Named by National Geographic, the “Crown of the Continent” is the twenty-first century name for the 73,000-square-kilometre ecosystem that spans the southwest corner of Alberta, the southeast corner of British Columbia and northern Montana. Prairie meets mountains and civilization overlaps wilderness in this unique landscape, where you can see alpine forests, rolling meadows, prairie grassland and windswept badlands all in one day.
The special Castle region in the southwest corner of Alberta’s Crown protects the headwaters of the Oldman River basin, which feeds waterways that supply much of Western Canada as they flow toward Hudson Bay.
This region is one of the most biologically diverse places in North America. It provides protected habitat for numerous threatened species and is home to more than 200 rare or at-risk species. It is also a key movement corridor for grizzly bears, wolverines, lynx, wolves, bighorn sheep, moose and elk, and other large mammals.
The boundaries of the expanded Castle Wildland Provincial Park and the new Castle Provincial Park have been set, bringing one of the most biologically diverse areas in Alberta under provincial protection. Check Castle Parks for info on camping opportunities this summer.
For mountain views, try some backcountry camping in the Beehive Natural Area. Experience the prairie, staying in a fully furnished canvas tent while discovering the ancient secrets at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Chinook Provincial Recreation Area, in the Crowsnest Pass, is a picture-perfect spot to get back to nature. Visit Beauvais Lake Provincial Park in the montane, or “mixing zone”, between prairie grasslands and the Rocky Mountains where you can enjoy a variety adventures. It’s open year-round so plan to come back for winter camping and activities.
The craggy peaks and windswept plains of the Crown of the Continent offer outdoor adventures for explorers of all ages. Spend some time and tour the area. Soak in the beauty of pristine lakes, rich cultural heritage, remarkable flora and fauna, and rushing waterfalls.
The sparkling waters at Chain Lakes Provincial Park support migrating eagles, osprey and trumpeter swans. It's also a great spot for winter camping and ice fishing. The Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park protects an important elk range and is the best kept secret for equestrian backcountry in the southwest. Don't miss the wily bull trout lurking in the deeps of the Carbondale River at Lynx Creek Campground.
Camp under the cottonwoods at Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area and take an easy day trip to discover the interpretive trails and displays at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. Or take your camera and head out on a wildflower walk through the balsam root meadows of an early summer grassland.
For more information on travel in the area, check Travel Alberta.
There are lots of opportunities for outdoor fun throughout the Crown of the Continent. Enjoy the region’s superb trails for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Count the loons, swans and sandhill cranes at Police Outpost Provincial Park. Try some wade-and-walk fly-fishing in the Castle River, or navigate its waters in a canoe or a tube. Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area is a great place for windsurfing, sailing and other water fun.