Hiking Haffner Coulee in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park

writing-on-stone-provincial-park-alberta-canada

Guided Hike at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park Alberta Canada.

Unique Hikes of Alberta Canada.

Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park has been on my bucket list for a while now, although hiking the Haffner Coulee was not on my radar until days before the trip. Upon looking at the Alberta Parks reservation site in the spring of this year, the sites were all booked up over the weekends. While I personally enjoy weekday camping better, it's hard to get family and friends out during the week. Luckily, people cancel trips, and I conveniently went online to peek at the availability at just the right time. With no time to spare, I scored a Comfort Camping Cabin for the upcoming weekend. Yay!! Now to see what Writing-On-Stone has to offer for adventures. 


Researching  Haffner Coulee Hike in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park 

Before I head out on an adventure, I research the area extensively to find what peaks my interest the most and make a list of "Must See" places. I learned from some other bloggers that 1 day in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park would be enough time to see and do it all. I thought I would knock this park off the list completely with the 2 days I had booked for camping. My experience would have me say otherwise though. 1 day is not nearly enough time to explore this area to the fullest. If you just want to "see it", then yes, 1 day is good. I definitely would have booked a longer stay had I known all the adventures waiting for me at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. Just more reason to book a site there again soon!


Booking the Haffner Coulee Guided Hike

Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park offers a handful of guided tours in the area, which help give you a better, more proper understanding and appreciation for this special place. Here is when I realized I messed up and did not book a long enough stay at the park. While most of the tours are offered daily, the Haffner Coulee Hike is only offered 1 day a week for 1 time slot - Sunday mornings at 9:30am. 
Oops- Check out of the cabin is at 12pm. Haffner Coulee hike shot to the top of my Must See list for 2 main reasons. 1- It's in a closed off area of the park, not open to the public unless with an Alberta Parks guide. 2- It was listed as the longest and hardest tour offered at Writing-On-Stone. 
Thanks to my mom, I was able to attend the hike Sunday morning. Normally my little adventure seeker comes with me everywhere, but this hike is not open to anyone under 12 years of age. Mama seeker needed Nana seeker to watch the littlest adventure seeker for this to work out. Thanks Mom!

Sunday Morning Preparations For the Guided Haffner Coulee Hike 

The Haffner Coulee Hike recommends you are at the Writing-On-Stone visitors centre 10-20 minutes ahead of the tour departure time (9:30am). We woke up early to pack the vehicles as the hike crosses over check out time. With the vehicles preloaded, and lots of water in hand for this hike, my brother and I head for the visitors centre. Upon arriving we got excited to see the Writing-On-Stone tour bus waiting for us. It's been awhile since either of us went on a field trip and we were quite fired up for the day ahead.

Driving to Haffner Coulee in Southern Alberta Canada 

Haffner Coulee is not actually attached to the main section of Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park,  but about a 10 minute drive west. It was acquired in 2011 when a family approached the government as a way to preserve the area. You really have no idea it's right beside you as you drive along, it's just a big well hidden crack in the fields of Alberta's prairies. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park has a bus that will take you down to the coulee area. It was like a personal tour for us that day with only myself and my brother signed up for it, with 2 extra Alberta Parks staff members joining us. Each staff member brought an additional knowledge feature to the hike which was an extra treat for us. Our main guide, Becky, was great and gave some nice tips of the area along the drive to Haffner Coulee. Such as floating down the Milk River - Start at the Weir Bridge and it will take 2-3 hours to float back to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. Just another reason I need to come back here!

Starting the Hike in Haffner Coulee

We arrive at an old abandoned homestead in a prairie field, and that's when Becky parks the bus and says we have arrived. She gives us a quick but informative safety run down, as well as what to expect on this particular hike. She is also honest to say the beginning of the hike might be a bit boring as we cross the prairie field before we descend into the coulee. It was a good beginning to the hike, like a warm up. With plenty of stories along the way about the area and its history. 

Hiking Down Into Haffner Coulee

At this time, after a moderate walk in the sun over crunchy sun baked prairie grass, we start to see the bright green lush coulee bottom with a small creek still flowing even in mid August. Amazingly, the surrounding rock faces were like something out of a movie. With what looked like columns and pathways to natural coliseums. Additionally, the whitetail deer and mule deer were frolicking about, while the big snakes slithered away in the tall grass. There are no official trails through the coulee, so a bit of bushwacking is required, but only low small shrubs. Nevertheless, the descent to the bottom was near a nice game trail making it pretty easy to get up and down the edges of the coulee.  

Exploring Haffner Coulee 

Once at the bottom of Haffner Coulee in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, you're surrounded by lush natural greenery and soaring sandstone cliffs. Of course each cliff exceptionally different than the next with unique characteristics and formations. Furthermore, you can clearly see the fossils of ancient sea creatures. Surprisingly, this was once the bottom of the Western Interior Seaway, an ancient sea that flowed from the Arctic Ocean down to the Gulf of Mexico through Canada and the United States until about 66 Million years ago. Amazing to see these timeworn creatures sticking out of the sandstone in Haffner Coulee. Amongst all the natural beauty and and European settler history, lies the true history of the area.

Some History About The Blackfoot Tribe 

The land here, and the vast majority around this province as well as neighbouring provinces, and even the states to the south, is considered Blackfoot Territory. The Sweetgrass hills to the south of Haffner Coulee are basically in the heart of Blackfoot Territory, and their history here reach far and wide. These areas are special in more ways than one, but one of the beautiful features in Haffner Coulee are the petroglyphs still visible today. It was a pleasure to see more of these carvings in the stone left long long ago to tell a story of the past. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park has the highest concentration of petroglyphs and rock art in the North American Great Plains. As a result, that is why it is such a protected place and a pretty restricted area as well. Unfortunately, it is absolutely sad to see the amount of graffiti and vandalism that takes place near these valued historical areas, or any natural area really, but especially near, on, or around something like a petroglyph

To Summarize The Guided Haffner Coulee Hike in Southern Alberta Canada 

In closing, I would recommend taking this tour of hoodoos, petroglyphs, animals and history if you have the chance. It is very hot here, so dress appropriately, bring lots of water and a hat. This hike is not one of the daily tours offered, as Haffner Coulee hike is only available Sunday mornings at 9:30am MST for the months of July and August (2023). It is also not available for anyone under the age of 12 and not recommended for anyone not up for hot 3 hour hike in and out of a coulee with some elevation differences. For the cost of around $30, have yourself a unique experience with Alberta Parks in Haffner Coulee, a west block of Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta Canada

Hiking Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. 

Explore Southern Alberta Canada.


Travel Guide

  • Andrea Horning
  • andreahornng2005@gmail.com
    • Attraction, Tour
    • Historical Site
  • Calgary
  • Alberta

Canada Parks

  • Milk River
  • Alberta
    • Provincial Park
    • Wildlife Watching
  • 3km
  • Moderate
  • Seasonal
  • You need to be with an Alberta Parks guide to access Haffner Coulee. You will meet at the Writing-On-Stone visitors centre and they will drive you to the coulee

Location (Map)

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, NW 36 TW1 range 13, Milk River, AB T0K 1M0, Canada
×
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lak...
Things To Do Near Drumheller Alberta Canada
 

Comments 12

EH Canada Marketing Group on Thursday, 17 August 2023 23:29

Colin and I really enjoyed this park with all the hoodoos and coulees.

Colin and I really enjoyed this park with all the hoodoos and coulees.
Cary Horning on Thursday, 17 August 2023 23:59

Awesome story Andrea and l am glad l was able to help out so you could do the hike

Awesome story Andrea and l am glad l was able to help out so you could do the hike :)
EH Canada Marketing Group on Friday, 18 August 2023 00:32

Cary Horning Yes, Cary that was very cool to Nana Seeker babysit with Little Seeker for Daughter Seeker to go on an adventure.

Cary Horning Yes, Cary that was very cool to Nana Seeker babysit with Little Seeker for Daughter Seeker to go on an adventure.
Andrea Horning on Friday, 18 August 2023 04:34

EH Canada Marketing Group Makes sense you would both enjoy that park. And yes, I did a small loop between the campground and the visitors centre. Then went and did the Battlescene and Police Point Outlook trail too. I just couldn't get enough of it. Pretty cool to know their campground is open year round! Snowy icy hoodoos would be neat!

EH Canada Marketing Group Makes sense you would both enjoy that park. And yes, I did a small loop between the campground and the visitors centre. Then went and did the Battlescene and Police Point Outlook trail too. I just couldn't get enough of it. Pretty cool to know their campground is open year round! Snowy icy hoodoos would be neat!
Andrea Horning on Friday, 18 August 2023 04:35

Cary Horning Thank you again! Was a real treat heart)

Cary Horning Thank you again! Was a real treat :(heart)
Kim Kenyon on Friday, 18 August 2023 04:38

Fantastic blog Andrea, I really enjoyed reading about the history and seeing the amazing photos. What I really liked though is how you shared your approach to researching an area and some of the practical considerations to be made on the fly when finding out different schedules or restrictions. I was wondering in your video if it was Pronghorn antelope or mule deer that were bounding through the prairie.

Fantastic blog Andrea, I really enjoyed reading about the history and seeing the amazing photos. What I really liked though is how you shared your approach to researching an area and some of the practical considerations to be made on the fly when finding out different schedules or restrictions. I was wondering in your video if it was Pronghorn antelope or mule deer that were bounding through the prairie.
Andrea Horning on Friday, 18 August 2023 14:48

Thanks! We saw whitetail and mule deer running around at the coulee. I saw a pronghorn on my way home from the park though

Thanks! We saw whitetail and mule deer running around at the coulee. I saw a pronghorn on my way home from the park though :)
Kim Kenyon on Saturday, 19 August 2023 02:29

I would love to see a pronghorn!

I would love to see a pronghorn!
Kim Kenyon on Friday, 18 August 2023 04:39

Very interesting blog!

Very interesting blog!
Andrea Horning on Friday, 18 August 2023 04:54

Kim Kenyon Thank you happy)

Kim Kenyon Thank you :(happy)
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 28 August 2023 04:27

What a cool place! I haven't been to Writing on Stone Provincial Park yet, but when I do I am going to add the guided hike to Haffner Coulee to my list and make sure I plan for the Sunday 9:30am tour. Thank you for sharing your adventure and for the informative blog.

What a cool place! I haven't been to Writing on Stone Provincial Park yet, but when I do I am going to add the guided hike to Haffner Coulee to my list and make sure I plan for the Sunday 9:30am tour. Thank you for sharing your adventure and for the informative blog.
Andrea Horning on Tuesday, 29 August 2023 00:38

Thank you. Always happy to help add to the bucket list

Thank you. Always happy to help add to the bucket list :)
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Sunday, 16 June 2024

Alberta Experiences