Road trips are a quintessential summer travel experience, but the jam packed Rockies are driving everyone crazy. Fret not road warrior! We put you back in the driver’s seat with three scenic routes within a two hour commute from Calgary.
Highway 22 North: Water Valley
Hit the road towards Cochrane then journey north on Highway 22. Breeze past neatly parcelled farmland punctuated with striking yellow patches of canola until you reach Cremona. Open Friday to Sunday, Market Junction is an antique and artisan marketplace that also sports a cafe. After treasure hunting though the packed aisles, continue east on Highway 580 for another shopping experience (or a meal) at Pasu Farms. Circle back to Highway 22 south and turn west on Highway 579 to visit Water Valley. Its General Store looks like an authentic western outpost, and has a small ice cream counter. Just down the street lies the Water Valley Saloon, an atmospheric pub, where children are welcome until 8 p.m. and folks line up for Wing Wednesdays.
Less than 10 minutes past town is William J. Bagnall Wilderness Park. Stop here for a picnic, playground and short hiking trails. Duffers have two options nearby with Water Valley Golf & Country Club and Tooth of the Dog Pound Creek Golf Course. Worth a visit on weekends is Fallen Timber Meadery, situated 15 minutes northwest of town. This family run business ferments its own honey, concocting inventive alcoholic beverages such as Meadjito, a refreshing take on a mojito. Visit on weekends for tours and tastings.
Extend your stay with a peaceful reprieve at Back to Nature Retreat, a five-acre property laced with walking trails strewn with over 45 different specifies of wildflowers. This B&B log lodge was built by HGTV’s Timber Kings, and is well suited to couples looking for a quiet getaway.
Through Newell County onto the Dino Trail
There are several points of interest to stop at as you make your way from Calgary to the fossil riddled region of southeastern Alberta. Your first stop as you head out of town on the Trans Canada Highway East is Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. Situated on Highway 842, this centre tells the story of the Blackfoot people through interactive exhibits, dance performances and interpretive programs that showcase craft and survival skills. Catch a demo in Tipi Village or opt to stay overnight in one.
Get back on the TransCanada and make for Bassano, a small town with an outdoor pool and glow in the dark bowling alley. Stop for a coffee inside the Imperial Hunter Hotel, and judge for yourself if the property’s haunted. From Bassano, peel off the Trans Canada and head east on Highway 550 for the town of Duchess. Foodies will want to brake for Prairie Cottage Bakeshop, a Mennonite bakery that serves up fantastic glazed donuts on Wednesday and Fridays (closed Saturday to Monday). Sneak in nine holes at the Duchess Golf Course, or meander through the gallery at Red Roof Studio.
Next, veer east on Highway 544 to grill your own hunk of beef at the Patrica Hotel’s steak pit. It’s a short drive from Patricia into Dinosaur Provincial Park to roam the grounds on self guided tours or fossil safaris that depart from the Visitor’s Centre. Camping can be hard to come by, so consider bedding down at Red Roof Studio Bed and Breakfast. Or, on Lake Newell, outside Brooks, Lakeshore B&B offers spa treatments.
Highway 22 South: The Cowboy Trail
To experience a different side of the Rockies, mosey down Highway 22x in the direction of Spruce Meadows, where you can swing by for a Wednesday night outdoor movie. Hang a left on Highway 22 South, to join the crowds every Saturday until early October at the Millarville Farmer’s Market.
Continue on to Turner Valley for a grain to glass experience at Eau Claire Distillery. Alberta’s first craft distillery offers daily tours and tastings, plus a G & ‘Tea’ experience Monday and Tuesday afternoons all summer long. Line your stomach beforehand with a burger from the Chuckwagon Cafe, or spice things up with a pit stop at Motoburrito, a fun Mexican food trailer set on two grassy acres.
Make your way to Black Diamond to suss out indy shops such as Branch Market and Bohemia. And Sunday’s Makers and Growers Farmer’s Market is chock full of local artisans. Culture vultures will want to suss out Black Diamond Gallery and Firebrand Glass Studio. Westwood and Soft Rock Bistro are two restaurants to try in town, but for nostalgia, you can’t beat the house-made ice cream from Marv’s Classic Soda Shop.
Keep going south to Longview to purchase their world famous jerky direct from the source. Longview Steakhouse continues to receive favourable reviews, while Twin Cities Hotel and Saloon is where you want to be for live music on weekends. Further south, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site has several western experiences on tap from roping to horse grooming.
Rest your head at Windflower Bed and Breakfast, an affordably priced retreat in Turner Valley. The family and pet-friendly property is known for their two course breakfast, close proximity to nature and chillaxed vibe.