Crimson Lake Provincial Park hosts the Amerada Trail which circles Crimson Lake near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park is along Hwy 11 about 16 KM (10 miles) northwest of the Town of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada. The popular recreation area and camping site is well-equipped with powered and primitive campsites, picnic shelters, playgrounds and a convenience store. Crimson Lake is a modest sized, shallow-water lake which supports sandy beach swimming, sun bathing, boating, wind surfing, canoeing and kayaking. The park is mature, well appointed and well maintained.
The entrance to Crimson Lake Provincial Park off Hwy 11 is clearly signed. Within a short distance, there is a turn on paved road into the Environmental Learning Centre which is closed and showing signs of extended neglect. A trail leads on rustic path through forest to an interpretive viewpoint which illustrates the diversity of terrain. The viewpoint features a vast, sweeping wetland where plants, aquatic and aviary life are abundant in the isolation. The natural sights, feel, odors and sounds are soothing and inspirational at the Environmental Learning Centre viewpoint.
Navigation into the park proceeds on good paved road past an intersection to the Wilderness Adventure RV Park to the left. The road labelled Cabin Road on the website map is signed Crimson Lake Drive. Naming convention anomalies are a common theme throughout the entire two-week hiking mission.
A string of cottages occupy the west shoreline of Crimson Lake. The intention is to begin the 10 KM (6¹⁄₃ mile) Amerada Trail hike from a trail entrance ²⁄₃ of the way along Crimson Lake Drive. This will delay encountering the hustle and bustle of the main complex. There is a convenient gravel parking area along the road with short access to the main trail on the other side of the road. A 'You are here' pin on the map sign leads the way. The choice is to hang a right at the trail junction and hike the trail clockwise on exceptionally well-maintained and easy-to-navigate gravel trail.
There are marker posts at each kilometer along the trail. Soon, the hike proceeds past the 3 KM marker (7 KM on the other side of the post for hikers or cyclists navigating the opposite, more predominant, counter clockwise direction).
Interpretive viewing stations along the way provide educational information about diverse landscape dominated by wetland and punctuated with mature forested areas. There are frequent rest stops along the trail and soon the hike passes the west-side washroom facilities near the end of Crimson Lake Drive. Parking at the end of Crimson Lake Drive is another option for beginning the hike on Amerada Trail around Crimson Lake. The more than 20 KM (12½ miles) of trail in the Crimson Lake area host cross-country skiing in the winter.
A dedicated memorial viewpoint offers a beautiful view across Crimson Lake with benches for those who wish to take a relaxing break. Periodic and infrequent rain shelters provided by Alberta Environmental Protection, in conjunction with construction material provided by the David Thompson Trail Run Committee, are not required this day but would be welcome if inclement weather catches a person in the right place at the wrong time.
Along the north side of Crimson Lake the Amerada Trail tracks close to the shoreline. Often the excellent quality trail is a narrow, level berm through wetland adjacent to the lake. Surrounding terrain makes frequent, subtle shifts in composition to make the hike entertaining. The abundant variety of life along the trail is fascinating. There is not a north-side toilet. Lakeside views are mesmerizing.
The Amerada Trail continues east away from the Crimson Lake shoreline through varied forest before taking a turn south. Traffic noise from paved Highway 756 is periodically audible but insufficient to be considered a distraction from the overwhelming beauty of the forest. There is a significant dip in the usually flat trail before elevation is regained and trail signs caution about the road crossing for Pioneer Ranch Camp.
A short distance past the road crossing there is the welcoming sight of the east side outdoor toilet. The clean and sweet-smelling outdoor toilet is meticulously maintained. Good job. This is the first time 'outdoor toilet' and 'sweet smelling' show up in the same sentence.
The sweet-smelling outdoor toilet.
The east side component of the Amerada Trail proceeds south into an area of varied trail options named Fallen Timber, Boardwalk, North Woods and Wolf Track. Trail signage is clear and it is easy to remain on track.
One exception is the trail called Sandpit. This trail beckons and within a short distance the hike arrives at the Sandpit which is a marvelous playground for children. There is not a soul around so the pack is dropped to thoroughly enjoy the slides and natural obstacles before returning to hike south and west on the Amerada Trail. Life is short. Play!
Soon the hike arrives at the well defined, main parking area trail-head. The day use area is large and busy. Within easy walking distance there are playgrounds, washrooms. picnic areas and food concessions. The preference for solace leads across the parking area to the beach and swimming area where children are playing and adults are encouraging them. A few people are sitting in shade and reading a book or talking to another person. The proliferation of narcotic electronic devices seems to be taking a refreshing break here.
This is the only part of the Amerada Trail where it is necessary for me to wing it. If there are trail signs for this leg of the loop, they remain hidden but the map provides sufficient information to hike south on trail adjacent to the west side of the entrance road. The well signed junction for the 5 KM (3⅛ mile) one way link to Twin Lakes will be left for another day and soon signage the hike is continuing around the south and west side of Crimson Lake along the Amerada Trail.
This section of predominantly forest has minor elevation features. The sunny day has warmed up substantially. The hike through mature forest encounters a spectacular wetland area at the southwest corner. Beaver Pond is a photographic paradise. The drainage-comprised access path from the main trail, which leads to a floating dock with views across blooming lily pads and bulrushes, would be easy to miss.
The self sustaining ecosystem is an expanse of brilliant green over blue and white reflections on black water accompanied by the loud din of a wide variety of insect, amphibian and aviary life. The natural beauty and energy is captivating. It is important to sit here for at least a few minutes to relax the soul and make you younger. Avid photographers may be unable to leave. Magic!
Past Beaver Pond the trail gains minor elevation and passes the 2 KM marker. Reclaimed forest soon leads to the junction where this hike began and it is a short walk to cold water in the trunk of the car.
And, here is a major kicker. Amerada Trail is wheel chair accessible. Heavy duty off-road wheel chairs called trail riders are available free for park visitors with mobility challenges. How cool is that? if the opportunity presented itself, I would like to try out one of those myself. Probably wise to phone ahead and learn more as opposed to arriving unexpectedly and potentially being disappointed.