Spray Valley Provincial Park is an awesome mountain playground with scenic hiking trails, great mountain biking, paddling, fishing, camping (and glamping!), and dining. Here are five fun things to do in the Spray Valley this summer.
Hiking in Spray Valley Provincial Park
There are several spectacular, unofficial trails in the park. If you’re not keen on route finding, stick to the more popular ones, and carry a map and compass/GPS/hiking app.
West Wind Pass is our favorite short trail in the Spray Valley. From the pass, you can head east to Wind Tower, a 10 km return scramble with exposure. For more information, read our story: West Wind Pass Trail, Kananaskis. Distance: 4.2 km return, Elevation Gain: 380 m.
Tent Ridge is one of the best ridge walks you will ever do as its horseshoe shape offers amazing viewpoints of the surrounding peaks. The unmarked parking area is 1 km past the bridge on Mount Shark Road, and the trailhead is the grassy cutblock about 200 metres back down the road. The trail is fairly straightforward, but check a trail guide / route description before you head out as there is no signage on the trail (blog post coming soon). It is a scramble getting up to the first summit with some exposure, and the descent has a lot of loose rock, so I recommend hiking boots and trekking poles. Distance: 9 km return, Elevation Gain: 850 m.
South Buller Pass is a strenuous, but rewarding day hike that starts at Buller Mountain Day Use and passes a small waterfall. 6.6 km one way, 671 m elevation gain. From South Buller Pass, you have a few options: 1) return the way you came, 2) return via North Buller Pass, 3) descend to Ribbon Lake, or 3) descend to Guinn Pass. With a car shuttle, it’s possible to hike into Ribbon Lake Backcountry Campground and hike out via Ribbon Creek (if you can manage hiking the chains near Ribbon Falls with your backpack).
Galatea Creek Trail follows the creek and crosses 11 bridges before ending at Lillian Lake, but if you go a little further, you can visit two turquoise alpine lakes. This trail, unlike the ones previously mentioned, is on the Highway 40 side of Spray Valley Provincial Park. 6.3 km with 600 metres elevation gain to Lillian Lake Backcountry Campground (reservations required), 2 km + 150 metres elevation gain more to Lower and Upper Galatea Lakes.
Biking in the Spray Valley
There are some great mountain biking trails in the Spray Valley. Mountain bikers should be self sufficient (carry repair kit and know how to use it) as there is no cell service along the trail.
Ride the Spray Fire Road (also known as West Side Road) for a beautiful, family-friendly ride. 10.8 km one way from the Spray Lakes West Day Use Area to the dam. For more information, read this story by This Mom Bikes: Bikepacking: Spray Lakes Area.
The High Rockies Trail goes from Goat Creek to Elk Pass; a distance of 80 km. The highlight of the trail, for many, is the 73 m long suspension bridge over Blackshale Creek located 2.3 km from Black Prince Cirque trailhead. For detailed descriptions of each section of the trail, check out Kananaskis Trails | High Rockies Trail. Arrange a car shuttle or plan to camp (see Where to Stay below) or stay at Mount Engadine Lodge en route.
Paddling in the Spray Valley
Spray Lakes Reservoir is 14.8 km long offering hours of exploration by boat. Put in at Driftwood Day Use’s boat launch or Spray Lakes West Campground’s hand launch. It can get quite windy here, so have a hiking or biking trail lined up as a backup plan. We were lucky to have calm waters last week.
Fishing in the Spray Valley
Your best bet for catching lake trout or mountain whitefish is to go out in a boat, or so I’ve heard (we haven’t had much luck from shore). Check Alberta Fishing Regulations for keep limits/regs.
Dining in Spray Valley Provincial Park
For divine après-hiking / biking/ paddling treats, head to Mount Engadine Lodge for Afternoon Tea (daily from 2 pm – 5 pm unless there is a special event/closure; check their website before you go). A charcuterie platter, desserts, and tea or coffee on the patio in the mountains… does it get any better than that? There are also tables inside if you prefer. I have raced out of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (27.5 km) to get to Mount Engadine before Afternoon Tea is over.
Where to Stay
Mount Engadine Lodge offers a range of all-inclusive lodging options from a secluded yurt (5 minute walk from the lodge), cozy glamping tents with 3-piece bathrooms, cabins, and lodge suites. Four delicious meals are included with your stay: Afternoon Tea, dinner, breakfast, and a brown bag lunch to take with you. With no other hotels in the area, you can really get away from it all at Mount Engadine!
Spray Lakes West Campground has 50 unserviced, first come first served sites spread out along the west side of the reservoir. Arrive early (NOT Friday night) to get a spot at this popular campground. For more information, visit Alberta Parks – Spray Lakes West Campground.
As of July 2021, there are four hike-in / bike-in only camping areas at Spray West Campground, Buller Pond Day Use Area, Sawmill Trail Day Use Area and the Pocaterra Overflow Campground. Fees are in effect (pay at self-registration kiosk) and all food/items with a scent must be kept in bear lockers. These camping areas make it possible to explore the High Rockies and Great Divide Trails over a few days.
Know Before You Go
There is no cell service in the park and signage is limited, so a map and compass/GPS and trail guide books are highly recommended. Unofficial trails do not have signs at the trailhead and parking areas for unofficial trails are not marked. We recommend Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol. 1: Kananaskis Valley – Kananaskis Lakes – Elk Lakes – Smith-Dorrien (Amazon Affiliate link) and Canmore and Kananaskis Village Gemtrek Map (Amazon Affiliate link).
Spray Valley Provincial Park is located 1.5-2 hours from Calgary. To access the south end of the park, it is fastest to take Highway 40 to Spray Lakes Road / AB-742 / Smith-Dorrien Trail. If visiting the north side of the park, it is quicker to go via Canmore and Spray Lakes Road.
Note that Spray Lakes Road is a gravel road from Grassi Lakes to Highway 40, and the north section from Grassi Lakes to Goat Creek Day Use is often quite rough (potholed and washboardy); the rest of the road is in pretty good shape.