Beautiful, magnificent, and glorious, Crescent Falls are a series of waterfalls spilling into the Bighorn River in west-central Alberta. They were formerly called Bighorn Falls.
Crescent Falls Provincial Recreational Area makes for an exciting weekend getaway and allows campers and vacationers to enjoy plenty of recreational activities while looking at spectacular views of the falls. Captivating and impressive, Crescent Falls grabs the attention of many vacationers who visit here.
The recreation area is located 22 km (13.7 mi) west of Nordegg on Highway 11 and expands over 262 hectares of land. The recreation area includes the boreal forest, Bighorn River Canyon, Bighorn River, and Crescent Falls.
One of the most exciting activities offered at Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is a chance to hear and see the falls as you follow a short trail. It will take you right over the platform overlooking the upper waterfall. This sight is one that leaves most people speechless.
Those who wish to see how the falls appear from below can also take a trail downwards, cautiously. Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area also allows horseback riders to marvel at the sight from their favorite spot, i.e., from their horse’s back.
Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is located 3 km (1.9 mi) off the David Thompson Highway (#11) at the end of the Crescent Falls Campground road, 110 km(68 mi) west of Rocky Mountain House. The park is an almost five-hour drive from Edmonton and around three and a half hours from Calgary.
If you are approaching from Calgary take the Deerfoot Trail and take an exit at 364 towards Highway 11 in Benalto. Drive straight for 30 minutes or so before taking a left and continuing on Highway 11, past the Rocky Mountain House. After another 2 hours of driving, you’ll find yourself at your destination.
To access the campground at Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area, you need to descend a steep hill and cross a creek where longer trailers may get stuck. For this reason, the campsite limits the size of trailers into the campground to 27 feet.
Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area campground is located very close to the Crescent Falls viewpoint. The trail is also near the campground. Interestingly, the campground is in an area where many have claimed to have seen “Sasquatches” roaming around in the surrounding woodlands.
The campground is small yet well-treed and boasts seven tent-only sites, two equestrian sites, and 22 sites for RV campers.
Amenities in the campground include picnic tables, fire pits, firewood, water pump, and pit/vault toilets. There is also a community kitchen and for equestrians, there's an area with hitching rails, a loading ramp, and corrals.
The groundwater has a risk of contamination so Alberta Parks recommends that you bring your own drinking water.
While many trails loop around Crescent Falls and lead to the viewpoint area, there is one main trail within the recreation area, that provides easy access for keener hikers. It is a lightly trafficked trail that begins from the parking lot next to Crescent Falls Viewpoint, follows the rim of the Bighorn River Canyon and heads towards the Bighorn River viewpoint near the eastern edge of the property. Beware though, the trail is not properly marked and one needs to be extra cautious at the edge of the canon as it can get slippery.
There are two equestrian campsites at Crescent Provincial Recreation Area campground that accommodate equestrian riders. The sites also come with all the amenities necessary for the horses. While the trails are mostly underdeveloped, they are separately assigned as exclusively equestrian trails meaning that they are often empty. Additionally, there is also a pleasant day-use area reserved just for horse riders.
The best way to experience the finer things in life is by laying back, relaxing, and taking it all in. Perhaps that is why this park has an excellent day-use area and a well-facilitated picnic spot. The area includes picnic tables and dry toilets. Whenever you feel like taking a walk, you’ll find yourself staring right at the looming waterfalls. It's the perfect recipe for a picnic unlike any other.
There's a good chance that you might see a gray jay or two during your stay here. This inquisitive woodland bird, often referred to as a 'camp robber', is likely to make their presence known. Don't be surprised to receive multiple visits from these birds that are notorious for stealing food from campers thanks to their stealthy, well-timed flights. They nest in the area for most of the year and depart just before the end of the winter. Another famous bird, the American dipper, is also found here.
In addition to several species of moths and butterflies in the recreation area, the boreal zone is also home to many animals. Wildlife that is often spotted here includes black bear and red squirrel. You’re most likely to catch sight of the latter on a bright sunny day during a hike. They jump from branch to branch, like an Olympian acrobat, and are very noisy and loud. Use caution if you do encounter a bear while out and about.
The winters in this area are just as exciting as the summers. Visit with your friends, or your family, and enjoy not one, but two spectacles of nature. The first one is, of course, the Crescent Falls, the second one is Abraham Lake, where you can spend your weekend looking for ice bubbles and admiring magnificent ice formations.