Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Southern Alberta

Perhaps the best thing about this park is that it really isn't on the way to anywhere. For those willing to get off the main thoroughfare, all efforts will be rewarded. It's named for the extensive carvings and paintings made by the Blackfoot on the sandstone cliffs along the banks of Milk River – more than 3000 years ago. There is an excellent, self-guided interpretive trail that takes you to some of the spectacular viewpoints and accessible pictographs and petroglyphs.

(You must stay on the trails to prevent damage to the hoodoos. Many visitors feel the need to add their own marks to the hoodoos – don't be one of them. Not only are you vandalizing a piece of history, you're also desecrating a sacred First Nations site.)

The best art is found in a restricted area (to protect it from vandalism), which you can visit only on a guided tour (10am, 2pm and 6pm daily in summer; adult/youth/child $19/11/7) with the park ranger. Other activities include canoeing and swimming in the river in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. Park wildlife is ample, and the visitor center, built in the shape of a traditional tipi, blends perfectly with the region's natural and cultural heritage. Beware: it can get exceedingly hot in the summer and you must have close-toed shoes. (This is rattlesnake country!)

The park's riverside campground has 67 sites, running water, showers and flush toilets. It's popular on weekends.

The park is southeast of Lethbridge and close to the US border; the Sweetgrass Hills of northern Montana are visible to the south. To get to the park, take Hwy 501 east for 42km from the town of Milk River, on Hwy 4.