The Cowboy Trail

The Cowboy Trail

The Mild West

The empty grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Foothills attracted migrants from the rowdy American West, for a time calling into question British colonial hold over what is now Alberta. The westward thrusts of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the North West Mounted Police tamed the settlers and staved off annexation by the expanding republic, but not before the cultural of the American cattleman was already firmly rooted.

Throughout the Foothills, high-heeled, pointy toed boots and engraved silver belt buckles are everyday business attire for ranchmen and wranglers. Their signature headwear explains the ubiquitous employment of the full-scale pickup truck as a personal conveyance: Low-profile sedans simply do not accommodate high-crowned Stetsons.

The grandeur of Foothills ranch country unfurls along The Cowboy Trail, a route extending in Alberta SouthWest from the Town of Cardston to Chain Lakes Provincial Park. From there, it continues northward, past the Bar-U Ranch National Historic Site and on to Longview, Black Diamond and eventually Mayerthorpe in the north of the province.

Stewards of the Range

The successors of the ranching settlers are determined stewards of their landscapes and traditions. The rural municipal districts fiercely conserve private and public rangelands from residential and commercial sprawl, though mineral and energy seekers are persistent and less subject to local governance.


The Cowboy Trail follows Highways 5 and then 6 from the Town of Cardston and through Pincher Creek to briefly join Highway 3 (GPS N49 31.276 W113 56.873) and then connect with Highway 22 just west of Lundbreck (GPS N49 35.434 W114 11.781). From there continue north to Chain Lakes Provincial Park (GPS N50 20.336 W114 13.764), or pursue a scenic side trip down Highway 533 to the antiques and candy emporia of Nanton.