Camping at Indian Graves Campground, South Kananaskis

by - Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Indian Graves Campground is your base camp for exploring south Kananaskis.

Indian Graves Ridge, Kananaskis
Indian Graves Ridge, Kananaskis

Camping at Indian Graves Campground

It's golden hour when Henk de Jonge arrives at our campsite to greet us. We've set up our tent on a grassy site near Johnson Creek and the girls are playing in the water. The first thing we ask Henk, who has run the campground for 15 years, is how Indian Graves Campground got it's name. According to a First Nations guest, many years ago the dead were placed on the nearby ridge (Indian Graves Ridge) so birds could set their spirits free. As the last light of day hits the ridge's crown, the ridge does indeed look close to heaven.

Our campsite at Indian Graves Campground
Our campsite at Indian Graves Campground.
We fit all our gear in the Honda Odyssey - no roofbox required!
The campground has a variety of sites: some big, some small; some in the open, some forested; as well as a handful of coveted creekside spots. It's best to call or email ahead so you can ensure your tent or RV will fit on the site you want. Our site is between the creek and playground (and cook shelter), so the girls go back and forth playing with new friends and watching the horses. There are a few sites with horse corrals around the edge of the campground.

Crossing Johnson Creek, Indian Graves Campground
Although the campground is full in late July, it is quiet. Henk and wife, Riny, have worked hard over the years to discourage partying. They even remind guests, in the camping confirmation email, "Families and outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the quiet 'no party' environment and so will you."

Playground at Indian Graves Campground
Playground at Indian Graves Campground

Things to Do in the Area

Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, quadding/dirt biking (in PLUZ) are the main activities in the Highwood / Cataract area.

Hiking

Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis
Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis
Indian Graves Campground is well situated for hiking the Highwood. Henk recommends the following trails:

  • Windy Peak Hills: 9 km loop, 400 m elevation gain if you do all 5 "summits" but you can reach the first bump in about half an hour
  • Bear Pond: 400 m one way, 60 m elevation gain
  • Indian Graves Ridge: 9 km, 250 m elevation gain
  • Hailstone Butte Fire Lookout: 3.2 km return, 330 m elevation gain (Henk notes it is "a bit of a scramble" so he is reluctant to recommend it to kids. Proceed at your own risk.) For more information, please read this story: Hiking Hailstone Butte, South Kananaskis.
Bear Pond, Kananaskis
Bear Pond, Kananaskis
Plateau Mountain is another good hike in the area with unique rock formations. 6.7 km return, 250 m gain. 


Fishing

Fishing at Picklejar Lakes, Kananaskis
Fishing at Picklejar Lakes, Kananaskis
Fish in nearby Johnson Creek or Willow Creek, Highwood River (trout - catch and release, mountain whitefish), Picklejar Lakes (cutthroat - catch and release), or Chain Lakes Provincial Park (heavily stocked with rainbow trout). Bear Pond was stocked with grayling until a few years ago, but we didn't see anyone catching anything on our recent trip.

Know Before You Go

Reservations recommended. Note there is a minimum two-night stay at this campground.

Bring your own drinking water! Firewood sales are available provided there isn't a fire ban.

The 532 is a good gravel road (well maintained due to logging / gas extraction in the area) but is extremely dusty. Have patience and keep your distance if stuck behind RVs or logging trucks.

Most of the hiking trails are unofficial trails, so there is no signage marking the parking area or trailhead. Carry a topographic map and hiking guide. Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 5 (Amazon Affiliate link) is a great resource.

Getting Here

Indian Graves Campground is 1 hour and 45 minutes from Calgary; or 45 minutes SW of Longview. Take the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) to Longview for the scenic route, then go southwest on the 532 for 12 km.

Ptarmigan Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Ptarmigan Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Return the way you came, or take Highway 40 north for a longer, but stunning mountain drive. Some of our favorite short hikes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park include Elbow Lake and Ptarmigan CirquePocaterra Ridge and Arethusa Cirque are good ones to do in fall when the larches have turned.

Enjoy your trip to south Kananaskis!

Camping at Indian Graves Campground, South Kananaskis

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