Our first trip of 2021: Cypress Hills

Cypress Hills Provincial Park

The weather was quite mild for winter in Saskatchewan and even milder in the Maple Creek/Cypress Hills Provincial Park area. If you follow the weather, Maple Creek is usually the warmest place all winter in Saskatchewan.  With temps near freezing and a little in the plus range during the day dropping to -12 at night it was time to check out a park we had only driven through prior to our visit this time.

The Park is an interprovincial park running on the Alberta and Saskatchewan border and a little oasis with its’ tall lodgepole pine forest in the grasslands of both provinces. Cypress Hills, as the name implies, rises considerably above the rest of the Maple Creek area. The highest point is in Alberta at the Head Mountain at 1466 meters or 4810 feet for us old folks, in Saskatchewan  the highest point is in a farmers field at 1392 meters again 4567 feet.

Cypress Hills lodgepole pines
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park

The park totally impressed us even in winter so it must be fantastic in summer when all is open. The park office was open during office hours every day and the designated winter campsites were plowed out. There are no services available to the campsites, there are pit toilets available and there is also a water fill up station open. This is not available at all provincial parks that are now pushing winter activities so call ahead.

The park features over 12 different campgrounds and 600 sites ranging from rustic to full service, group sites and barrier free sites. On our hikes through the campgrounds we found the sites extremely well cared for with raised gravel pads in the serviced sites as well as a lot of well secluded spots in the well-treed campgrounds.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park campsite

This park has a lot to offer for the price of admission, an equine trail riding area, zip lines, hiking, canoeing and boats with a small 5 hp rating on a small lake. Mini golf and ice cream as well as restaurant, a star observatory and a whole lot more we did not discover during our stay in the winter. To us the quality of the campgrounds says a lot about the upkeep of the park and the management. A beautiful lodge is also available for non-campers. Many cabins surround the little lake but the lake is accessible to the public around the entire lake. 

This park is a great family place where you probably won’t hear “I’m bored” we so often did and it has cell service.

It had been so warm the ski trails were ice, not great for us beginners, so snow shoes or hiking the other option  which we did a lot of covering up to 11-12 km each day. We still never covered anywhere near what was offered on well taken care of trails. We only visited the West Block on the Saskatchewan side we will return….in off season.

I was impressed by the number of older cabins that were totally log, not surprising in the lodgepole pine forest. They looked great in the treed setting however that cabin flavour being lost with the new condo size cabins that appear to be the flavour these days. Of course the trees are being lost to these monsters in the newer areas to accommodate the large square footage.

It was warmer but quite windy while we were there so found a site partially blocked by the trees, the sites were large and well-plowed out so we had no problem locating our ‘Igloo on wheels” to block some of the wind. We learned a lot about heating and winter camping that we applied to our stay here and just loved it. We set the furnace at 20 Celsius when we left home and left it there until we returned. Yes very cozy at the end of the day. We were able to cook outside and enjoy the fire as there was plenty of wood available.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park campsite

I had an automotive windshield protector, the ones made out of fabric and a rubber I had bought from Costco, this came in handy as I wrapped it behind our two chairs to block the wind and reflect heat on our backs. Worked better that way than on the windshield so will become part of our camp gear. Unlike the National Park, Rv’s of all sizes can be parked in the winter designated sites so larger units can enjoy winter camping here. The poor young man who was camped in his tent, the only other camper, froze in the wind which was considerable overnight.  We discovered at 6:00 am he was busy packing up. So much for neighbours.

I have always enjoyed the Maple Creek area and the community ever since we started attending their Cowboy Poetry gatherings when we published our Pure Country Magazine. The history in this area is very interesting as well the western cowboy lifestyle of the many ranchers living in the area keep me coming back. I attended my first day of school wearing my western hat and have had one ever since. Never been a real cowboy but photographed 100’s of rodeo performances as a rodeo photographer travelling with the people I had a lot of respect for, later to publish a magazine on their lifestyle, rodeo and more, you won’t meet many people finer than a cattle rancher. I did a prior post on the Moose Jaw bucking bronc school held each year in May and hope to be back to one this year if possible.

As I will be posting every Friday the next post will cover the lessons learned during our winter camping experience in our truck camper. Please enjoy the images we were able to get on this trip and do check out this Park as it is a gem hidden in southwest Saskatchewan.  Please subscribe for updates on posts it’s just why we do this to share a few images and thoughts. As always I can be contacted at gerry@studiowest.ca  or on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks to our already growing subscriber numbers it makes us want to work harder when we know others are interested.

Until next week hope to see you “down the road” say hi if you see us in the Studio West Photographers Ford and the Northern Lite,  our home on the road.

Gerry & Charlotte

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