The southern Alberta town of Cardston sits in the rolling foothills just on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. This scenic town is situated between the St. Mary Reservoir PRA and Waterton Lakes National Park, where there is a seemingly endless number of chances for outdoor fun and leisure. This is a great place to visit for anyone who enjoys fishing, watersports, hiking, or camping.
Within the town, you can enjoy incredible views like sunsets and sunrises, historical sites, and local shopping/dining. There are many accommodation options as well, with camping and B&Bs available right in town, or a short drive outside of town.
**Kindly do not travel during Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions. Plan now, travel later.**
Go on a carriage ride at Remington Carriage Museum
Horse-drawn transportation was a huge part of Alberta’s development in the early 1900s, and the Remington Carriage Museum celebrates this history through displays, on-site horses, a restoration shop, and an array of family-friendly activities. While you learn about North America’s transportation history, you can also learn about local Cardston history, and take part in one of their guided/workshop programs and enjoy a 15-minute ride through the Lee Creek Valley in a Park Touring Carriage.
Explore a genuine ‘Little House on the Prairie’
The Card Pioneer Home could be part of a historical walking tour through Cardston and is easy to find with the local mural painted along the building beside the Home. Step inside and go back to 1887, when Cardston was settled by the Card family. Inside the home are preserved artifacts from the town’s earlier days, and a small shop. The owners and operators are known for their knowledge of the area and its history.
See a historic court house
A stop by the Courthouse Museum (on the southbound side of Highway 2) is the best way to get a true sense of the history of Cardston, and some of the surrounding area. The historic and preserved building is filled with museum artifacts that date back to Cardston’s earliest days in the late 1800s. Authentic furniture decorates the museum, and there is a little bit to see for all sorts of interests.
Visit Cardston Alberta Temple
Near the north side of Cardston is a beautiful piece of architecture that is worth the visit or even a stop off the highway. The Temple belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is the oldest of its kind outside of the United States. Surrounding the temple are sprawling gardens and fields which can lead you to Cardston’s Lions Park and Town Square. The whole area around the Temple is a popular spot for picnics, field sports, or just lazing in the sun.
Go on guided fishing and rafting tours
If you’re looking for an adventurous stay in Cardston, the Incept Adventure Company can help with whitewater rafting and kayaking, or guided fishing tours. The kayaking and rafting tours bring you through the Coal Canyon, while the fishing tours take you out of various lakes in the area. The various tours range in price and difficulty.
Watch sunset over the Rocky Mountains
If you aren’t spending the night in the area, then you are encouraged to stay for when the sun goes down. On a clear day, the sunsets over the Rocky Mountains create jaw-dropping vistas of foothills, prairie, mountains, and sky all in one with all of their bright, contrasting colours. Within Cardston is Sunset Park, or you can head to Waterton Lakes in the west for even more stunning views.
Tee off at Lee Creek Valley Golf Course
If you’re looking for somewhere to golf this season with a view, then you can drive south to Cardston’s Lee Creek Valley Golf Course. These gorgeous greens and challenging course are a par 71 course with a few water and sand hazards to watch out for while you golf. Lee Creek is now open for the 2021 season so you can work on your swing a little earlier this year, but with Cardston’s mountain views. If you’d like to tour more than one golf course on your trip, the Magrath Golf Club is only a 20-minute drive north east Cardston and offers equally as scenic greens.
Discover local vendors at Cardston summer market
Vendors, farmers, crafters, cooks, and bakers all gather at…on summer weekends for the Cardston Summer Market. The Market is scheduled to return in 2021 and is an excellent way to experience the town by foot while shopping locally made food, home décor, clothing, and more.
Celebrate Cardston Heritage Week
At the beginning of each August, you can join the town of Cardston in celebrating their rich history and cultures through the Cardston Heritage Week. The week’s festivities include daily pancake breakfasts, a family softball tournament, the Chinook Rodeo, and a mud bog event (driving competition). The week concludes with a large parade that Saturday morning, and fireworks in the evening.
Watch Live Show at Carriage House Theatre
Live theatre is not just for big cities. Cardston’s Carriage House Theatre is a family of dedicated performers who recently put on shows like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and The Little Mermaid. If you are visiting during summer, get tickets to their summer productions. On top of the entertaining live experiences, the Theatre also helps to promote the arts in town by offering summer camps, workshops, and their Academy, a theatre camp for kids. The iconic theatre is easy to find on Main Street.
Relax at a B&B
For a stay in the centre of Cardston, The Cobblestone Manor is a scenic location, and the grounds and interior make are the perfect backdrop to an afternoon meal, or a night away. The restaurant offers high-end comfort food, and the rooms are simple and elegant.
A little way outside of Cardston, near Waterton Lakes, is the Crooked Creek Ranch, which offers B&B and RV stays, canoe or kayak rentals, and guided fishing or sight-seeing tours.
Northeast of Cardston you can also find a picturesque seasonal RV resort in the Great Canadian Barn Dance. The facility normally offers live entertainment, weekend barn dances, and overnight camping- these are on hold until further notice due to COVID-19.
Fish at St. Mary Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area
The St. Mary PRA is only a 20-minute drive from Cardston’s centre, and can provide a place to stay and a weekend worth of fun, or a place to stop and enjoy for the day. The three campgrounds, and three day-use areas, sit along the northeast shore of the reservoir. St. Mary Lower and Wally’s campgrounds are open May to October, and St. Mary Upper campground is open for both summer and winter camping. The three-day-use areas are open from May to October.
With so much to see and do in and around Cardston, you might want to find a place to rest your head for the night. Luckily there are many campgrounds around Cardston, all which offer something a little different in terms of your experience. To camp right in town, reserve a spot at the Lee Creek Campground, open April to October. The St. Mary Reservoir PRA, and Waterton Lakes NP also offer camping within a 30-minute drive of Cardston.
Enjoy a trail ride
With the mountains and Waterton National Park, only a half-hour drive away from Cardston, there are many ways to explore this part of Alberta. A truly authentic means by which to explore this stunning landscape is by horseback, and the closest option to Cardston are Alpine Stables, located within the National Park. The Stables are open from May to September and offer anywhere from 1-hour to 8-hour trail rides on which you can see either the southern Rockies in spring bloom, under the summer heat, or when the leaves change in the fall.
By: Bernadette Gallagher