Willmore Wilderness Park in the Rocky Mountains of central Alberta is a beautiful untouched wilderness area with pristine forests, clear mountain streams, alpine and subalpine lakes, pretty valleys, mountain wildflowers, and stunning panoramic mountain vistas.
The park became a protected area in 1959 and was named in honour of Norman A. Willmore, the former Alberta Minister of Natural Resources in the Earnest Manning Government. Willmore Wilderness Park represents some of the last unexploited range of many wildlife species in Alberta. Almost 20% of Alberta’s mountain goats and bighorn sheep are found in the park.
Elevation in the park ranges from 300 metres in the northeast to over 1,500 metres in the southwest, with some peaks along the Continental Divide exceeding 3,050 metres. Resthaven Glacier extends into Willmore from Jasper National Park.
First nations people inhabited this area as early as 10,000 years ago, long before the fur trade attracted the first Europeans to the area. Old forestry stopover cabins can still be found in the park at Big Grave Flats, Sheep Creek, Mile 58, Adams Creek, and Clarke’s Crossing, as well as early coal mining & trapper’s cabins. A number of grave sites also exist, including the unique grave of Pierre Caraconte. The ground was frozen at the time of his death, so a tomb of logs and rocks was constructed over his grave.
Willmore offers wonderful outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, multi-day horseback riding trips, horse assisted hiking excursions, and great fishing opportunities for the sport angler. Rocky Mountain whitefish, rainbow trout and bull trout are common in many of Willmore’s streams. Equestrian facilities are provided at Rock Lake and Sulphur Gates.
Willmore offers exceptional winter recreation for intrepid backcountry skiers. Outdoor enthusiasts venturing into Willmore’s winter wilderness must be experienced, as the weather is unpredictable and blizzards, whiteouts and avalanches can occur with little warning. Winter or summer, Willmore is a wilderness park, and those planning an excursion into the remote park must be experienced and well prepared. Food storage and bear avoidance skills are recommended.
Hiking is exceptional in the backcountry of 1,775-square mile Willmore Wilderness Park. Early fur trading activities created the network of trails that today form the basis for the approximately 750 km of rugged forest and alpine trails in Willmore. These trails provide access along all major eastern valleys and form connections via high mountain passes between valleys in the park. A few trails are located west of the Smoky River. August is the best month for hiking in Willmore, as the weather is warm, insect are less of a problem, and the rivers and streams are lower and therefore easier to cross.
Trail maintenance is minimal, and there are no developed facilities in the park, although there are several random campsites that visitors are encouraged to use, rather than create additional disturbances by wilderness camping. No camping fees are charged.
Wildlife in Willmore Wilderness Park include mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, mountain caribou, cougars, wolves, coyotes, moose, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer.
Willmore Wilderness Park is located in west central Alberta, just south of Grande Cache, and 300 km due west of Edmonton, Alberta. The park is bordered on the west by the Province of British Columbia and on the south by Jasper National Park. There are 3 main access points into Willmore, at Rock Lake, Big Berland and Sulphur Gates provincial recreation areas. The friendly community of Grande Cache serves as an ideal base from which to explore the park. There is no road access to the park, which can only be reached by hiking, horseback, mountain bike or on skis. motorized vehicles are prohibited in the park.
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