Big Knife Provincial Park – Explore a Hidden Gem

The road less traveled provides the opportunity to experience beautiful destinations that tend to be less crowded. You might describe these places as hidden gems. One such is Big Knife Provincial Park, a remarkable provincial park with beautiful scenery, hiking and camping. Big Knife Provincial Park is a wonderful place to reconnect with nature without the worry of coming in contact with large numbers of people. It’s a piece of paradise that feels all your own.

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An image of the badlands in Big Knife Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.
These badlands are the highlight of the Highland Trail in Big Knife Provincial Park. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Where is Big Knife Provincial Park?

Big Knife Provincial Park is a small park located in the Battle River Valley in east central Alberta. It’s about 10 kilometres south of the city of Camrose and ninety minutes northeast of Red Deer.

Related: Read our post 10 Amazing Jasper Hikes.

An image of the bridge and gazebo at Big Knife Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada
Big Knife Provincial Park has lovely facilities and trails. Photo by Debbie Olsen

How Big Knife Provincial Park Got its Name

Big Knife Provincial Park is named after Big Knife Creek, which flows through the park. The park and the creek are in Blackfoot Nation territory. According to legend, a fight to the death happened near the creek. A Cree warrior named “Big Man” fought a Blackfoot warrior named “Knife.” The creek was thereafter known as Big Knife.

An image of a hiking trail in Big Knife Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.
A look at a section of trail that winds through the forest. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Beautiful Badlands Scenery

Even though this park is just 2.44 square kilometres in size, the scenery is pretty diverse. There is lush green river valley as well as badlands to explore – something that took me completely by surprise in this part of Alberta.

Another Amazing Alberta Hike: Read our post Prairie Mountain – Hike a Mountain Before Lunch.

An image of the playground facilities at Big Knife Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.
This is a look at the playground facilities near the campground at Big Knife Provincial Park.

Hiking and Paddling

Paddling and hiking are two of the top activities in this provincial park. You can paddle on the lake or river and fish for walleye, northern pike or perch. There are two hiking trails in this park – the Highland Trail (6 kilometres return) and the River Flats Trail (4.5 kilometres return). The River Flats Trail is the easiest of the two. It has views of the Battle River and the Big Knife Hoodoos. There are benches along the trail where you can stop and relax. The Highland Trail is slightly more challenging. It starts with an uphill climb to a viewpoint with panoramic views of the park. The Highland Trail will take you to the place where you can see the badlands area of the park.

An image of the badlands in Big Knife Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.
Look for wildflowers near the badlands in the park. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Flora and Fauna

You’ll find a variety of plants and animals in this park. Keep your eye out for prickly pear cacti near the badlands region of the park. Less common bird species you might see include ferruginous hawk, loggerhead shrike and short-eared owl. A variety of mammals can also be seen including deer, moose, fox, coyote, beaver, muskrat and badgers. The park also provides habitat for the threatened northern leaopard frog.

An image of a  northwestern fritallary butterfly .
This is a northwestern fritallary butterfly. There are many different plants and animals in the park. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Camping in Big Knife Provincial Park

The campground contains beautiful treed sites for tents and RVs. There are playgrounds, picnic areas, fire pits, water, dry toilets, a nice gazebo and a boat launch. In all there are 40 unserviced campsites and 11 walk-in tent sites. Information and available sites can be booked through the Alberta Parks Campground reservation system.

Camping Fun: Got a hammock for camping? It’s an inexpensive accessory that we have really enjoyed. There are plenty of trees to tie it to in Big Knife Provincial Park.

Related: Want a little luxury with your camping? Read our post How to go Glamping in Alberta.

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