Comfort camping at Cypress Hills Provincial Park

by - Friday, March 02, 2018

Drive, ski, or snowshoe to a cozy hut in Cypress Hills Provincial Park this winter! (Hike or bike in summer!)


Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park is known for great camping, but did you know they have a collection of cozy, private (sleep 4 or 6 - no sharing with strangers!), and affordable huts that are open year round? Some are conveniently located near Elkwater Lake and others are in the backcountry. We chose Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut for its easy access and secluded location. It seems funny to put those phrases together but with the campground closed for the winter, we were truly able to get away from it all after a short snowshoe trip.

It's a brisk -22 Celsius (-32 with windchill) when we arrive at Reesor Dock, but the kids can't wait to get out of the car. What's the incentive? A backcountry hut in the woods, less than two kilometres away. It's a treat as we usually stay in a tent! Emi (6) has already called dibs on the top bunkbed and is racing Miya (8) down the trail while my husband and I finish fastening our snowshoes. We wave goodbye to the hardy ice fishers on the lake and hurry to catch up to the girls.

Reesor Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Reesor Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
There are two ways to Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut: around the lake, or across the lake. We decide to snowshoe around the lake to keep out of the wind. Plus, we're not sure how thick the ice is near the dam. We take turns breaking trail and envy deer bounding effortlessly through the deep snow. The snow varies from ankle deep to knee deep and gets even deeper as we cross Battle Creek (shallow and frozen) and approach the campground.

Snowshoeing to Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Snowshoeing to Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Within 45 minutes, we've arrived at our home away from home. A flick of a switch reveals a kitchen with gleaming hardwood floors and spacious bedroom beyond. With solar powered lights, mattresses, cookwear, and a wood stove, the clean and bright hut screams hygge - the Danish word for cozy. Miya and Emi shriek, "We LOVE this!" and promptly test the beds by jumping on them. The verdict is that the big bed is "a lot comfier" than the bunk beds (but they feel the same to me).

Warming up by the fire at Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut
Warming up by the fire at Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut
Thanks to considerate guests before us, there's plenty of kindling and dry firewood inside, so we get a fire going fast. We load logs in the stove 'til no more will fit and soon it's hot enough to remove our midlayers and boil water for dinner. After a day of downhill skiing (at Hidden Valley Ski Resort) and snowshoeing, our simple meal of instant noodles, veggies, and hot dogs tastes great!

Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut
All set for a good night's sleep at Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut

Evening is time for cuddling by the fire, toasting marshmallows, and reading. We fall asleep to the crackling of the fire and sleep soundly til morning.

After a hearty breakfast, the kids go play in the snow while we pack and clean up. Our stay was short, but sweet, and the girls said it was their favorite part of our four-day trip to Cypress Hills. We hope to ski in to Tom Trott Hut or Medicine Lodge Hut (both on the Spring Creek Cross Country Ski Trails) next time and stay for two nights!

Reesor Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Lake
Crossing the dam at Reesor Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Lake

Things to Do Here

Enjoy snowshoeing, ice fishing, stargazing, and wildlife viewing at Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut. The park is in a Dark Sky Preserve, so stargazing is phenomenal. There's lots of wildlife in the park too. Expect to see deer, moose, or elk in winter.

Location and History

Reesor Lake, located 20 kilometres from the village of Elkwater, is a popular fishing and camping destination in Cypress Hills Provincial Park. It is named after David William Reesor, son of Senator David Reesor, who settled here in 1900. While the campgrounds are closed in winter, Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut may be booked year round.

To reach Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut, snowshoe 1.8 km from Reesor Dock. Follow the lakeshore or snowshoe on the road past the winter gate, cross the dam, cross Battle Creek, then turn right at the campground. *Snowshoeing is the best way to go as there are some very deep snow drifts across the lake and in the campground.*

Hut Amenities

The hut sleeps four (one Queen bed +  one single over single bunk bed) and has solar powered lights, two 12 V (cigarette lighter) outlets, dining table and chairs, ax, shovel, slop pails, broom and dustpan, pots and pans, kettle, dishes, cutlery, and a wood stove.

Note that there is no plumbing in the hut. You must bring your own drinking/dish washing water or be prepared to melt snow. Outhouses are nearby.

Helping with the dishes

Know Before You Go 

Reservations are required. Call 403-893-3833 to reserve. You can pay and pick up the key from the Elkwater Visitor Information Centre at 2 pm.

  • No cell phone service
  • No drinking water; bring your own. 
  • You are in cougar country! Cougars are typically quite shy, and tend to be most active at dawn and dusk. Read Alberta Parks' cougar safety here. Abby Czibere of Medicine Hat stayed in the hut the day after us and saw fresh cougar tracks near Battle Creek!
  • Bring a backpacking stove for fast cooking (it took an hour for the wood stove to heat up) or plan to cook over the fire. I recommend bringing roasting sticks or foil pouch meals you can cook over the fire to cut down on dirty dishes.
  • Pack out all garbage.
  • Dispose of grey water in the outhouse.
  • The outhouse is a short walk from the hut. You may wish to bring a small portable potty for young children.

For More Information

Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut is one of several huts in Cypress Hills Provincial Park. For more information, visit Alberta Parks – Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park – Comfort Camping.

For more winter fun in the park, check out my story: 5 Winter Fun Facts about Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The park has a small downhill ski resort, groomed cross country ski trails, kicksled rentals, an ice skating track, and luge track!

Disclosure

Alberta Parks generously hosted my stay, but all words and opinions are my own.

Our stay in a backcountry hut at Cypress Hills Provincial Park
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