Guide to Day Use Provincial Recreation Areas in the Elbow Valley
In these pages you will find useful and informative information about the beautiful places and attractive facilities available to you in the Elbow Valley of Kananaskis. But before we begin let me reveal one of the most unique and engaging attractions of all - Bragg Creek, the Gateway to Kananaskis. You will find everything you need to make your escape from the city rewarding and enjoyable - fine food, fine art, extraordinary gifts and fashions that will make your journey here and beyond something to treasure. And, if you don't need the finest things we also have the basics; gas, food, sporting goods, snacks, liqour even duct tape. If you find all this irresitable and you decide that you just have to own a piece of paradise, we can even provide that. So come on out to the foothills, we won't disappoint you. I say that knowing that we took a big hit in the flood that destroyed so much of the valley. But, we'll recover and so will the Elbow Valley. Think of it like this, Bragg Creek is the Gift Shop and Restaurant that you can visit before or after a day in the Kananaskis Theme Park.
After the two most visited and most valued recreation areas in the Elbow Valley were all but destroyed on the flood of June 20 - 23, 2013, we're going to survey the damage and take a look at some alternatives. This information won't be updated so check the www.kananaskis-country.ca web site for current information. The photos and text in this feature were produced in early August of 2013. I assume that efforts will be made to restore some semblance of the beauty and rich resources available before the flood, but this will serve as a record of the toll taken by the raging torrent that ripped through the Elbow Valley and what was left behind.
The Provincial Recreation Areas intended for day use are only open from 7 AM to 11 PM. No Camping is allowed. Unlike campgrounds you can't reserve space in Day Use Areas. They operate on a first come, first served basis - or "the early bird gets the worm". Pets must be leashed within the Provincial Recreation Areas (PRA). It's a poor rule (imprecise), but the rule of thumb is that the PRA extends about 100 metres around the parking lot. In some cases, like between Allen Bill Pond and Paddy's Flat, the area is much larger. There are maps of the PRAs included here. Typically they have ample parking, outhouse style toilets, picnic tables, pathways and firepits. Not all have these amenities. Many are trailheads and serve as staging areas for cycling, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking off-roading and other recreational activities. Some have interpretive trails with signs along the way describing the natural features.
The bridge over the Elbow River on Highway 66 near Allen Bill was wrecked in the flood. Hopefully it will be repaired before winter, but, for now, there is a single lane bridge that has opened up the valley for visitors.
The Provincial Recreation Areas on this page are ideal for family outings, picnics and most have toilets. Use the map below to find cycling and hiking trails.
The list of PRAs below are not suitable for picnics or casual recreation. Several are staging areas for cycling or hiking. Some are closed due to flood damage. The footbridge over the Elbow in the Little Elbow Rec Area is open, but the Big and Little Elbow trails have sustained serious damage.
The bridge is a critical link to the Elbow Valley and all the facilities and activites available there. During the flood of June 20 - 23, 2013 the eastern embankment of the bridge was washed away breaking the link to the valley. Transport Alberta and Volker Stevin, the contractor, rushed to build a temporary bridge alongside. That bridge opened to the public on August 2.
The extension of White Avenue in the hamlet that connects the Provincial Park and Highway 66 was also destroyed in the flood. Alberta Transport intends to have the road rebuilt by mid September.