→ Find a copy of Vol. 3 of the Canadian Rockies Annual at canadianrockiesannual.com
YOUR GUIDE TO THE COWBOY TRAIL
By Tera Swanson
In Volume 3 of the Canadian Rockies Annual, we featured the Cowboy Trail as a Side Trip in The Kit: Resources for Mountain Living. Here are stops you won’t want to miss, from towns to ranches to horseback tours.
With any visit to the Canadian Rockies, you’ll want to take the scenic route. And that journey begins before you even step foot in the mountains. Embracing these ranges to the East is the Cowboy Trail. Weaved amongst the foothills and prairies, this region has served as an entryway to the Rockies for centuries.
Spanning Mayerthorpe, Alberta, down to Cardston, just minutes away from the U.S. border, the Cowboy Trail roughly follows Hwy 22, a main route serving endless opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and a chance to connect with the ways of the old West. Here are the best stops, from North to South.
→ Find a copy of Vol. 3 of the Canadian Rockies Annual at canadianrockiesannual.com
FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
Between Edmonton and Jasper National Park, the first stop on the Cowboy Trail begins. This 1,300 population town is rich in agricultural and ranching history, industries that remain ingrained in the community today.
ATTRACTION: Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
This Parks Canada National Historic Site highlights the importance of First Nations’ fur trade in Canada’s earliest economies, and how it shaped the country’s history. From exploring fort remains on foot to interactive interpretive programs on Metis skills, this is a hands-on experience you won’t want to miss.
Once poetically described by David Thompson as “the plain of grand view,” the town of Sundre and surrounding area offers the best of several regions, from whitewater rivers to aspen parkland and prairie, with an enticing view of the mountains in the distance.
ATTRACTION: Sundre Pioneer Museum
Take a walk back in time at the Sundre Pioneer Museum. Featuring three unique attractions, the first is Pioneer Village, home to original buildings from the early 1900s situated on 4 acres of land. Discover a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, and a log chapel.
EXPLORATION: The Outpost at Warden Rock
This backcountry hideaway is nestled between the majestic mountains of Banff National Park and the grassland of the historic Ya Ha Tinda Ranch. To get here, you’ll take a 14-kilometre stagecoach trip to the outpost to experience an authentic chuckwagon cookout, along with the best in modern-day amenities – hot tubs and home cooked meals.
EXPLORATION: Sunset Guiding & Outfitting
Sunset Guiding & Outfitting offers horse interactions and activities to accommodate all ages and experience-levels. From wild horse viewing and wagon rides to trail rides and overnight trips, you’ll never forget these experiences amongst beautiful scenery of high mountain meadows and stunning vistas.
Nestled in the southwest corner of beautiful Mountain View County, Cremona is a short drive to golf, camping and riding and is located right on Hwy 22.
Like many communities along the Cowboy Trail, Cochrane was first established by a local rancher. This vibrant town is located en route to Banff from Calgary via the scenic Highway 1A, and is a hub of outdoor activities for every taste.
EXPLORATION: Timberline Tours Ltd
This backcountry horseback tour company brings you the wilderness experience firsthand, and can accommodate outings for single individuals, up to groups of eighteen.
EXPLORATION: Brewster Adventures
The oldest outfitting company in Alberta, Brewster Adventures offers 2-hour to 6-day rides in the backcountry of Banff National Park. Experience beautiful iconic locations by horseback, such as the Plain of Six Glaciers, or get the off-the-grid experience of a lifetime.
EXPLORATION: Home On The Range Adventure Tours Ltd.
Home On The Range Adventure Tours offers Western experiences throughout Alberta and the Rocky Mountains. Choose a ‘self-drive’ itinerary to explore at your own pace, or have their team customize your trip to experience the very best of historic sites, landscapes, and culture.
EXPLORATION: Creative Western Adventures Ltd.
From horse-pack trips to snow showing with a Metis guide, Creative Western Adventures offers genuine and meaningful discovery of Alberta, its Western and Native heritage, its welcoming people and its outstanding landscapes.
ATTRACTION: Original Bragg Creek Trading Post
Serving the area for over 90 years, the Bragg Creek Trading Post specializes in genuine First Nations’ crafts. Here, you’ll enjoy the warmth of the wood stove amidst the aroma of freshly hand tanned hides. You may even meet one of the local artists bringing in their goods to sell!
EXPLORATION: Boundary Ranch
At Boundary Ranch, you can enjoy everything from a barbecue lunch to whitewater rafting to overnight trips in cozy backcountry camps. Located halfway between Calgary and Banff.
EXPLORATION: Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures
Moose Mountain Horseback Adventures has been providing horse enthusiasts with the opportunity to enjoy some of the best riding in Western Canada since 1991.
TOWN: Town of Okotoks
Okotoks has a rich history and vibrant arts and culture scene, located just south of Calgary. From unique downtown eateries to exciting events and activities year-round, the happenings in Okotoks are sure to please.
ATTRACTION: Marv’s Classic Soda Shop and Diner
Step back in time at this unique dining joint in the hamlet of Black Diamond. Authentic 1940s costumes, traditional ice cream treats, and over 150 varieties of glass bottle and tin soda pop can all be discovered at Marv’s.
EXPLORATION: Anchor D Guiding & Outfitting Ltd
For a high-quality horseback trip, you’ll want to try Anchor D. With only a maximum of 12 guests per outing, you’ll be assured the utmost experience in the Rockies. Enjoy a 2-hour guided trail in the foothills for beginners, or the ‘Lost Trail Trip’ for experienced riders.
ATTRACTION: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre
At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, local Blackfoot Nations interpretive guides offer tours and educational programs to educate visitors on the history of the area, and the culture of First Nations’ tribes who call it home. See a buffalo jump site, and learn how it played a part in plains buffalo culture.
Originally a coal mining town, Lundbreck is a small Southern Alberta hamlet near the beautiful Lundbreck Falls, located on the Crowsnest River. The natural feature is an unusual one in the prairies, and is a popular picnic pit stop and overnight camping area.
EXPLORATION: Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies
The T.R.C.R. is a non-profit club of enthusiasts guiding 5 and 6-day trail rides throughout the summer. Unlike many pack trips, the trail riders set up and return to the same main camp every day, ensuring their guests are well-rested and contented before another day on the trail.
This Southern Alberta community was settled in 1887 by Utah members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first temple outside of the U.S. was built here, and remains standing today. You’ll also want to check out the Remington Carriage Museum, home to the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America.
- Kokopelli Country Cabins
- Kramer Pond Lodge
- Ram River Tours / South Ram Outfitters
- Red Lodge Guest Ranch
- Bow Rivers Edge Campground
- Calgary Hotels & Motels
- Sundance Lodges Tipis, Trapper’s Tents, Campsites
- Chimney Rock Bed and Breakfast
- Lucasia Ranch
- Sierra West Cabins & Ranch Vacations
Visit thecowboytrail.com for more information.
Tera Swanson is a freelance writer and graduate from Mount Royal University’s Journalism undergraduate program. Whether laced into hiking boots or clipped into skis, her favourite way to explore the mountains is on her own two feet. She’s always up for anything that will end in the telling of a good story; be it through photography, from pen to paper, or over a locally brewed amber ale.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles on CrowfootMedia.com are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.
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