Kananaskis Provincial Park – or Kananaskis Country as the locals call it – is a protected series of mountain ranges and valleys in the easternmost edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the area gradually descending from the mountains down to the foothills.
The 4,000-square kilometre area is oriented approximately north to south and stretches from Canmore in the northwest down to elbow Lake in the southeast. Kananaskis Provincial Park borders Banff National Park and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, both of which lie to the west, but Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is considered part of Kananaskis Country as well.
Getting to Kananaskis Country is simple. You take the TransCanada Highway until you reach Highway 40, which is the turn-off to Kananaskis. Highway 40 (which is almost the midpoint between Calgary and Canmore) leads the motorist south through some of the most gorgeous mountain landscapes around. In fact, Kananaskis is a relatively undiscovered paradise for mountain travellers. You won’t be disappointed with this scenic drive.
As you continue along highway 40, you will pass numerous roads leading to camping grounds, lakes, hiking areas, rest stops and other landscape features worth visiting. Stony Creek, Lusk Creek, Barrier Lake and Beaver Pond are just a few of the areas you will pass on the first part of the drive south. Soon, you will see Nakiska Ski Resort, one of the great areas in Kananaskis. Just down the road from Nakiska is Kananaskis village, where accommodations at luxury resorts and hotels are found nestled in the mountains around a small array of shops and a convenience market. Next you will pass the world-class Kananaskis Golf and Country Club, within view of Mount Kidd, one of Kananaskis Country’s most recognizable and beautiful peaks.
The highway continues south past King and Grizzly Creeks down to Kananaskis Canyon and the Rockwall area and then further on to the Elbow Lake area, but if you miss the turn off to the Smith Dorian Highway (Highway 782), you will have missed half or more of what Kananaskis has to offer. Much of the road is unpaved, but it leads you into the western portion of Kananaskis Country where you will find some of the best trails for hiking in the summer or cross-country skiing in the winter.
In this area you will also find Sawmill, Burstall and Chester Lakes, Mount Shark and Buller Mountain, the Spray Lakes area and even Canmore, where the Smith Dorian Highway ends. Visitors to any of the sites along these highways will find amazing opportunities for skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, rock climbing, ice climbing, fishing or just hanging out with nature.
Now that you’ve found your bearings, try not to find too many bears along the journey!