Canadian Running

Canadian Trails

Cypress Hills Interprovi­ncial Park, Alta.

- By Tim Banfield

When you think of southeaste­rn Alberta, you might typically picture prairie grasslands and an endless expanse of f lat. That’s not the case, though, in Cypress Hills Interprovi­ncial Park, located a 45-minute drive southeast of Medicine Hat. The park is a mini oasis formed when retreating glaciers bypassed this area during the last Ice Age, and, at 1, 466 m, is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Torngat mountains of Labrador.

At 600 metres higher than the surroundin­g Prairies, the Cypress Hills offer three distinct natural regions that offer great variety of running terrain. Lodgepole pines tower above the Rocky Mountain region, making it feel like you are running in a forest similar to Banff National Park, rather than the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchew­an.

The main town in the park is Elkwater, in an area archeologi­sts have determined has been enjoyed by humans for more than 8,500 years. Close to Elkwater Lake, the terrain is f latter, and there are paved trails, a beach and boardwalks created for summer tourists – a great place to warm up or cool down before or after a run.

Elkwater offers numerous options for exploring the trails. A quick tour up Old Baldy will get your heart beating quickly and offers the fastest way to some of the best views, stretching across the prairies into Saskatchew­an.

With some new trail additions added in 2020 on Ferguson Hill, all of Elkwater’s campground­s are connected via the trails throughout the park.

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