Elk Lakes Provincial Park is an easily accessible wilderness park characterized by outstanding sub-alpine landscapes, remnant glaciers, rugged peaks and productive lakes.
The source of Elk River begins its journey in this large wilderness mountain park located within the western ranges of the Rocky Mountains north of Fernie. Frozen glaciers feed the Elk Lakes before the river begins carving its path through the Elk Valley into Fernie finally ending its journey in Lake Koocanusa.
Elk Lakes Provincial Park is 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. Best for vehicles with all-wheel-drive and higher clearance.
Driving time from Fernie to the park is just over two hours. Access to the park is also possible from Alberta’s adjoining Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Biking is permitted between the Lake Parking and the Campground. 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.
View more park information about Elk Lakes.
The main walk-in campground is located 1km from the parking lot on the northeastern shore of Lower Elk Lake. It is equipped with pit toilets, fire rings, food cache, and tent pads. Please fill out a self-registration form and enclose with payment at the envelopes provided at the payment boxes by campsite entrance as you pass the lower lake. Camping fees help maintain BC Parks and are collected by the Alpine Club of Canada. Retain your permit for presentation during routine campground check.
Backcountry wilderness camping is permitted in the Petain Creek Valley and the Petain Basin. You can find a food cache and pit toilet located approximately 1.5 km past the south end of Upper Elk Lake. Camping is also permitted in the Cadorna Creek Watershed. The backcountry campground at Abruzzi Lake offers a pit toilet, fire ring and two tent pads. Please use existing rock rings and impacted campsites throughout the Cadorna Watershed. There is no fee for these backcountry campsites. When practical, use impacted campsites, otherwise practice “Leave No Trace” camping ethics.
You can purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home using BC Parks Backcountry Registration System. Although the system does not reserve a campsite, the system provides visitors the convenience of prepaying for their trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.
Elk Lakes Provincial Park offers a range of routes for hikers of varying experiences including some maintained trails that are appropriate for all family members with some experience in backcountry hiking.
The View Point Trail is a short hike that offers a stunning view down onto the Lower Elk Lake. Petain Falls is a full day hike leading to a beautiful glacial fed waterfall. There are designated areas for wilderness camping and the Alpine Club of Canada manages a small cabin for use but reservations are required.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroy plant life and soil structure.
There are limited cold swimming opportunities at this park. Be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty at provincial parks.
The Lower Lake is accessible via a gentle 1km gravel trail from the main parking area to the Lower Lakes. The Upper Lake is a further 2km hike. Both Upper and Lower Lakes are great for a gentle paddle. Inflatable kayaks and Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs) are available to rent at Gearhub Sports. Motorised watercraft aren't permitted in BC Parks.
Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, and Rocky Mountain Whitefish are some of the species inhabiting Elk Lakes Provincial Park. The best time period for fishing is right after ice break-up in May/June and from September up until the lake freezes over for winter. Ensure that you have the appropriate fishing licence before casting out.
To avoid attracting wildlife, please ensure the entrails are thrown into deep water or dispose of fish remains in a hot fire when cleaning fish in the park. Do not disturb spawning fish.
Inside the provincial park, biking is only permitted from the main parking area up until the Lower Lake Camping area. The Great Divide Mountain Biking Route (GDMTB) begins in Banff, Alberta before crossing through Elk Lakes Provincial Park on the way to Elkford, Fernie, and beyond. This route fast-growing in popularity amongst bike packing groups and communities.
Horse Back Riding
Horse use is allowed only in the Cadorna Watershed.