A cowboy hat isn't mandatory when you explore the legendary Cowboy Trail, but it’ll help you fit in and keep your face from getting too red in the sun. Admire the Cowboy Trail from afar as a road trip or “cowboy up” and see it on horseback. Just make sure your phone is charged. You’re going to want to record this. ● Horseback heaven: You. Your horse. And your grizzled trail-riding guides. Spend four days on the land teepee camping. It's like being in your own western. ● Beef: Make your first bite of Alberta steak even more mouth-watering. Sign up to partake in a full-fledged cattle drive (on horseback) and end with a steak dinner around the campfire.
Harness your inner cowboy and get kitted out in authentic, made-to-measure cowboy boots from Alberta Boot Company or a handmade hat from Smithbilt Hats. Either way you’ll be in good company as royalty, celebrities, rodeo stars, athletes and public figures from around the world have shopped at both of these iconic Calgary stores. If you’re visiting at the beginning of July, be sure to spend some time at the 10-day Calgary Stampede. At any time of the year, take the self-guided Art Walk to see some totally cool western art.
From Calgary, head west on Hwy 1A to Cochrane. Stroll Main Street with its old- fashioned store fronts, shops and cafés. Nestled in the Bow River Valley, the town is famous for its MacKay’s Ice Cream. Walk off that triple chocolate cone along the footpaths that border the Bow River or hike up the hill to see the life-size cast iron statue of rider and horse, the pride of the town. For a longer trek, head to the 28 km (17 mi) of trails in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, just east of Cochrane.
Drive south on Hwy 22 to Bragg Creek, home to some interesting antique shops, galleries, gift shops and restaurants. You are on the edge of Kananaskis Country and there are plenty of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in Bragg Creek Provincial Park.
Follow the road signs as Hwy 22 jogs east and then south again. If you’re travelling on any summer Saturday be sure to stop at the famous Millarville Farmer’s Market and stock up on some homemade treats, fresh fruits and veggie.
Continue south to the town of Turner Valley, where oil was first discovered in 1914. Stroll the broad streets typical of so many prairie towns and shop for authentic western arts and crafts. Then take a tour of Eau Claire Distillery to sample small-batch premium spirits from Alberta’s first independent craft distillery.
Five minutes around the bend is the artisan town of Black Diamond, which along with Turner Valley boasts a lively arts community. Stop by the world’s largest black diamond, a tribute to the town’s coal mining history. Tour the galleries and shops and then have lunch at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop – a 1950s style diner complete with retro candy store.
Continue south to Longview and stop in at the world-famous Longview Jerky shop. After picking up some delicious Alberta beef treats, drive to the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, located just west of the junction of Hwy 22 and Hwy 540. Established in 1882, the ranch was visited by the likes of the Sundance Kid. Take a horse drawn wagon ride and tour the outbuildings in a place that stands in tribute to the ranching history of western Canada.