If ever there was a campground that might induce a total rethink of my first-come-first-serve aversion (FCFS), Interlakes Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park would be it. That’s saying something, because my aversion is strong.
If you’ve been following along with my sequence of reviews on the campgrounds of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, you’ll know that we eventually booked our site at Boulton Creek. We chose that campground over Elkwood mostly for proximity to the Trading Post. I have no regrets regarding that decision, but I was admittedly disappointed when during my initial site search, it became obvious that many of the campgrounds in Peter Lougheed were FCFS. Interlakes was one such campground that looked quite appealing on Google Maps but quickly fell out of the equation as we turned our focus to reservable sites.
Out of curiosity during our weekend camping trip in Kananaskis last summer, the family and I went exploring through these other campgrounds we had rejected. Despite being thoroughly pleased with our spot in Boulton Creek, I needed to have a look at what could have been were I not so resistant to adding extra days to a camping trip solely to commandeer a preferred site. Interlakes campground left me awestruck.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Interlakes is the simplest of campgrounds. Its star power does not derive from impressive amenities, family-friendly atmosphere, or incredible recreational facilities. It’s a single string of 48 un-serviced campsites winding along the edge of a modest, mountain lake. 23 of those sites back onto the lake, 25 do not. But oh my, amongst those 23 that do are some of the most incredible views you’ll ever experience from an RV or tent. Wow!
Level, gravel pads set in amongst the spruce and pine, all the sites in Interlakes Campground are what we’ve come to expect in Alberta’s mountain parks. Most are spacious and reasonably private offering campers an enjoyable escape from city living. A handful of these sites are pull-throughs but most are back-in of some configuration.
By any metric, the sites at Interlakes are beautiful and offer a lovely spot to set up shop. But those 23 sites backing onto the lake include some truly magical places. Snugging right up to the rocky shores of Lower Kananaskis Lake, the views between the trees out across the lake to the mountains yonder are breathtaking. I can only imagine the jolts of euphoria waking up to such vistas would send through my body each morning. Just seeing them from the front seat of my SUV as we slowly drove through the campground was enough to cause exaltations from each of us.
As mentioned, services are light. There is no playground, shower house, or dump station. There’s not even a beach as the land simply transforms to lake at the edge of campsites. A few pit toilets and freshwater taps are located along the campground road offering campers the bare necessities.
Interlakes campground does have an onsite manager located on a large site at the entrance. This site has a shed filled with firewood, so I assume campers can buy wood from the host. Otherwise, Interlakes campground is just you, your rig, and nature.
Which isn’t to say you’re completely isolated here. Interlakes campground is not backcountry. Just to the north of the entrance is the power generation plant situated between Upper and Lower Kananaskis lakes. Though not an especially attractive industrial facility, there are public fishing grounds on either side of the plant along with North Interlakes day use area.
A little further onwards from the south exit to Interlakes campground, and up the slope between lakes, is Upper Kananaskis Lake day use area. This large staging area for hiking is walkable from most from the campground. It too is a very pretty spot with lots of trails around the rocky shores of the lake. Longer, more demanding hikes also initiate here so you’ll find it a busy spot most days.
Boulton Creek campground along with the perks it offers, namely the Trading Post (ice cream!) and equipment rental shop, is not too far away. You probably wouldn’t want to walk it, but it would make for a solid bicycle ride. If you’re in a rush, or just lazy, it’s a quick car ride away to a tasty snack or emergency purchase. And, of course, all the other offerings of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are accessible to Interlakes campers.
I have not stopped thinking about this campground since we first saw it. The allure of those lakeside campsites is impossible to ignore. But with no ability to reserve these sites, getting one has got to be a chore in its own right. Showing up on a Friday evening will most certainly leave you disappointed. I would imagine most sites are either taken up for weeks at a time or fill up very early in the week. Even the typical Calgary camper showing up with a cheap tent to lay claim as site on a Wednesday might well return home unsuccessful.
Would I recommend Interlakes campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park? Abso-freakin-lutely. It doesn’t offer much of anything outside of gorgeous campsites. Overall, it lacks amenities and services and requires the dreaded FCFS to even get a site. As such it would typically garner, at best, 3 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5 from me. But plunk me down in one of the stunning lakeside campsites and I’ll toss out 6 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5 like a Bick’s Pez dispenser all night long!