Southwestern Alberta Historic Sites & Museums Circle Tour
7–10 day Southwest Alberta Circle Tour
DAY 1 – Arrive/Depart from Calgary
- Leave Calgary on Highway 2 headed south. Take Highway #7 headed west 14 km past Okotoks to see Big Rock (See photo below), the largest well-known glacial bolder deposit in North America. Get up close and personal.
- On your way back toward Highway #2, take Highway #2A south straight into the town of High River. Explore the historic town and its 17 murals.
- From High River take Highway #23 east and follow it as it turns south toward the town of Vulcan. Journey to your own “final frontier” at Vulcan’s Star Trek station.
- From Vulcan, take Highway #534/533 west to the town of Nanton, (incorporated in 1907). Stop for lunch and enjoy Nanton’s special “Alberta Antique and Art Walk” as well as the Lancaster Society Air Museum.
- From Nanton, take highway #2 south to Claresholm. Enjoy around of golf at the beautiful 18 hole Claresholm Golf Course. Eat at a great restaurant and have a good night’s rest at a wonderful historic motel. Stop by the Appaloosa Horse Museum before you leave.
- Take Highway #2 south to secondary Highway #785 near Fort Macleod. Drive west and drive 18km to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (See photo above). Try to be the first to spot this cliff-side seven-storey building. Learn about the Plains People buffalo culture from Blackfoot guides. If you stay for lunch, enjoy the delectable taste of bison in their burgers or their stew. For more information on Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump you might want to see here, there are some neat videos explaining the whole story!
- Return east to Highway #2 until you reach the junction of Highway #3. Head south and then east a total of 5km into the historic town of Fort Macleod and its restored sandstone buildings of Main Street 1911.
- Enjoy lunch in any number of great eateries and follow it with a visit to the Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police, the 1884 Barracks Site, and stop by the Empress Theatre amid the historic buildings of Main Street.
- Leave Fort Macleod on Highway #3 travelling east until you reach the city of Lethbridge. Enjoy any number of accommodation options in this tremendous service centre. Plan to stay 3 to 4 days, seeing surrounding attractions on day trips from Lethbridge (as described in day 3 to Day 5).
- Leave early, travelling south on Highway #4. Take secondary Highway #501 east to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park where you can see the amazing landscapes of the Milk River Valley and take a guided tour of native carvings (petroglyphs) and paintings that have placed the Alberta Provincial Park on the World Heritage Site Tentative List.
- Leave the park on Highway #501 westward for lunch in the town of Milk River. Then head north to Warner, and visit the Devil’s Coulée Dinosaur and Heritage Museum. Tour the first dinosaur nesting site found in Canada before you travel back to Lethbridge on Highway #4.
- Take Highway #3 east to the town of Coaldale to visit the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre. Be sure to bring your camera!
- Leave Coaldale on Highway #3 heading east to the town of Taber, famous for its corn. Be sure to stop for some lunch. The Taber AquaFun Centre is a great place for swimming and water-sliding entertainment on a hot southern Alberta afternoon. Campers will want to head further east to reach Grassy Lake.
- Travel west back to Lethbridge on Highway #3.
- Spend the day (or several) exploring Lethbridge and all of its wonderful attractions! Visit Fort Whoop Up, the replica of an American “Whiskey Fort” from the mid 1800s, built to profit from Canada’s new frontier (See photo below). The Fort is located in Indian Battle Park, where you can spend an afternoon exploring the wonders of the Helen Schuler Coulée Centre and marveling at the High Level Bridge.
- Visit the newly expanded Galt Museum and Archives where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Oldman River Valley and experience interactive displays and exhibits.
- Golf at one of the city’s beautiful courses.
- Take a leisurely stroll through the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, located at Henderson Lake Park. These gardens feature five traditional Japanese gardens with vistas of unparalleled beauty and serenity.
- Enjoy a high energy evening of laughter and great music with New West Theatre, or take in any of a number of other evening entertainment attractions.
- Shop at any of the many stores, malls and retail outlets. Enjoy cuisine from fast food to fine dining.
- Leave Lethbridge travelling south on Highway /5 until you reach the town of Cardston. Get geared up for adventure! This corner of Southwest Alberta is an adventure lover’s paradise with activities such as horseback riding, rafting, fishing, hiking, golfing, skiing, and snowmobiling readily available.
- Visit the Remington Carriage Museum (See photo below), which holds the largest collection of carriages and horse-drawn vehicles in North America, and dozens of them are displayed in their original settings. The guided tours are the best part of this stunning museum.
- Stop for lunch and decide which other Cardston gems interest you, including the Card Pioneer Home, the imposing Latter Day Saints Cardston Temple, the Fay Wray Fountain (The statue commemorates the actress, Fay Wray, who starred in the 1933 film classic ‘King Kong.’ She was born on a ranch just west of Cardston), or the Museum of Miniatures.
- Continue west from Cardston on beautiful Highway #5 to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, at Waterton Lakes/Glacier International Peace Park. Enjoy an evening stroll through this peaceful mountain town amid some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, followed by a gourmet dinner and a restful overnight stay.
Spend a day enjoying the beauty of the world’s first Peace park. Sights not to miss include Red Rock Canyon, Cameron Lake and Cameron Falls. You can also take a lake cruise across the international border, hike a variety of different mountain terrains, or golf yet another National Park golf course.
- Leave Waterton travelling north on Highway #6 to the town of Pincher Creek. Visit the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (See the blacksmith house below right), a turn of the century village with 16 historic buildings, and thousands of artifacts and historical documents. See the Three Rivers Rock and Fossil Museum, and visit Three Rivers Dam if you have the time.
- Stay the night in one of Pincher Creek’s numerous comfortable accommodation options.
Travel west on Highway #3 from Pincher Creek to the Crowsnest Pass. Marvel at the mighty rock slide at the newly renovated Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Take an underground tour -five hundred metres- into the Bellevue Mine. Visit the commemoration of the 189 miners lost in the Hillcrest Mine explosion. Learn of the Pass and its people in the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman. Enjoy one of many historical hikes located through-out the Crowsnest Pass, play around of golf, or buy yourself some unique treats from one of the many shops.
- Leave the Crowsnest Pass travelling east on Highway #3 to the junction of Highway #22, known as “the Cowboy Trail.” Travel north on Highway #22 on one of Canada’s most beautiful drives, through the mountain-bordered rolling foothills of Alberta’s prime ranching country.
- Be sure to turn west at Highway #540, 2km to the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site (See photo below), where you can explore one of Canada’s most successful historic ranching operations. Rope a calf, sip cowboy coffee, tea, or cocoa beside a campfire, or watch the cowboy on his Quarter Horse separate cattle from the herd.
- Leaving the Bar U, continue north along Highway #22. Stop for lunch or supper in Longview and be sure to buy some jerky. Twenty minutes north, enjoy the western streets of Black Diamond, a town that grew up when coal was king, but know that you are now in Canada’s first commercially producing petroleum basin.
- Join Highway #22X heading east, which will take you once again past the Okotoks Big Rock on your way into Calgary. A picnic day use area located beside the Sheep River as it flows through the town named for the Rock, would be the perfect end to this trip through rural Alberta before you have to head back to the city.
This itinerary can be lengthened or shortened to fit your travel interests. For further information including distances and anticipated travel times, please contact Chinook Country Tourist Association at 1-800-661-1222, or firstname.lastname@example.org.