My family has been traveling south to visit Writingon- Stone Provincial Park for several years now, and it’s become one of our favourite places to explore. Plan a trip to the Milk River Valley, and explore native prairie grasslands, discover First Nations rock paintings on a guided tour, or spend a day on the river as you float alongside towering sandstone cliffs.
This park is located about a 1-1/2-hour drive southeast of Lethbridge, Alberta. The park is set in the heart of the Alberta badlands near the northern boundary of the Great Plains. Accommodations can be found in the small town of Milk River, 30 minutes to the west, but I recommend reserving a campsite in the popular Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park Campground. You can walk out of your tent and be on a great hiking trail within minutes. Free evening interpretive shows at the visitor centre are fun and you can launch boats from the campground beach.
Campsites in the provincial park can be reserved up to 90 days in advance of your scheduled arrival date on the Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca website. There are 60+ sites in the small campground, 47 with power. There are also 3 canvas wall tents for comfort camping and 2 group sites.
Áísínai’pi National Historic Site
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is a National Historic Site. The Blackfoot name for it is “Áísínai’pi” which translates to: it is pictured. The park contains “the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America.”
You can hike the Battle Scene Trail to view a rock mural of Blackfoot art depicting a historic battle. A fence protects the tableau, but you’ll still get a good look at the rock art.
Join an interpretive guided hike and you’ll gain entrance to the private reserve to see more examples of First Nations rock art without the protective fences. This is the best way to capture photos of the art and learn the history of this fascinating area.
Hiking in the Badlands of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Take a walk on the Hoodoo Trail from the provincial park campground, it is a 4.4 km return hike, and explore a wild landscape of hoodoos, coulees, sandstone cliffs, and native prairie grasslands.
The trail, which also connects to the Battle Scene Trail, offers many viewpoints over the milk river and is especially stunning at sunrise or sunset.
While camping in the park, you can also hike the trail up to the Visitor Centre where you’ll be able to climb and scramble on the cliffs and hoodoos.
Story by Tanya Koob