One of the perks of being a Calgarian is that we don’t have to be on-the-move for too long to explore gorgeous destinations. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure or hoping to connect with nature, a few hours drive can get you to some pretty unreal places. But revisiting popular spots gets tiresome, as can all the crowds you find at these spots. We ventured away from the popular spots and into an ‘often overlooked but surprisingly amazing’ destination− the South Canadian Rockies.
The whole area, Crowsnest Pass Region, Castle Parks Region and Pincher Creek Region, is well, beautiful, to say the least. But it also happens to be a great destination for weekend getaways and long vacays. Plus, it has something for every type of vacationer- be it a slew of all-season outdoor activities, spectacular views, small-town charm, rich cultural heritage or mesmerizing history.
It’s the kind of place that offers all the fun of being an adventure destination and none of the overcrowding. Below are 10 of the best things to experience here…
3,000 vertical feet of continuous fall lines, over 94 in-bound trails and bowls, and 7 lifts! It’s obvious why the ski destination is a fave among ski fans. The fact that it is the only North American resort-based cat-ski experience just makes it perfect. While the backcountry and steep slopes of the South Side Chutes attract experienced skiers, Castle Mountain has several terrains for us inexperienced folks too.
Resting at the foot of Castle Mountain is a convenience-store-meets-gas-pump-meets-eatery that promises a friendly welcome and a homely vibe. And they more than live up to this promise. With delish breakfast, freshly baked treats and coffee this place has everything to give your morning the best start.
The Frank Slide Interactive Centre gives us an up-close view of the infamous Turtle Mountain disaster. The place brings this devastating episode of Canadian history to life by way of exhibits, survivor stories and a short film. And don’t miss the interpretive hiking trail. It’s quite the experience.
The only thing better than snowshoeing somewhere new is trying it under a nighttime sky. And that’s what Uplift Adventure’s Moonlight Snowshoe tour is about. The best part: it’s not difficult at all. With a 5-km-trail, this adventure lets you take in the amazing night views of Castle Provincial Park and on a clear night, the star-studded sky as well.
We’ve all dreamt of biking the “Rocky” terrain. And the South Canadian Rockies give us a chance to do so in a safe and fun way. Sweet Riders is a local business that offers mountain biking tours for every age and skill level. No matter which tour you pick, a great time and an incredible adrenaline rush is guaranteed.
Alright, history and culture buff, here’s something you absolutely must check out− the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek. The museum village features some 30 authentic historic buildings with over 30,000 artifacts, a historic rose garden and several other gardens and picnic areas. And don’t forget to check out the country store. It’s got some seriously cool, vintage theme souvenirs to bag.
The Lebel Mansion is a former residence turned into an art gallery, which supports local artists. You’ll find inspired pieces of work at The Gallery and The Gift Shop. But what’ll likely fascinate you more is the basement studio where you’ll find an active Ceramics Guild perfecting their craft.
Enjoy a delicious craft beer
Let’s be honest, when is a holiday- short or long- ever complete without a nice freshly-brewed craft beer? Never! You’ll find small batches of flavorful local craft beer at The Pass Beer Company and Oldman River Brewing Ltd. To make matters best, you can sip on as many cold ones as you want while taking in all the awe-inspiring views of the Rockies and Southern Alberta.
Let’s talk food. Whether you are in Crowsnest Pass, Castle or Pincher Creek, you’ll find quite a few cafes and restaurants. But the one you just can’t afford to miss is Encounter Wine Bar & Small Plate Kitchen. It’s a foodie paradise serving up house-made everything with fresh, locally grown ingredients. The Korean BBQ Pork Belly and the NY Steak and Mushrooms made it to our fave list. The ginormous selection of wine obviously enriches the whole experience.
In the small-town setting of Pincher Creek is this rustic urban gem called Harvest Coffee. They are well known for (rightly so) their ‘prepared to order’ artisan sandwiches, fresh soups and bakes. But what’ll leave you thoroughly impressed is their locally-sourced and freshly ground and brewed coffee. They do have other bevvies too, but none can match the smooth, heavenly taste of the brew.
That’s our list, guys. Before we go, here’s the South Canadian Rockies Tourism website. This will come in handy when looking for accommodations, adventures, etc. Enjoy your trip off the beaten path!