Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area is a summer hot spot for hiking, fishing, and camping – and makes a great base camp for exploring Crowsnest Pass and the South Canadian Rockies.
It’s close to supper time when we arrive at our lovely lakeside campsite at Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area. Day trippers have headed home, and most campers are cooking at camp, so only a few fisherfolk dot the shoreline. I wish I’d brought my fishing gear; the last time fished here, I caught a brook trout and a rainbow trout!
Evenings are peaceful at Chinook Lake – and super pretty. After we set up camp and have dinner, we take a golden hour walk around the lake, taking in the sound of waves lapping the shore, and views of Crowsnest Mountain. The impressive peak was named by Ktunaxa First Nations who noticed many ravens nesting in the area. (If you’d like to hike Crowsnest Mountain, it is a 10 km scramble with 1100 metres of elevation gain.) As we cross the bridge at the far side of the lake, we see a raven soaring over the lake and wonder where it will sleep tonight.
In the morning, we stand-up paddleboard while the water is flat, then hike to Allison Creek Falls (2.6 km round trip). The little trail is perfect for a hot summer day and not too busy first thing in the morning. If you were wondering who Allison is… Allison Creek Falls, Allison Road, and Allison Lake (Chinook Lake’s former name) are all named for Douglas Allison, an early settler and prominent rancher in Crowsnest Pass.
We had an amazing stay at Chinook Lake, but recommend staying at least two nights so you have more time to relax and explore Crowsnest Pass. Keep reading to learn more about the campground and things to do in the area.
Camping at Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Chinook Lake Campground at Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area has 92 unserviced, reservable campsites including a handful of coveted lakeside sites in Loop C. If you’d like to avoid generator noise, Sites A80-A99 are for tents only. Campsites are well-shaded by trees and most are quite private, except for the lakeside ones that back onto the lakeside path.
Campground amenities include pit toilets, a water pump (water NOT tested so bring your own drinking water), hand launch for canoes/kayaks/SUPs, and picnic shelter. Bring your own drinking water and firewood.
Campsites may be reserved up to 90 days in advance at Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca.
Partnership Disclosure: An an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I received free camping for review purposes, but all words and opinions are my own.
Things to Do at Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Cool off in the clean, clear water of Chinook Lake while enjoying the view of Crowsnest Mountain; go for a paddle; or hike around the lake. There’s a small gravel beach and shaded spots by the water where you can put some camp chairs or do some fishing. And the lake is stocked with cutthroat trout (2022 – and rainbow trout in other years), so there’s a good chance you’ll land one!
Hiking trails include:
- Chinook Lake Loop: A pleasant 2.3 km loop around the lake
- Allison Creek Falls: Expect to get your feet wet on this 2.6 km round trip upstream to the falls. It’s fun on a hot day!
There’s also a network of hiking and mountain biking trails south of the lake including:
- Gills Gully: 5.8 km round trip
- Mill Run Loop: 3.1 km loop
- Chinook Camp Loop: 2.7 km loop
Nearby Activities and Attractions
Attractions in Crowsnest Pass include Bellevue Underground Mine ($), Frank Slide Interpretive Centre ($), and Leitch Collieries (admission by donation).
See our story The Best Hikes of Crowsnest Pass for more trails to try, and don’t miss Lundbreck Falls and The Burmis Tree on your way to Chinook Lake!
Know Before You Go
Chinook Lake is a 100% reservable campground, so you must reserve a campsite! Sites may be reserved up to 90 days in advance at Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca.
Drinking water is not tested, and there are no showers or flush toilets in the park, so plan accordingly.
Fuel (gas, diesel, or propane) generator hours are 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
What to Bring
Our Ultimate Camping Pack List has everything you need for a fun camping trip, and includes tips on what to look for when buying gear.
Chinook Lake is located in southwest Alberta, 10 minutes north of Crowsnest Pass / 2.5 hours from Calgary / 1.75 hours from Lethbridge. If coming from Calgary, we recommend driving the scenic Cowboy Trail to Highway 3. See our story Exploring the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) for more information.
Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area is a beautiful and peaceful destination that is perfect for anyone looking to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors. It also makes a great base camp for exploring Crowsnest Pass!
- The Best Hikes of Crowsnest Pass
- Why you should visit Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
- Camping at Lundbreck Falls
- A fun weekend at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
- Alberta Parks’ Best Lakeside Campgrounds