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Article Teaser: Officially, the Cowboy Trail stretches the entire distance of Highway 22 from Mayerthorpe (northwest of Edmonton) south to Pincher Creek – flirting with Banff Park's scenic drives. It then jogs south on Highway 6 and east on Highway 5, ending in Cardston, a nudge above Montana, USA.

Keep reading below...

Ridin' the Cowboy Trail

Copyright (c) 2007-2017 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
Written by:

Officially, the Cowboy Trail stretches the entire distance of Highway 22 from Mayerthorpe (northwest of Edmonton) south to Pincher Creek – flirting with Banff Park's scenic drives. It then jogs south on Highway 6 and east on Highway 5, ending in Cardston, a nudge above Montana, USA.

While it's possible to drive and camp along the entire distance, most people carve it into little two and three day loops, using Calgary - the official Gateway to The Cowboy Trail as a starting point. Whatever portion you choose, you'll be on the skirts of Alberta's Rockies which means you'll witness a great diversity in wildlife and scenery. From deer and elk to numerous small town rodeos - this scenic drive is full of geographic and historic gems, perfect for family vacationers.

Out of convenience, let's start in Mayerthorpe and head south along the eastern flanks of the foothills to Rocky Mountain House. Here is a superb National Historic Site where the story of Canada's fur trade and rugged voyageur life is re-enacted. For a different perspective do a bit of vacation planning and take a Voyageur Canoe trip down the North Saskatchewan River, ending at this very site. So wild is this forested area that when you spot the teepees and smell the smoke from the site's camp, you'll be spirited back 200 years when the trading post was first built. But remember – lodging, camping and ranchstays are always a quick drive away.


Summer Whoop-ups

Back on Highway 22 continue south through Sundre, which is a good jumping-off point for wilderness trips or horseback ventures into the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve. Or, just poke around Sundre's Pioneer Museum, full of memorabilia from old books, journals and photos to farm implements, maps and so forth. For more of the Wild West park your scenic drive in Calgary at Stampede time (early July) and kick up your heels at the 10-day whoop-up, known as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth".

From Calgary, veer your scenic drive west to Bragg Creek. Full of artisans, this funky little village is a great place for a picnic, a hike and horseback riding, as well as shopping for western art and unique crafts. Bragg Creek is an ideal gateway into Kananaskis Country, should you want to add another loop to your itinerary.


Diamond Valley Twinkles with History

Back on The Cowboy Trail, continue your scenic drive south through towns like Millarville (famous for its farmers market held on Saturdays throughout the summer), Turner Valley (it was here, in 1914, that Canada's first major crude-oil discovery was made), Black Diamond and Longview. These towns are all part of Diamond Valley – The Heart of the Cowboy Trail. For an unusual diversion take a gas plant tour in Turner Valley. The tour tells the story of the area, once one of the most active oil and gas fields in the British Empire.

Just south of Longview is another excellent interpretive center, the Bar U Ranch, full of original buildings, ongoing archaeological digs and intriguing exhibits. At this point you could take Highway 541 into Kananaskis Country for a horsepack trip or gentle trail ride. Or, stick to The Cowboy Trail, bound for Pincher Creek - most noted for Kootenai Brown's Pioneer Village. And just a jog east on Highway 3 is Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on the fringes of Fort Macleod.

If you choose not to go to Fort Macleod, head south on Highway 6 to Waterton Lakes National Park (Trail of the Great Bear), full of charming B&Bs, lodges, hotels and natural mountain splendor.

To complete The Cowboy Trail, turn east on Highway 5 to Cardston where the Remington-Alberta Carriage Centre is the No. 1 magnet. Housing one of North America's largest collections of carriages, buggies and wagons, it's a spectacular example of another era ...the Wild, Wild West.

To the left of this story is just a sample of the many points of interest along The Cowboy Trail. Search for information about each point of interest or for additional attractions in the area.


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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