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9 May 2022

Riding Alberta’s Cowboy Trail

Turner Valley Alberta

Turner Valley. Photo by Jeff Bartlett/Travel Alberta

What is the Cowboy Trail?

Set against the backdrop of the Rockies, Alberta’s Cowboy Trail is a 700 km scenic driving route that follows Highway 22 from Mayerthorpe in the north to Lundbreck in the south. The trail continues on over different roads to the community of Cardston, not far from the Canadian border with Montana.

Along the way, expect to see working ranches, historic landmarks and some of the country’s most stunning scenery as the Canadian prairies give way to the Rocky Mountains.

Photo by Rebecca Bollwitt

Things to see on Alberta’s Cowboy Trail

The thrill and beauty of driving along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is reason enough to head out on the Cowboy Trail.

But if you’re looking to get off the road and experience ranch life for yourself or just explore the beauty of the area, we’ve rounded up a list of cool stops along the route.

Bragg Creek Kananaskis Country

Bragg Creek. Photo by Neil Zeller/Travel Alberta

Bragg Creek

The charming hamlet of Bragg Creek is just 30-minutes outside of Calgary and features great restaurants and unique shops, including the historic Bragg Creek Trading Post. You’ll love the scenic location and small-town charm. And if you’re looking to get out into nature, a visit to nearby Bragg Creek Provincial Park is a must. The terrain winds around the Elbow River, offering a perfect afternoon escape during a road trip.

Photo by Rebecca Bollwitt

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

Located approximately 100 km south of Calgary near Longview, the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is a great spot to head if you want to get a taste of the ranching lifestyle.

Sit around the campfire and have a taste of cowboy coffee or learn to rope a steer on this working farm right in the heart of Alberta’s ranch country. Visitors to the sprawling 148-hectare property (open to the public from May – September) can see the workings of a real ranch, hitch a ride on a wagon drawn by Percheron horses or explore the more than 35 historic buildings preserved on site. These buildings, along with the original ranch headquarters along the Pekisko Creek, showcase Canada’s ranching history.

Black Diamond Alberta

Black Diamond. Photo by Roth and Ramberg

Black Diamond & Turner Valley

The neighbouring communities of Black Diamond and Turner Valley are 35 minutes outside of Calgary but feel like a world away. As you leave the city, the pace slows down and cattle starts to outnumber people. Soak up the Western charm and friendly vibe in these small historic towns. Browse the many eclectic shops, grab an old-fashioned shake at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop in Black Diamond or stop by for a burger at Chuckwagon Cafe in Turner Valley. There is a 3 km hiking route — called the Friendship Trail — that connects the two communities if you’re looking to stretch your legs.

Turner Valley is also home to Alberta’s first craft distillery.

Lundbreck Falls. Photo by Chris Amat/Travel Alberta

Lundbreck Falls

Located at the south end of Highway 22 (approximately 2 hours south of Calgary), Lundbreck Falls is a worthy stop for those who enjoy scenic strolls and magical waterfalls. Easily accessible from the parking lot, the beautiful waterfall tumbles 39 metres over limestone cliffs. See it from the top on multiple lookout platforms and then walk down to the bottom for a close up view.

Nearby is the town of Pincher Creek, a great base if you are looking to explore Waterton Lakes National Park (one of Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites — read about all of them here and here).

Rocky Mountain House. Photo c/o Indigenous Tourism Alberta/Roam Creative

Western Canada Experiences

Don’t have time for the whole journey? You can still experience the Cowboy Trail by travelling along just part of the route.

If you are staying in Calgary before beginning our Western Cities & Glaciers self-drive, take an afternoon to drive down to Turner Valley and visit Black Diamond and Longview. The views are breathtaking.

Please visit our Experience Alberta and Experience British Columbia sections for more travel inspiration in Western Canada.

Category: Alberta
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