Like a slice of the north dropped in the middle of all that vast, flat farmland of southern Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a fascinating geographical anomaly. Cypress Hills camping is very popular because it is a wonderland of pretty lakes, nice hiking trails and shady campggrounds.
While the northern part of our province is well known for its thick forest, placid lakes and plentiful wildlife, the south is mostly wide open fields of grain or cattle. Which is why Cypress Hills is so unique and such a popular place for summer vacation.
Where is Cypress Hills?
Cypress Hills is actually divided into two main sections, one in Alberta and the other in Saskatchewan. Then the Cypress Hills Saskatchewan side is further split into the West Block (hiking, rustic camping) and the Centre Block (main facilities, campgrounds, large selection of ice cream flavours).
Historic Fort Walsh is in the West Block, only about 45 minutes if you could get there by back roads but those were closed when we visited, meaning a 1.5-hour drive out and around the park.
How High is Cypress Hills?
Cypress Hills features the highest point in Saskatchewan. Which doesn’t seem like it would be a very impressive feat except that it actually reaches 1,400 metres, which is barely below famous famously high Denver (“The Mile-High City”), almost the same as Lake Atitlan (also known as “Our Favourite Place to Winter”) and actually higher than the highest point in the entire United Kingdom (Ben Nevis “mountain”, the namesake of the main road past Loch Leven in Cypress Hills).
The altitude means that Cypress Hills camping is slightly cooler than the prairies around it and there are fewer mosquitoes (still a few at dusk, though, as one would expect).
Things to Do in Cypress Hills
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park offers a wide range of activities, most of which revolve around the two small, very Scottish-themed lakes, Loch Lomond and Loch Leven (which is also next to the optimistically named Ben Nevis Drive). There are a couple of small beaches and several nice picnic areas to enjoy around Loch Leven and even a fairly large pool next to the visitor centre (overlooking the lake).
Beyond that, there is everything from boat and canoe rentals to biking, ziplining, golfing, tennis and horseback riding, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting bored.
Definitely take a drive (or bike, or horse) out to Bald Butte, a pretty impressive viewpoint of the surrounding prairies that really emphasizes just how high Cypress Hills is in comparison.
Plus, there is the Dark Sky Observatory, a unique attraction designed to take advantage of the amazing clear night skies in this sparsely populated section of the province.
Can You Swim in Cypress Hills?
Yes, swimming is very popular in Cypress Hills. There are several small beaches scattered around the shore of Loch Leven. The water isn’t very deep so it tends to be warmer than many of the deeper lakes up in Northern Saskatchewan.
There is also a large public swimming pool near the Visitor Centre for those who don’t feel like venturing into the lake.
The 5 Best Hikes in Cypress Hills
With its cooler climate and large collection of easy trails, Cypress Hills Saskatchewan is the ideal place to hike with the whole family. If you only have the time (or inclination) for a couple of hikes, we would recommend the following two trails as the pick of the bunch:
1. Whispering Pines Trail
2.5 km / 45 min / 50m elevation gain
AllTrails: Whispering Pines Trail
Starting at the north end of Loch Leven from Lodgepole Campground, this easy jaunt through the forest has a few small hills, a pair of good viewpoints and some interesting bush scenery.
2. Highland Rotary Trail
1.8 km / 30 min / 30m elevation gain
AllTrails: Highland Rotary Trail
This basically flat trail leaves from the Lone Pine Private Camping area in the southeast section of the park. It circles around a pair of scenic little ponds/lakes with good views and lots of birds.
3. Lodgepole and Boiler Creek Loop
5.5 km / 1.5 hrs / 100m elevation gain
This fairly easy trail leaves from the Whispering Pines Campground and leads through plenty of interesting forest with some small inclines and declines along the way. Trail marking isn’t great, especially in the clear-cut areas, but you can’t get too lost as long as you know the general direction you want to go.
AllTrails: Lodgepole and Boiler Creek Loop
4. Valleyview / Ridge Run Loop
2.5 km / 30 min / 60m elevation gain
Perfect for a short morning jaunt or quick, clear-your-head walk, the Valleyview / Ridge Run Loop leads around a pretty stand of forest on an easy trail with some decent views.
AllTrails: Valleyview / Ridge Run Loop
5. Trans-Canada Trail
This one is probably a bit much for a summer camping trip as the entire Trans-Canada Trail (officially known as The Great Trail) extends, as you might expect, all the way across Canada, is around 24,000 kilometres long and will probably take around 3-4 years.
Even if you aren’t quite that dedicated, though, you can hike the small portion that passes through the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (5-10 km one-way depending on where you start).
It is probably even worth taking the small detour to Twisted Tree trail, which I personally found very disappointing, although I must admit there were, in fact, a couple of weirdly twisted trees. Just not nearly as many, or as twisted, as I had hoped. Still, check it out and see if you agree…
AllTrails: Trans-Canada Trail
Cypress Hills Camping – Saskatchewan
I was somewhat shocked to learn how many Cypress Hills Saskatchewan camping options there were with over 600 campsites available in the Centre Block of the Saskatchewan section of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, and that doesn’t even include several private group campgrounds.
You can make your Cypress Hills camping reservations at Saskatchewan Parks, where you will be able to compare the exact facilities and dimensions of the different sites available. You can also get a Cypress Hills camping map when you go through the park gates.
All in all, this park holds a significant proportion of the Saskatchewan campsites. All the public Cypress Hills campgrounds are within a few minutes of each other and within walking distance of the lake and restaurants. However, there are some differences you may want to consider when making your choice:
1. Terrace Campground
Set nicely back up the hill in the trees, the sites are well-spaced, quiet and fairly private. It is one of the furthest from Loch Leven, although Lone Pine Pizza is very close. We would recommend the back row. T72 is great if you are tenting as it has a lot of room, no neighbours on one side and flush toilets and sinks right across the road but is on a hill so won’t work for RVs.
There are 4 free, hot showers in the central bathroom. This is our favourite of the Saskatchewan Cypress Hills campgrounds.
2. Rainbow Campground
The sites in Rainbow are very similar in appearance to those in Terrace but it is a bit closer to the action (probably 5 minutes closer to Loch Leven on foot) and, as a result, fills up a lot quicker.
In quieter times of year this will make a big difference (Terrace was practically empty in early June) but in mid-summer they are probably all full anyway. It is a popular choice for RVs but anywhere along the back row will be relatively private (sites 25-28 especially).
3. Lodgepole Campground
This is the closest campground to Loch Leven which might be preferable for families or anyone planning to spend most of their time in, on or around the water. The lodgepole pines give it a unique appearance but the sites are a bit closer together than some of the others.
We would recommend sites 21-22 and 25 along the back row for a bit more privacy and proximity to the bathroom. The middle rows could get pretty crowded.
4. Warlodge Campground
Another good choice that looks a lot like Terrace but is a little farther away from the busiest roads, Warlodge has large, nicely spaced sites that work well for RVs (but are still appealing for tenters). Although there are not actually any bad Cypress Hills camping options, Warlodge would be our first choice.
Once again, the sites farthest back from the entrance look best with 20, 21 and 27 being good choices where you park high and camp low, creating a bit of a barrier from the road. 31A/B and 41A/B are good options for groups but don’t have any shade (which is fine as long as you have a tarp or awning).
5. Deer Hollow Campground
Close to Terrace and Lone Pine Pizza, this tiny, single loop campground is very compact, tenting only, non-electrified sites. Good choice for a smaller camping area.
6. Meadows Campground
This huge campground is usually one of the last to fill up. They have a good range of different sites catering to both tents and RVs but it is quite far from the lake, which is fine if you plan to drive or bike but not ideal if you want to walk back and forth. On the other hand, it is very close to the observatory and dark sky viewpoints if you are hoping to do a little stargazing.
7. Group Campgrounds
There are numerous group campgrounds in Cypress Hills Saskatchewan that work great for family gatherings or coordinating your camping adventure with friends. Loch Leven and Valley Trail are between the lake and Lodgepole Campground, making them the most convenient for enjoying the lake.
Sunset and Aspen Grove are set well back by Meadows Campground, with pretty much all the same pros and cons. Hidden Valley is a quiet little spot tucked in (some might say hidden) behind the golf course. And Lone Pine is even farther out along the same road, featuring a pleasant, remote spot right at the start of the Highland Rotary trail.
8. West Block
There are some basic seasonal campsites in the West Block that operate on a first come, first served basis. There are picnic tables, fire pits, pit toilets and drinking water, but not much else. There is also an equestrian camping area with all the amenities need for horseback trips and trail rides.
What is the Best Campground in Cypress Hills Provincial Park?
It is hard to go wrong camping in Cypress Hills but we would recommend Warlodge Campground as it is very convenient (5-minute walk to Loch Leven) and is one of the quietest campgrounds.
Families and groups might prefer Lodgepole Campground since it is the closest to the lake, making it the easiest place to be if people are constantly running back and forth.
Where to Eat in Cypress Hills
There are three restaurants in the Centre Block of the Saskatchewan section of Cypress Hills park, all of which only accepted cash. Which, considering there is a strong cell signal in the park, not to mention wifi, seems like a bit of a scheme to make you take money out of the extremely overpriced ATMs that just happen to be placed very conveniently in each place. Other than that, we were quite impressed with the food in Cypress Hills.
Lake View Grill
The only eat-in option, they also have a nice terrace with great views over Loch Leven. Both the fish and chips and beef taco wrap were outstanding.
Dar’s Little Dipper
Right next to the main Loch Leven parking lot, Dar’s Little Dipper has somewhere around a bazillion flavours of ice cream (hard and soft serve) but also offer a pretty extensive takeout menu of the usual burgers, chicken fingers, etc. The pulled pork was quite good, as well.
Lone Pine Pizza
Located a few blocks from the lake between the Terrace, Rainbow and Deer Hollow campgrounds, they unsurprisingly specialize in excellent pizza but also sell a variety of other takeout specials and desserts.
For even more variety, it is just around a 20-minute drive to Maple Creek.
How to Get to Cypress Hills
The Centre Block of the Saskatchewan section of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is located 20 minutes (30 km) south of Maple Creek, which is an hour and 20 minutes (140 km) west of the major city (in Saskatchewan terms) of Swift Current along the Trans-Canada Highway (#1).
If you are coming from Alberta, Maple Creek is about an hour (100 km) east of Medicine Hat. The Saskatchewan and Alberta sections of the park are roughly 1.5-2 hours apart.
This is normally where I would describe all the different options to reach the park by public transportation but this is Saskatchewan so, you know, there aren’t any.
Things to Do Around Cypress Hills
If you have extra time or are heading north anyway, you should definitely check out the Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve. Located roughly an hour north of Maple Creek, this quiet 1,900-acre protected area is home to the second-largest sand dunes in all of Canada.
Meanwhile, around 2 hours southeast of Cypress Hills Saskatchewan you can find Grasslands National Park, one of only two national parks in Saskatchewan.
Remote and expansive, yet brimming with a huge variety of natural wildlife and stunning prairie and badlands scenery, it is definitely worth visiting both the West and East Blocks of this extremely unique national park and maybe even try out some backcountry Saskatchewan camping.
Trip Planning Resources
Here is a list of the most important resources we use when planning our travels, all in one convenient spot. Full disclosure, when you use any of these links to reserve or sign up for something, we receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated. However, your price does not change and we have only included products and websites that we can honestly recommend.
- For checking out flights we usually find that SkyScanner is the fastest and most accurate site.
- We book the majority of our hotels on Booking.com. With frequent stay discounts, thousands of reviews and free cancellation, it is very rare for us to have a bad hotel experience these days.
- Wise is by far the best international multicurrency bank account we’ve found. We can now send and receive money in half a dozen different currencies, convert to dozens more with no exchange premium and pay or withdraw local currencies. Highly recommended.
- When travelling we always get SIM cards with data for our phones. Local SIM cards are sometimes a bit cheaper but if you have a relatively new smartphone (iPhone XR or newer, Samsung S20 or newer) you can just buy an eSIM online, get a QR code by email and you’re good to go. After extensive research I have decided that KeepGo eSIMs have the best coverage and prices for most of our trips.
- We’ve used Discover Cars in many different countries and they usually have the cheapest deals and have always been very reliable.
- If you’re interested in local guided tours, including everything from city tours to cooking lessons to adventure activities, check out the huge range of options at Get Your Guide.
- World Nomads offers some of the best global travel insurance coverage. It is especially good for frequent travellers and digital nomads but also has competitive plans for short trips.
Cypress Hills Camping Summary
Compared to similar forest/lake combos in northern Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills probably won’t stand out. Plus, from Saskatoon or Prince Albert the northern highlights are much more convenient than the 5-hour drive down to the southwest corner of the province. But for people travelling in the area or who live down south in Swift Current, Moose Jaw or Regina, Cypress Hills represents a special opportunity to enjoy a bit of altitude, some of the best campgrounds in Saskatchewan and lush forest hikes.
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