Writing-on-Stone Campground occupies a heavily treed delta along the infamous Milk River in southern Alberta, Canada.
Clearly-signed access east on Highway 500 and south from the Town of Milk River along Highway 501 allows parking at the clearly-signed Visitor Center for hiking trail access downhill to the campground grocery store with adjacent washrooms and showers. Access roads for registered campers lead to a variety of accommodation for tents, RVs and trailers or limited Comfort Camping locations. The well established facility caters to a wide variety of camping styles in an idyllic, heavily treed location offering a wide variety of amenities including an amphitheater, playground, interpretive trails, picnic shelters and a small sandy beach on the river.
Primarily, the Visitor Center and Campground are staging points for convenient access to world class archaeological exploration among unique natural features.
There is also walking access from behind the Visitor Centre which features interpretive information combined with spectacular views across the Milk River.
A well-marked hiking trail behind the Visitor Center provides valuable interpretive information along the downhill trek through hoodoo features to exit near the showers, washrooms and grocery store.
From parking below at the Campground, the trail complex provides lengthy access to the famous Battle Scene Petroglyph but the more lengthy trail can be challenging in the heat and desert terrain. Access to the Battle Scene is best achieved by driving west to the Davis Coulee Viewpoint for spectacular views and substantially shorter trail access to the Battle Scene. There is also a bus tour available from the Visitor Center which provides access and interpretation in the restricted archaeological zone.
Parking at the park near the Camp Grocery Store provides access through the small interpretive park and playground Day Use Area to the road through the campground which passes Registration and the Amphitheater before arrival at a D-shaped bend around a large tree with a gate in the chain link fence providing access to a boat launch and river adjacent trail. Be sure to shut the gate to keep the beavers out.
A left turn past the gate leads along dirt trail at riverside with stunning views across the river towards sheer cliffs and the Humphrey Coulee. The trail continues along river edge with the occasional wet and marshy spot, to the small sandy beach on the east side of the major river bend.
Leaving the sandy beach via the obvious and nearby beaver-proof passage accesses road heading north past campground sites and finally the Comfort Camping zone before intercepting the Camp Store and parking area for vehicle access or the return hike to the Visitor Center at the top of the bluff.
On the commute between the The Town of Milk River and Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, the paved route through predominantly prairie passes the roadside Masinasin Pioneer Cemetery about 30 KM (18 miles) east of town on Hwy 500. Masinasin is a Cree word meaning 'Writing-on-Stone' with reference to the sandstone carvings standing in memory of former communities. A few pensive minutes are taken to wander the prairie plot and to collect and remove debris. The resting places for the young children are the most moving and a solemn reminder of hardship endured by founding pioneers.
This hiking adventure, with many options, can be as short or long as participants choose to make it. Summer heat and infrequent inclement weather may be determining factors. It is always very wise to check in at the Visitor Center and ask questions about options, conditions and alternatives no matter how much experience you have. This adventure is unique.
Photographs for this hike through the Writing-on-Stone Campground were captured on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park near the Town of Milk River in Alberta, Canada.