Looking to perfect your photography skills? The Crowsnest Pass offers quiet and stunning landscape views where you can snap the perfect picture.
Traveling from Calgary, most drivers take Highway 2 south to Fort MacLeod and then head west into the Crowsnest Pass but you can also drive the popular Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) and exit onto Highway 3 right at Lundbreck Falls. For the true adventure-seekers out there, there are a couple of gravel roads we’ll point you down that are quieter and more picturesque than the main routes.
One route has you drive Highway 2 all the way to the exit for Highway 785, leading you towards the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump UNESCO World Heritage Site. The paved road brings you to the interpretive centre, and from there it turns into a wide, well-maintained gravel road. It’s a joyously curvy and hilly route that brings you to Pincher Creek via the Oldman Dam Reservoir.
Along this route, you’ll be in awe of the big skies and even bigger countryside where herds of deer and elk are frequently found grazing in the ample pastures and sweeping valleys. This area is known as Porcupine Hills, and it stretches from the highlands west of Nanton to the Crowsnest Pass. The beauty of this route will encourage you to slow down and really enjoy the drive, and the wide road with ample field approaches makes it safe and easy to stop for pictures along the way.
From there you’ll drive into picturesque Pincher Creek for lunch, where you can take your time deciding on an ideal route into the Crowsnest Pass. Highway 3 is the quickest but busiest way to get there, so an alternative option is to take Highway 507 west from Pincher Creek. On this route you’ll find a wonderful side trip only 8 km south on Highway 775, leading you to Beauvais Lake Provincial Park. In the summer, the lake is active with an incredible array of wildlife and birds, and in the winter it offers stunningly scenic hikes.
Back on Highway 507, it’s only a short distance to the Beaver Mines Mercantile. Here you can stock up on any necessities you may need, as it’s a popular last stop for adventurers heading off into the Castle Mountain area to the south. After a lovely latte or ice cream cone, Highway 507 continues north back towards Highway 3 and the Crowsnest Pass. From here you could backtrack a few kilometers east to see the beautiful Lundbreck Falls, or check out the famous Burmis Tree before heading into the Crowsnest Pass.
In surprisingly quick succession you’ll find yourself in the towns of Hillcrest, Bellevue, Frank, Blairmore, and Coleman, creating the perfect opportunity to explore the town centres of the Crowsnest Pass. You can explore Coleman’s surprisingly quaint downtown by taking 77th St to 17th Ave, or hop over to Blairmore’s 20th Ave for the commercial and cultural ‘centre’ of the Crowsnest Pass.
You’re sure to find the perfect pub, restaurant, hotel, resort, brewery, or coffee shop along this 20 km stretch of highway. You’ll find amazing culinary experiences at restaurants like the Rum Runner, hidden and charming cafes like Chris’ Restaurant, and the ‘Best Wings in the Crowsnest’ at Pass Beer Brewery. Retire for the night at the modern and comfortable Kanata Inn in Blairmore, and you’ll be perfectly positioned for the next day of sightseeing.
As you head back east, make a right at Hillcrest for a beautiful slow drive on East Hillcrest Drive. Spend an extra day exploring the scenic local routes adjacent to Highway 3, and you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re inside a model train set. The area is packed with an incredible mining and railway history that can be explored by simply slowing down and taking these side roads. And be sure to stop and to take in the tragic yet spectacular views and stories at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, which overlooks Canada’s deadliest rockslide.
Going off the beaten path is the best way to find picture-perfect scenes in the Crowsnest Pass. Follow this itinerary to find some of the quietest and most beautiful views in the South Canadian Rockies!
Story by Neil Zeller. 2023