Beginning in Calgary, Alberta, head west on Highway 22X (Cowboy Trail) through the high ranching country of the Alberta prairie. En route are Spruce Meadows, the #1 show jumping facility in the world, and the communities of Black Diamond and Turner Valley, the initial home of Calgary’s oil industry boom.
Continue south from Black Diamond to Longview and the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site (13km/8mi south of Longview). East on Road 533 to Highway 2 is Nanton. On the way to Fort Macleod, west on Highway 785, is a fascinating Aboriginal heritage site: Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump. This site is one of the oldest, largest, and well-preserved buffalo jumps across the Western Plains. Continue south to Cardston, the location of Remington Carriage Museum, North America’s largest museum of horse-drawn transportation.
From Cardston, drive to Waterton Lakes National Park. Highway 6 from Waterton Lakes leads to Pincher Creek and the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, a turn of the 19th-century historic village.
Enter British Columbia at Sparwood.
Sparwood is home of the Terex Titan, the largest tandem-axle dump truck in the world. A short drive on Highway 43 leads to Elkford, which has one of the largest bighorn sheep populations on the continent and offers amazing wilderness and wildlife viewing. From Elkford, backtrack to Sparwood and then drive south to Fernie.
Fernie is marked by beautiful Victorian architecture against a backdrop of towering mountains, and offers world-class fly-fishing, mountain biking, and golfing.
From Fernie, en route to Fort Steele Heritage Town, the Bull River turnoff leads to the Kootenay Trout Hatchery. Take a self-guided tour of the hatchery’s extensive interpretive area to view trophy-sized trout in the moat, or turtles, fish, and water insects in the pond.
Fort Steele Heritage Town is a restored 1890s boomtown that features horse-drawn wagon tours, costumed interpreters, and steam train rides.
Continue north towards Radium Hot Springs, where Highway 93/95 leads to the sandy beaches and warm waters of Wasa Lake. Back on Hwy 93/95, the Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre in Radium Hot Springs has an exhibit that provides a historical overview of the Ktunaxa First Nation.
Take Highway 93 into Kootenay National Park. Finally, connect east on Highway 1 towards Banff, and head back to Calgary.
Note that if you’re planning to explore north of this route, Highway #1 east of Golden will have extended, 24-hour closures starting September 21, 2021. Please see the up-to-date schedule of closures and be prepared to take detours via Highway 93 & Highway 95, which may add up to 1.5 hours to your journey.