CALGARY TO WATERTON LAKES
WINTER IN ALBERTA’S cowboy country is an amalgam of snowdusted ranches and long views of the Rockies, buried deep in powder. Highway 22, a.k.a. the Cowboy Trail, traces the eastern edge of the foothills through rolling, open country. Compared with the province’s iconic 232-kilometre Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff, the road-trip vibe from Calgary to Waterton Lakes is intimate and off the beaten track — with far less traffic. The 312-kilometre journey begins on the Trans-canada Highway, westbound from Calgary. Exit south on Highway 22 and promptly dip into sprawling ranch lands. The distinctly Prairie towns of Turner Valley and Black Diamond owe their existence to oil and coal, respectively. Today, their broad, old-fashioned main streets have been reinvigorated by a new generation of western artists. Farther down the road, Canadian folkmusic legend Ian Tyson lives in Longview; it’s easy to see how the surrounding landscape (including the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, which once hosted the Sundance Kid) inspired great songwriting. Highway 22 merges into Highway 3 and peels away from the Rockies to Pincher Creek, where the winter Chinook winds funnel through the Oldman and Castle river valleys. A 60-kilometre drive south on Highway 6 takes you into Waterton Lakes National Park’s labyrinth of mountains. The so-called “Crown of the Continent” makes an alpine connection with Montana’s Glacier National Park. The quaint village of Waterton is the gateway to a weekend of outdoor adventure. Stay at Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort, which offers free snowshoe and ski rentals, and hit the scenic Akamina Parkway, which affords access to two cross-country ski trails.
A roadside vista of Rocky Mountain peaks rising above Waterton Lakes National Park’s namesake lake.