Albertans take great pride in their province’s status as Canada’s Wild West, and there’s no better way to see why than by driving down Highway 22, otherwise known as the Cowboy Trail. 

Cutting through central Alberta from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains up to Edmonton, the Cowboy Trail shows off the rugged plains and sweeping horizons of the province’s ranch country. In other words, all the iconic scenery from your favourite cowboy movies. In fact, many famous movies and TV shows have been filmed along the Cowboy Trail in Alberta, including Hell on Wheels, Fargo, and the Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

One of the most iconic routes for Alberta road trips, the Cowboy Trail features stops at several fascinating attractions lying just off the beaten path.

The Best Cowboy Trail Stops: Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

The best Alberta road trips aren’t complete until you get in a true cowboy experience at Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. Established in 1881, Bar U Ranch was once one of Canada’s largest ranching operations with tens of thousands of cattle and horses across over 160,000 acres. In fact, they say legendary outlaw Harry The Sundance Kid” Longabaugh worked at Bar U Ranch for a spell in the 1890s.

Today, Bar U Ranch serves as a living history museum where visitors on the Cowboy Trail can learn about day-to-day life in the Old West and see re-enactors perform ranching tasks like tending to animals and riding horses. You can also explore the trails around the ranch or perhaps even catch a ride on a wagon tour.

Chain Lake Cowboy Trail Alberta

The Best Cowboy Trail Stops: Chain Lakes Provincial Park

Located just east of the Rocky Mountains, south of Calgary, Chain Lakes Provincial Park is the perfect place for a pit stop. One of the most popular fishing destinations in Alberta, Chain Lakes is famous for its fresh lake trout. For the less nautically inclined, there are also many gorgeous paths along the lake where you can enjoy the breeze and see the mountains in the distance.

Rocky Mountain House Cowboy Trail Alberta

The Best Cowboy Trail Stops: Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Located just outside Red Deer, at the point where the North Saskatchewan and Clearwater rivers meet, lies one of Alberta’s most important fur trading posts. Originally two separate trading posts established by rival fur traders Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, Rocky Mountain House now commemorates the influence of the fur trade on Alberta’s history and culture. 

In addition to camping in recreated trapper’s tents and seeing a bison herd, visitors to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site can also learn about Métis culture through a variety of exhibitions. And alongside hiking the area’s trails, truly adventurous guests can try canoeing the Brierley Rapids like true voyageurs.

MM Ranch Cowboy Trail Alberta

The Best Cowboy Trail Stops: M&M Ranch

Experience the Cowboy Trail the way it was meant to be experienced: from horseback. Located less than an hour from Calgary, M&M Ranch’s Horseback Adventures offers travellers the chance to explore the scenic Alberta back country on horses. From day rides lasting a few hours to multi-day excursions, a trip with M&M’s knowledgeable guides and well-trained horses will surely be an unforgettable experience.

Choice Hotels in Southern Alberta