. I like camping in places with history and interpreters ready to share the stories of the region.Camping at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park has all these things. There’s the Milk River to swim in, there’s a small, sheltered campground with big trees, there’s much to explore with the Hoodoo Trail nearby. There’s an interpretive centre at the top of the hill with artifacts from the region where you can book guided hikes. There are hot showers, a playground, and a camp store.
This park is perfect except it has the one thing I don’t like – a long drive. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park is nearly a 4 hour drive from Calgary. That’s not so bad if you’re pitching your tent for a week (and there’s enough to be entertained here to stay for that long), but when you’re a weekend warrior who camps for 2 nights at the most, 4 hours on a Friday afternoon after work is a bit of a hike.
But I do so love it at Writing On Stone Provincial Park.
Here’s what our weekend away looked like in the Southeast corner of Alberta:
We loved our campsite number 30. We backed on to the Milk River, and only had one campsite next to us. It was easy to run over to the beach to play, water was nearby, and washrooms were across the road. We had big trees for shade too. From our wanders around the Writing-On-Stone Campground, the other sites that looked treed and private were around site number 40.
The Milk River is wonderful to play in. There’s a deep beach in the park to dig and play in, but be warned .. step a few feet off shore and the current is strong. We watched many kids run to one end of the beach, jump in the water and cruise a few hundred metres down to the other end. Zacharie tried it too, but they mostly just enjoyed digging.
There are a couple of different hikes to explore at Writing-on-Stone. You can take the 4km Hoodoo Trail along the north side of the Milk River on your own and wander to see some petroglyphs. You can climb up to the interpretive centre and wander the hoodoos there, or you can book a guided hike into a protected area of the park to see some better preserved petroglyphs.
I’d recommend taking the guided hike (and bring along some water and hats as it can be 5 to 10 degrees warmer along the rock walls). You learn a lot about Blackfoot culture and have access to some wonderful petroglyphs. This section of the park is protected because of vandalism to the rock art. They are still exposed so you can get right up close to see them. The rock art along the Hoodoo Trail is behind cages, so you don’t get as intimate an experience.
I love visiting Writing-On-Stone and the next time we plan a longer camping adventure to the southeast corner of the province, we’ll be back. When you head down, don’t forget to also visit the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, Fort Whoop Up in Lethbridge, and the Devil’s Coulee Museum in Warner.
Disclosure: I’m an Alberta Parks Ambassador and my camping fees were covered as part of my participation in the program
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