Have you explored these 3 stunning Calgary Region scenic drives?

by • October 20, 2015 • Community

By Shari Fenn, Content Contributor

With the hectic pace of life, a one-day road trip is a great way to refresh and recharge your batteries.

The Calgary Region is full of scenic drives, with breathtaking views of the world-famous Rocky Mountains and rolling prairies.

Taking a road trip combines the best of getting away and unwinding with the comfort of being home in just a few short hours.

Here are three amazing stretches of highway to discover throughout Calgary Region:


1) Quaint Irricana to the rugged badlands

Calgary Region Scenic Drives - Irricana to Drumheller

Next time you’re going to Drumheller, travel via Irricana.

It’s worth stopping at this amazing and unique town.  

Most locals in the Calgary Region pass right by Irricana on their way to the badlands, but it is one of the Region’s hidden gems.

Irricana is only 57 km NE of Calgary en route to the Drumheller badlands. It is accessible from two main highways – Hwy #9 or Hwy #567.

The town has become known for over twenty-two hand painted murals that are found throughout the town. Tourists now regularly stop to see the locally painted murals.

Scenic Drives - Irricana to Drumheller

You will also want to see how the town has also painted their hydrants. Each hydrant is fun and children love them!!

After a rest stop in Irricana, take Hwy #9 (74 km) on a scenic drive to the Drumheller badlands. The stretch between Irricana and Drumheller features picturesque farmland.

When arriving at Drumheller, be sure to stop in at the visitor information centre to see what is open. If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll see the world’s largest dinosaur at the centre.

Be sure to take time to stop by the hoodoos site and the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

After a full day in Drumheller, Google maps will help you find the best way to get you home quickly.


2) Journey through time on historic Cowboy Trail

Calgary Region scenic drives - Cowboy Trail

One of Canada’s most famous scenic highways, Cowboy Trail, goes through the Calgary Region.

The Trail is popular with tourists in the summer due to the spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and the rolling foothills. It is nestled in the heart of Alberta’s ranch country.

The Cowboy Trail starts in northern Alberta, but for this post, we will begin the journey in Cochrane and end in Longview (approx. 105 km).

  1. Your first stop is the town of Cochrane. Stroll the main street with its old-fashioned storefronts, shops and cafés.
  2. Head south on Hwy 22 for about 30 minutes to Bragg Creek. This town is home to some excellent bakeries, fine restaurants, and craft shops.
  3. Continue south 48 km to the town of Turner Valley, a place where rocks are water-skipped and dandelions are picked for Mom. Their big backyards, community spirit and outdoor lifestyle inspire creative talent and nurture life better lived. While there, you may want to stop in for a taste of Alberta’s first craft distillery, the  Eau Claire Distillery.
  4. Just five minutes further down the road is the artisan town of Black Diamond, which boasts incredible art galleries and art shops as well as one-of-a-kind shops for clothing, jewellery and collectables.
  5. Continue south 17 km to Longview to wrap up your picturesque journey through the foothills. When going home from Longview, head east to get to Highway #2.

On your way back on Hwy #2, drop in to see three towns that have even more fun things to do: Nanton, High River and Okotoks.

You’ll want to keep coming back to these three places.


3) Unforgettable view between Canmore and Cochrane

Calgary Region scenic drives - Cochrane to Canmore

Instead of taking the faster, twinned Trans Canada when travelling to and from Canmore, take Hwy 1A between Cochrane and Canmore.

With most of the tourists gone, it’s an excellent time to try this slower, but very picturesque drive.

The distance between Canmore and Cochrane on the 1A is approx. 75 km.

You will pass through some unattractive industrial areas, but most of Route 1A is an incredibly scenic drive, winding through the Bow Valley.

When you’re headed away from the Rocky Mountains, the scenery is a lot more beautiful in the rear-view mirror.

For the mountain views, you are better to take this route on the way to Canmore.

On the 1A you will find an old church in Morleyville. The church was the site of southern Alberta’s first settlement. It was once home to more than 200 people, and now it’s preserved as a provincial historic site.

The church isn’t open to visitors (except on special occasions), but everyone is free to walk around the mission’s grounds.

You will also want to stop at Ghost Lake, a popular year-round recreation lake. Watch for signs for the spot to turn off the highway, and explore the Ghost Lake Reservoir.

Calgary Region scenic drives - Ghost River Dam

Ghost Lake has been part of the Bow River since the Ghost Dam was constructed in 1929.

Hwy 1 goes right through Cochrane so be sure to stop to stroll the main street with Mackays famous old-fashioned ice-cream store, shops and cafés.


There are so many other spectacular stretches of highway in the Calgary Region. If you have your own personal favorite scenic drive, let us know.



Learn more about other amazing day trips in the Calgary Region:

Guide to Calgary Region Day Trips

8 Responses

  1. Chrisanna Fagan says:

    What an awesome article !!!! This will surely draw lots of tourists to the Calgary region !!!
    Get out there and enjoy the beautiful scenery in our own back yards !!!!

  2. Tanya says:

    The David Thompson highway . The highway stars in the Banff National park on highway 93 (ice fields parkway) at the Saskatchewan river crossing. The highway goes past Abraham lake with stunning deep blue waters and beautiful scenery of mountains. Nearby are many hikeing opportunities a gorge with a viewing platform. And some falls. Then there is the small town of nordegg before you start back to Calgary.

  3. Mary Lee says:

    Wonderful description of the drives. Makes me want to come and enjoy them right away.
    One of my travel wishes is to explore Calgary and Alberta’s beautiful scenery . This certainly will get me there sooner than later. Looks just beautiful. Hope to visit soon.

  4. Myriam Norman says:

    I’m passing this article on to friends who will be doing the tourist thing in the region next week. Now, if you can provide sunny and warm weather we’ll be “eternally grateful”. If not, then we’ll just be “grateful” for the handy guide to some scenic drives instead! 🙂

  5. FVW Lynn Gallant says:

    We had the chance to go to the bad lands and on the way we stopped at Irricanna where we had our box lunch
    the folks were great and you are right it well worth the stop. We have not taken the cowboy trail yet but stopped in Turner Valley for a great cowboy hamburger the trail will be next on our list. We were not aware
    we coud get to the Rockies on 1A but will get out the Vette and try it. The most important thing is to slow down and as you say suck up the sights.Thanks for the great ideas for travel in the Calgary area

  6. K. Peden says:

    I know it’s crazy but I love the fire hydrants in iIrricana !!
    They remind me of driving through small towns when I was a kid. Love that feeling . Great to point out lesser known areas. We do need to stop closer to home more often and look around.

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