My BIG Alberta Backyard – Chinook Provincial Recreation Area

22 April 2024

Crowsnest Mountain is an iconic landmark in Chinook PRA. Take in the view from any angle at one of the many benches around Chinook Lake!
Crowsnest Mountain is an iconic landmark in Chinook PRA. Take in the view from any angle at one of the many benches around Chinook Lake!


Alberta is a great place to live. It’s a big, beautiful province full of all kinds of natural wonders. In My Big Alberta Backyard, we introduce you to the unique and interesting wild spaces that you can find in your province, and the diverse wildlife that live there.  This time, let’s explore the beautiful scenery of Chinook Provincial Recreation Area! 

What is a Provincial Recreation Area?

A Provincial Recreation Area (PRA) is a section of land that is designated (which means saved specifically) for recreational activities in nature. It is a smaller area than a national or provincial park but is conveniently located near campgrounds or day-use areas like picnic spots, so you can camp, fish, hike, bike, and much more! 

Chinook PRA is a special spot located in southern Alberta, right next to the British Columbia border. Unlike some of the big parks in Alberta, like Jasper National Park or Banff National Park, Chinook PRA does not have a range of mountains. Instead, its unique landscape boasts just a few towering peaks that poke up from the thick forests here and there. Lots of lakes and waterfalls dot the landscape too. Mule deer and white-tailed deer roam the area, and if you have a keen eye you might even spot a grouse! 

Chinook Lake

Chinook Lake is a piece of paradise where you can camp, swim, canoe, hike, bike, and cross-country ski. No matter which season you’re visiting this stunning spot, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories in nature. My favourite time of year to bask in the beautiful views of Chinook Lake is summer, and my favourite way to take in all it has to offer is camping and hiking. Campsites are a stone’s throw from the water, with towering trees all around so you feel like you’ve truly escaped into the wild. One major benefit to camping at the lake is that you can experience sunrises and sunsets reflected on the water. There’s no better way to start and end the day! You can while away the hours in between splashing in the crystal-clear waters or hiking all the way around the lake. It’s only a 2.25-km loop, and although there are a few short climbs, most of the path is packed-dirt pathways and boardwalks. At every turn, you can experience a new view of the majestic Crowsnest Mountain as it towers over the lush forest and is mirrored in the calm waters.

Allison Creek Falls

If that’s not a long enough hike and you’re craving further adventures, you can turn off partway around the lake and make your way through beautiful woods along a newly renovated and well-marked path to visit Allison Creek Falls. The hike is a pleasant 2.57 km one way and is easy to navigate. You’ll cross the creek back and forth on brand new bridges to follow it to its source at the Falls, which cascade like a staircase. Natural land formations create small pools the water gently falls into — the perfect place to soak your feet and beat the summer heat! Layers of rocks and shallow pools make a natural playground. 

Chinook Provincial Recreation Area is a small sample of Alberta’s vast and varied landscape, but it has huge potential for awesome adventures in every season. This peaceful landscape is the ultimate spot to relax and connect with nature. 

Sara Lorenz is an editor who loves to explore Alberta’s natural landscapes. Sara feels most at peace in Alberta’s wild places and has been passionate about camping and hiking in our parks since childhood.