Exploring Alberta's Cowboy Trail

by - Monday, July 15, 2019

The scenic Cowboy Trail travels through the foothills from Mayerthorpe in the north down to Lundbreck. While you could drive the whole trail in a day (6 hours to be precise), I highly recommend taking at least a few days to experience the sights and attractions along the way. Here are some of our favorite stops on this iconic Alberta road trip from Rocky Mountain House to Lundbreck.

exploring the cowboy trail alberta


  1. Crimson Lake Provincial Park is a great beach, paddling, and biking destination. The full service campground has showers, concession, camp store, and power and water sites; and the park has canoe rentals, walking and biking trails, and excellent interpretive programs the whole family will enjoy. Read about our experience here: Fun Times at Crimson Lake Provincial Park.
    Crimson Lake Provincial Park Beach
    Crimson Lake Provincial Park Beach
  2. Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is where Alberta's fur trading history comes to life. Learn to make a fire with flint and steel, visit the Metis Village and speak to interpreters dressed in traditional clothes, watch a puppet show about the great explorer David Thompson, play in the play fort, or stay in a trapper's tent. For more information, read this story: Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.
    Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
    Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
  3. Caroline Wheels of Time Museum is a fun stop on the Cowboy Trail with six historic buildings to explore. Free tours are available on weekends where you can go in the jail cell, sit in the fire truck, visit the old school, and more. Please donate to keep this cool little museum open. Check out our photos at Caroline Wheels of Time Museum. If you like fishing, nearby Phyllis Lake and Beaver Lake are popular spots for catching trout.
    Caroline Wheels of Time Museum Lock Up
    We spent time at Caroline (Caroline Wheels of Time Museum).
  4. Sundre, just 90 minutes northwest of Calgary, has a neat Pioneer Village, good eats and riverside camping, and serves as the gateway to the "West Country" (45 minutes from Sundre) where you can see wild horses, and go trail riding or whitewater rafting. Discover more in our photo essay: Summer Fun in Sundre, Alberta.
    Trail ride with Sunset Guiding & Outfitters
    Trail ride with Sunset Guiding & Outfitters
  5. Cochrane is close enough for a half day trip, but you could easily spend a day here. We usually go to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and bike down to the river, or hike the Tiger Lily Loop and geocache. Check out Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park - So Close to Calgary, So Much to Do! for more information. For apres hiking/biking treats, head in to town (10 minute drive) for MacKay's Ice Cream. On Saturdays, hit up the Farmer's Market at Cochrane Ranche Park for local produce, baking, and more.
    Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
    Beautiful mountain views from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
  6. Bragg Creek is Calgary's playground, only 45 minutes from the city. Enjoy a huge, well maintained network of mountain biking trails at West Bragg Creek, dine in the hamlet (you can't go wrong with The Italian Farmhouse or ice cream from Frontier Candy & Ice Cream), or do a hike off Highway 66. Sunrise Hill and Powder Puff is a good one for families with younger children. Read up on this fun hike here: Sunrise Hill and Powder Puff, Kananaskis. After, stop by Forgetmenot Pond or Elbow Falls (short but pretty stops)!
    Sunrise Hill, Elbow Valley
    View from Sunrise Hill, Elbow Valley
  7. Black Diamond, named for its coal mining history, is home to The Westwood (unique menu with locally sourced ingredients), Chuckwagon Cafe (all day breakfast in the red barn), and Marv's Classic Soda Shop (50's diner). Eau Claire Distillery can also be found in Black Diamond; take a tour or sign up for a mixology class! On our most recent trip, we enjoyed ice cream floats at Marv's while listening to 50's tunes on the jukebox.
    Tasty treats at Marv's Classic Soda Shop, Black Diamond
    Tasty treats at Marv's Classic Soda Shop, Black Diamond
  8. Longview is at the crossroads of the Cowboy Trail and Highway 40 (the latter being the way to south Kananaskis). For the best steak ever, book a table at the renowned Longview Steakhouse. No time for a sit down meal? Pick up mouthwatering jerky for the road/trail at Longview Jerky Shop. They have beef, bison, elk, pork, turkey and chicken jerky in a variety of flavors.
    Longview Jerky Shop
    Longview Jerky Shop
  9. Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is Canada's only historic site dedicated to ranching history. Learn what put Bar U Ranch on the map, how large scale roundups were done in the late 1800s, and how cowboys lived back then. Kids can complete an activity book to earn a prize and will love visiting the animals and riding the wagon in to the village. For more information, visit Parks Canada | Bar U Ranch National Historic Site.
    Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
  10. Chain Lakes Provincial Park offers rustic camping along the Cowboy Trail with fantastic fishing (stocked lake) and mountain views. There's a big playground for the kids; concession serving fries, burgers, and ice cream; power sites and unserviced sites. Although you have to share a communal fire pit, you may just pick up some fishing tips! For more information, please visit Alberta Parks | Chain Lakes Provincial Park.
    Chain Lakes Provincial Park
    Image Credit: Suzi Smart Photography
  11. Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area, on the bank of the Crowsnest River, is perfectly situated for exploring the Crowsnest Pass (16 minutes from Frank Slide Interpretive Centre). Camp among the cottonwoods, walk the short trail to the falls, or fish from shore (excellent trout fishing). For more information, please read our stories: Camping at Lundbreck Falls, Alberta, Why You Should Visit Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, and The Best Hikes of the Crowsnest Pass.
    Lundbreck Falls, Alberta
    Lundbreck Falls, Alberta

Cowboy Trail Driving Route

Here is a map showing the driving route from Crimson Lake Provincial Park to Lundbreck Falls Provincial Park.
Cowboy Trail Map from Crimson Lake to Lundbreck Falls
Cowboy Trail Map from Crimson Lake to Lundbreck Falls

Know Before You Go

Admission to National Historic Sites (Rocky Mountain House NHS and Bar U Ranch NHW) is free with your Discovery Pass.

Check your fuel level before leaving Longview as there aren't any gas stations between Longview and Lundbreck.

Cowboy Trail Road Trip on CBC Radio

I recently spoke about a day trip down the Cowboy Trail (Calgary to Chain Lakes Provincial Park) on CBC Radio's Calgary Eyeopener Show. Listen to the podcast here.

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