After a full day on the first portion of Alberta’s Cowboy Trail, we were so excited to continue on to the second, southernmost part of the scenic highway. Exiting out of the forested portion of the route near Bragg Creek, we entered into the valley of Priddis. A lot of wealthy residences filled either side of the highway; the stately homes of Calgary’s rich seemed to be here.
This windy portion of the Cowboy Trail was starting to show the idyllic side of Alberta: rolling foothills covered in bails of hay with mountains towering in the background. Herds of cattle lined the fence lines the further south we drove. We hit Turner Valley not too long after, stopping only to visit Eau Claire Distillery. As Alberta’s first craft distillery, they offer mainly gin and vodka products, but will soon add whiskey to the mix, much to our excitement.
After Turner Valley, Black Diamond is just a few miles down the road. The town has much more to offer in terms of Cowboy shops. Most of the places downtown are vintage stores just waiting to be discovered. My favourite shop was the Black Diamond Gallery, which focuses on teak root and hardwood furniture. They also carry carpets, sculptures, and other exotic pieces from around the globe. I picked up a teak root end table that I am very happy with.
In the town, we stopped by Marv’s Classic Soda Shop for a bite. If you’re looking for a blast from the past, this is a place for you. Just like most things in Black Diamond, this place is vintage. Put a quarter in the juke box and listen to classic hits as you eat a burger with fries and sip on a milkshake. The soda selection is really unbeatable and you can buy flavours to go.
Finishing up our road trip down the Cowboy Trail, we stopped in Longview. While we were unable to secure reservations at the Longview Steakhouse (world-famous means book well in advance and they’re only open for dinner), we did hit up the Longview Jerky Shop. Get the gift box full of samplers if you’re not sure! Every flavour is worthwhile if you’re a carnivore. While we could have stopped here, I’m glad we continued onwards. The best was truly yet to come.
Just a little past Longview is Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. Once one of the largest working ranches in Alberta, it really allows you to dive in to the Cowboy Trail history. For the rest of Canada 150 you can visit the ranch for free. Here you can see and experience what a ranch was like back in it’s prime. Even if you aren’t into farming, anyone can appreciate the beautiful surroundings and historic buildings. I really enjoyed the old ranchers around the site, they gave us insight into what it was like. There were men plowing the field with traditional farming equipment, designing saddles the old school way, and caring for the horses. You can tell they take pride in what they do, and how they are able to keep a large part of Alberta’s history alive.
While the Cowboy Trail continues further south to the Crowsnest Highway, we decided to end our journey here. This was one of my favourite road trips; it really made me appreciate the cowboy culture we have here in Alberta. My boyfriend and I made the journey in just two days (there and back), but a third day to explore deeper would have been great. If you dream of days gone by, of ranchers and cattle, or simply are a fan of shows like Heartland, this is a drive for you.