Favourite Alberta Road Trips – the Cowboy Trail to Waterton National Park

 In Animals, Calgary, Calgary & Area Attractions, Fine Art Photography, Flowers, Photography, Travel

Although a year old, the Huffington Post’s Alberta Road Trips: 12 Places To See in 2014 popped into my Facebook feed yesterday.   I was quite delighted to see I’d visited 9 of the 12 recommended locales. (I love my province!)   It prompted me to share the pleasure of a couple of days in Waterton Lakes National Park last summer.  They say it’s 3 hours south of Calgary. Technically, yes it is.   Realistically, and if you want to get the most pleasure and amazing scenery out of the journey, take the lesser traveled Highway 22x south (The Cowboy Trail), and meander, pulling off to shoot pictures along the way.   Allow a good 5 hours to do it ‘properly’!

The end of August morning dawned crisp, with a morning haze.

Cool mornings and warm days lead to misty fields.

Cool mornings and warm days lead to misty fields.

The mist lifted giving a clear, but hazy mountain morning near Millarville.

The mist lifted giving a clear, but hazy mountain morning near Millarville.

Classic foothills and mountain scenery near the Historic Bar-U Ranch (well worth a visit).

Classic foothills and mountain scenery near the Historic Bar-U Ranch (well worth a visit).

I've always loved driving by 'hat post row'.  It goes on for a good km at least.

I’ve always loved driving by ‘hat post row’. It goes on for a good km at least.

One lingering fog bank near Black Creek Heritage Rangeland Natural Area.

One lingering fog bank near Black Creek Heritage Rangeland Natural Area.

And what would Alberta be without some grazing horses?

And what would Alberta be without some grazing horses?

Or some grazing cattle for that matter.

Or some grazing cattle for that matter.

A quick facility stop at the beautiful Lundbreck Falls.

A quick facility stop at the beautiful Lundbreck Falls.

Where there is plenty more to see than just rushing water.

Where there is plenty more to see than just rushing water.

These folks even managed to find the top of a wind turbine. (Normally 148 ft blades on a 262 foot tower).

These folks even managed to find the top of a wind turbine. (Normally 148 ft blades on a 262 foot tower).

A hint of the peaks to come, and a small blast from the past.

A hint of the peaks to come, and a small blast from the past.

A slightly larger historic gem.

A slightly larger historic gem.

And even more relics of bygone days.

And even more relics of bygone days.

And that was just the drive down. Once there, attractions and wildlife abound…

Oh give me a home - where the Bison do roam. (Bison Paddock Loop Road)

Oh give me a home – where the Bison do roam. (Bison Paddock Loop Road)

It's hard to camouflage yourself when you're enormous!

It’s hard to camouflage yourself when you’re enormous!

Don't worry - I had a very long lens!

Don’t worry – I had a very long lens!

Waterton is home to diverse wildlife. (Moose still elude me.) There has not been a single trip down where I haven’t seen at least one bear. This time it wasn’t a ‘close encounter‘. There was a car and a field between me and mama. She was rushing her little ones to safety from one bank of trees, across open plain, to the next forested zone.

Mama bear checking to make sure the coast was clear.

Mama bear checking to make sure the coast was clear.

Rushing off as soon as she knew the coast was clear.

Rushing off as soon as it was safe.

A pair of Sandhill Cranes - my first ever sighting.

A pair of Sandhill Cranes – my first ever sighting.

A cleverly disguised Whitetail Deer.

A cleverly disguised Whitetail Deer.

A chipmunk showing that not all wildlife is of the large variety.

A chipmunk showing that not all wildlife is of the large variety.

A tiny hummingbird actually paused long enough for me to capture it.

A tiny hummingbird actually paused long enough for me to capture it.

And, unfortunately I didn't get to capture it all!

And, unfortunately I didn’t get to capture it all!

Once in the park itself, take a boat ride on the historic M.V. International. Presentations about the area eco-system are informative. If you’re lucky, you may spot a bear along the shoreline. (I didn’t this time.) A stiff breeze often prevails, but I was fortunate to capture it flat calm.

The US end of Waterton Lake on an unusually calm day.

The US end of Waterton Lake on an unusually calm day.

Cameron Falls, right in the townsite.

Cameron Falls, right in the townsite.

Take the Akamina Parkway up to Cameron Lake.

There are activities for everyone at Cameron Lake.

There are activities for everyone at Cameron Lake.

And everyone's dog.

And everyone’s dog.

My own dog, Ozzie, preferred rock collecting.

My own dog, Ozzie, preferred rock collecting.

We think he was building a campfire.

We think he was building a campfire.

Take the Red Rock Parkway through the Blakiston Valley ending in Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

A small falls on route.

A small falls on route.

Sunset on the peaks in the Blakiston Valley.

Sunset on the peaks in the Blakiston Valley.

The Chief Mountain Parkway also has a spectacular viewpoint across the entire valley, but I wasn’t thrilled with my photos from that one (I’m my own worst critic). The grasslands near Maskinonge Lake were more rewarding.

Scene from Maskinonge Lake.

Scene from Maskinonge Lake.

The Waterton Wildflower Festival in June is well worth a visit – and the potential to be an entire blog of it’s own. I’ll limit myself to just a couple of quick floral captures!

Pretty Fireweed

Pretty Fireweed

Fringed American Aster

Fringed American Aster

Camping is available both in and out of the National Park.  Enjoy!

Camping is available both in and out of the National Park. Enjoy!

That was far longer than I’d intended, but trust me when I say I struggled to whittle it down to ‘just’ 40ish photos! If you’re planning a trip to Alberta this year, I highly recommend this jaunt. And do it over a couple of days. Yes, it can be done in one but, in the words of Travel Alberta, you need to ‘Remember to Breathe‘!

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Showing 7 comments
  • Heather Simonds
    Reply

    Well done. You covered it all!

    • SuzanMcEvoy
      Reply

      Thanks Heather! At least I managed to keep verbage in check, if not the pictures. 😀

  • Marko
    Reply

    Hello. Invite you to watch my new photographs on the blog. Have a nice weekend.

  • Bet Crooks
    Reply

    Thank you for the lovely “trip” via photos. We’re hoping to do this drive this year.

    I think the chip is actually a golden-mantled ground squirrel. It doesn’t seem to have any stripes on the face.(not that it matters: it’s very cute!)

    • SuzanMcEvoy
      Reply

      Thanks Bet! I didn’t realize there was such a creature LOL. This is going to be like birds – yet another learning curve!

      • Bet
        Reply

        If you decide to take on the challenge, Waterton will be a good place to test your skills….I was reading the parks website and they have 3 different kinds of chipmunks!

        • SuzanMcEvoy
          Reply

          That was where I captured this little guy! Waterton is an amazing place – always see good wildlife when I’m there. Haven’t been there and not seen a bear! Or more than one!

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