You may not know this, but a truly enchanting portion of Alberta exists in the sweet spot between the metropolitan city of Calgary and the iconic Rocky Mountains. The Foothills are known as Calgary’s backyard, and the area is full of cool little towns, beautiful scenery, and tons of this to do and see. From farms to food and beverage, arts to activities, the Foothills are absolutely worth the visit.
Here’s the thing, it’s tricky to decide where to go and what to do once you arrive. So, we’ve rounded up a little list of some of the best places to stop during your road trip to or through Alberta’s Foothills.
Diamond Valley is located just under an hour from Calgary’s city centre. The drive itself is a cool thing to experience, but once you arrive, you’ll find nothing but character. There are some cute little shops, old-school western-style buildings, a few amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and so much more. The area is known for having a vast array of makers, artists, and artisans that each offer a unique little taste of the area.
You’ll want to check out Eau Claire Distillery, Hard Knox Brewery, Chuckwagon Cafe & Cattle Co., Marv’s Classic Soda Shop, Bluerock Gallery, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. You can also find the huge and incredible Millarville Market just a short drive away, where you can meet all of the talented local makers.
This little village is tiny, unique, and so very beautiful. If you haven’t had the pleasure, we highly encourage you to check out Longview for yourself. While in Longview, you’ll want to check out the historic Bar U Ranch, a national historic site that is one of the longest-standing ranches in the province. It’s a beautiful place to visit and deeply rich in history. You may not know this, but this place is famous for its jerky. The Longview Jerky Shop is known far and wide for its unbeatable jerky. Does it get more Albertan than that? Some other things to do include checking out Livingstone Falls Recreation Area, going to The Lost American Art Gallery and Museum, or just taking a stroll around to take it all in. This place is quaint, inviting, and like nothing you’ve experienced before.
A large Alberta town, Okotoks, is in the Calgary Region and just a short drive away from the heart of the city. Often overlooked when it comes to Alberta trips, Okotoks is a pretty cool place for a number of reasons. As you many know, this region is super sunny, so you can enjoy about 330 sunny days in the great outdoors each year. There are almost 100 parks and over 85 km of trails in Okotoks. Isn’t that incredible? You can enjoy hiking, biking, tons of shopping, three golf courses, disc golf, a BMX bike track, and more. If you’re less into the adventure and more into the culture, check out the Okotoks Museu and Archives to learn about the storied history of the area.
If you’re looking to see the sights, you need to see the Okotoks Erratic, a 16,500-tonne boulder that lies on an otherwise flat surface. This thing is huge, captivating, and absolutely worth the visit.
If you’ve never spent time in Bragg Creek, you need to get over there ASAP! This little hamlet is just 30 km west of Calgary at the confluence of Elbow River and Bragg Creek. The place is totally tucked away, you could miss it if you’re weren’t looking. The natural terrain is stunning, offering endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, golfing, horsebackriding, and so much more. Whether you’re having a picnic by the water or racing down a biking trail, you will fall in love with this character-heavy hamlet. The downtown is small-yet-charming and filled with local artisan shops that you’ll want to visit again and again. As for food and beerage, there is a shocking number of outstanding hot-spots for such a small hamlet. No matter what you’re looking for in a road trip destination, you can absolutely find it in Bragg Creek.
High River is a welcoming town in the Calgary Metropolitan Region of Alberta. It is bursting with events and things to do, beautiful scenery, and endless small town charm. In High River, you can views of both the majestic mountains and the beautiful prairie skies and golden fields. This place has got a very Western vibe, overflowing with heritage and historical energy. You’ll find lovely storefronts, lots of green space, and tons of things to do.
If you love keeping busy, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many events are hosted each year in the little place. You'll never be bored from Rodeos to markers, concerts to festivals.
Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the 2023 Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.