Beyond the sparkling expanse of snow, a horizon of diamond-sharp peaks pierces the forget-me-not-blue sky. Looking west from our camp pitched in a meadow at the edge of a forest here in Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, we can see brightly coloured tents dotting the winter landscape like colourful children’s toys. The sun casts long blue-golden rays and sinks lower in the afternoon sky.
We strap on snowshoes and head out in the direction of the forest. At first glance, the woods seem to be silent cathedrals, but upon closer inspection we realize that signs of life are everywhere. Soon a game of name-that-animal begins, as we discover the distinct calling cards imprinted on the snow’s surface by rabbits, squirrels, the ever-prolific pine marten and even an elusive wolverine.
That night, snuggled by our campfire, the stars blazing in the clear night sky appear brighter and more intense. As if on cue, the northern lights emerge, dancing and swaying on the horizon in curtains of neon greens and blues - a perfect end to a perfect winter day.
Many Alberta parks are open year-round for camping but if you visit in winter, you have the distinct advantage of experiencing some of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes – minus the crowds. Less expensive than in summer, winter camping also fits nicely into the family budget. Whether you cross-country ski, toboggan, skate or walk through the silent woods looking for animal tracks, you’re sure to appreciate the special delights of winter camping.
Here are three more parks that are on our list to visit this winter.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Canadian Badlands, Dinosaur Provincial Park is popular in the summer for dinosaur adventures, with the richest bone beds on the planet. Less busy in winter, we’ll likely have our pick of 65 campsites. We’ll be able to cross-country ski and snowshoe on any of the five self-guided trails that are open year round.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Sacred to the Plains Indians for thousands of years, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park has more than 60 campsites available on a first come, first served basis in the winter. They even have some that are serviced with power so we’re aiming to take the RV for this one. We’re looking forward to exploring the hoodoos in winter and snowshoeing on the trails along the Milk River.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills is a paradise for winter recreation enthusiasts with an extensive system of groomed cross country ski trails, downhill skiing, ice fishing, an outdoor skating rink and a 1.5 km (0.93 mi) skating track, kick sledding, a snow luge, tobogganing, fat biking and snowshoeing. The visitor’s centre is open during winter and rents snowshoes and other equipment. We’re planning on skiing into one of the three backcountry huts with fireplaces for this visit. Fire and ice. What’s not to like?