Imagine a journey through rolling ranchlands, mountain peaks, eerie badlands and dusty Wild West towns. Sound like something you’d see in a movie? It may very well be – the authentic vistas of Southern Alberta are favorite locations for Hollywood films. Hit the road for Reel Adventures through the scenes of Brokeback Mountain, Inception, X-Men 2, Legends of the Fall and Unforgiven, to name just a few.
If real cowboys are more your thing, drive the Cowboy Trail through cattle country. For an urban fix, experience the excitement of Calgary, self-proclaimed ‘heart of the new west.’ Explore the coulees and kilns of Medicine Hat and the shady past and funky arts scene of Lethbridge. And there’s so much going on in the Canadian Badlands it gets its own page.
In the summer, stay on a guest ranch and herd real cattle with real cowboys. Go whitewater rafting, bike through the prairie, or escape to the cool mountains. Hike, paddle or ride just about anywhere. Fall in love with winter and go skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and dog sledding.
Endless prairies. Towering peaks. Real cowboys. Here’s your insider Southern Alberta checklist!
From plains to peaks
Witness the collision of prairies and mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton is pleasantly free of crowds, so you can experience the splendour of the Rockies from your own secret patch of alpine paradise. 90 minutes southwest of Lethbridge.
Camp by the river in the sacred Blackfoot land of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Explore the valley’s unusual rock formations, and ancient paintings and carvings on the sandstone cliffs. 2 hours southeast of Lethbridge. Dive into Elkwater Lake in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, a unique plateau that lies 600 meters (1,970 ft) above the Great Plains. One hour southeast of Medicine Hat.
Chinook Country is a varied land of plains, foothills and mountains in Alberta’s southwestern corner. Pack up the family and go fishing, mountain biking or stay at a guest ranch. Whoop it up at a barn dance or get lost in a corn maze.
Slopes, seams and slides
Jaw-dropping scenery aside, Alberta Southwest is rife with outdoor thrills and surprising history. Mountain slopes mean biking and snowmobiling trails that are out of this world in Crowsnest Pass. Discover the massive 1907 coal mining operation of the Leitch Colleries and witness the devastation caused by the 1903 Frank Slide.
If bison could fly
The Aboriginals drove herds of bison over the cliffs for nearly 6000 years at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An hour west of Lethbridge.
Walk in the footsteps of the pioneers at Bar U Ranch, an original 1880s homestead. 90 minutes southwest of Calgary. Along the way, check out some coollittletowns.com for more adventures off the beaten path.