Where is Clearwater County you may ask? This area of the province of Alberta is not commonly recognized by its county name, but rather by the attractions or natural sites within its region. Even if you haven’t heard of the County, we bet you have heard of some of the famous places to visit here, such as the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, or even the natural sites in the gorgeous David Thompson Country zone. There are lots of little museums, Provincial areas, hikes and adventure activities, and much more to be discovered here this summer.
Clearwater County is perfect for an adventure getaway on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Here are 35+ things to during summer in the area.
Ya Ha Tinda Ranch
This is the only federally operated working horse ranch in Canada. Owned and managed by Parks Canada, the ranch has been used to train, breed, and winter working horses used to patrol national parks since 1917. This gorgeous area not only has fantastic scenery but an abundance of wildlife. You can visit to tour the ranch, or if you bring your own horse, you can enjoy the many trails in the area.
Ram Falls Provincial Park
Protecting the lovely Ram Falls is a provincial park that offers you a chance to get out for a short hike, or stay overnight at the convenient campground. The waterfall itself is a breathtaking sight, with the waters of the Ram River plunging 20 meters into the pool and river below. Although the waterfall tends to be the main attraction, the park has plenty of other things to do and see, like hiking, fishing, and camping. This is also a great place for viewing wildlife, especially the bighorn sheep who frequent the area.
An opportunity to experience a true ranching life, Ram Rides offers a lot more than just a normal horseback riding experience. You can camp out at their campsite, with room for your horses, or stay in one of their beautiful cabins to experience everything in the area. They even have a weekend rate that includes accommodation and all activities. Otherwise, check out their day rides or longer pack trips that will allow you to enjoy the beauty of the area from the back of one of their well-trained horses.
Siffleur Falls Hike
Another stunning set of waterfalls near Nordegg, three cascades that will take your breath away. The hike is considered moderate, with a return length of about 14 kilometers, with only an 80-meter elevation gain. Even the drive to the trailhead will offer up incredible views. This fun walk is full of adventure as you cross two rivers, as well as a suspension bridge. To make this even easier, part of this hike is on a boardwalk. The forested terrain provides shade during hot summer days. Enjoy the canyon views and the quietness of the Kootenay Plains Provincial Recreation Area
Hike to the Cline River Canyon and Falls
Another beautiful natural area close to the town of Nordegg, the Cline River Canyon is a nice short trail that will take you to an incredible canyon. It should only take you about a half an hour to reach the canyon, if you don’t constantly stop to take pictures of the marvellous surroundings. This is a multi-use trail, so if you are travelling with a horse, you can also ride along here. There are several unmarked trails in the area and it can be confusing. Download a map, take a compass or some good directions with you to ensure to not get lost.
With this type of adventure, you don’t even have to drive to Lake Louise, or the Icefields, or some of the other places deep in the mountain ranges. Whisking you off to see the incredible Rocky Mountains, glacier lakes and rivers, glaciers themselves, and all sorts of other wonders, Rockies Heli is an incredible experience that you will never forget. Take the time to savour every view and moment as you soar high above the gorgeous peaks. If you’re interested in something even more unique, why not stop for a hike, a mountain top picnic, or bring a special someone to enjoy a private romantic tour.
Via Ferrata in the David Thompson Corridor
The incredible experience that you can have on the Mt Stelfox Via Feratta is something not to be missed in this area. A via ferrata, for those who don’t know, is an Italian term for a protected climbing route that is built with a steel cable rail fixed to the rock, metal steps, ladders, suspension bridges and zip wires. Half-way between scrambling and rock climbing, via ferratas allow non-expert climbers to reach high altitudes in a safe way, using minimum equipment. You will need to book with an operator for this adventure, unless you are familiar with the route and have your own gear. The views are spectacular and the adventure unmatched.
Discover the Geological Formations of Hoodoo Creek
There are a couple of trails to explore the Hoodoo Creek area but one very popular one which is fairly short. This incredibly scenic spot offers an opportunity to get out and experience the natural wonders of the hoodoos in this area. Sometimes known as earth pyramids or fairy chimneys, hoodoos are tall, thin rock formations. Rocks erode over many, many years and become weathered, with the result being intriguing spire-like pinnacles.
Allstones Lake Trail
This is a challenging trail that will give hikers a chance to experience the David Thompson Country like never before. The steady incline will reward you with spectacular views and exquisite mountain scenery. This is considered a difficult trail, with a return walk of approximately 8 kilometers, with an elevation gain of 605 meters. An incredible way to spend a day if you enjoying hiking.
Crescent Falls and Provincial Recreation Area
Located in the David Thompson Country zone of Clearwater County, you will find spectacular waterfalls, accessed by a very short walk. This is actually a series of two waterfalls, which dazzle in the sunlight as they cascade down the rocks as part of the Bighorn River. For those who don’t want to walk at all, there is an observation platform at the brink of the waterfall. A short and easy hike, though, will take you along the top of Bighorn Canyon to a stunning panoramic view of the falls. You can even detour to the bottom of the top falls for more adventure. Camping is available nearby in the provincial recreation area.
Goldeye Lake Provincial Recreation Area
A very popular family destination in this area, Goldeye Lake has lots to do and activities for all ages. Nordegg is only eleven kilometers away, so if you can’t camp, you can stay overnight in town and enjoy the area for more than one day. Get out your canoe or kayak for some time on the water, or pack a picnic and enjoy it on the beach while getting golden. Grab your fishing gear for some casting time. Whatever you choose to do, it will be an excellent day.
Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area
A short six kilometers outside the town of Nordegg, this Provincial Recreation Area provides visitors with some great outdoor recreation activities and a chance to camp in a natural setting. The area hosts many popular outdoor activities including fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, swimming, and OHV trails. The lake is amply stocked with rainbow trout, which makes it a good spot for those who want some quiet time casting a line. This is a fantastic place to hang out this summer if you are looking for some tranquility.
Brazeau Collieries Mine National Heritage Site
The Brazeau Collieries Mine Site and Nordegg Heritage Museum is a must-visit, with a museum, an old mine shaft, a briquette plant, all in the same location. Join two hour guided tour and discover how coal mines led to the development of Western Canada, the briquette plant and the workings of the mining operation. (closed in 2021 due to the pandemic.)
Miner’s Café is famous for its pie. Of course, there are other homemade and healthy food options such as soups, sandwiches and salads, but you will really want to make sure you have room for dessert. (during COVID-19
West Fraser Outdoor Discovery Park
Located in Nordegg, this is another great place to spend a bit of time if you have children. A good rest stop, or an opportunity to run around for a bit, the adults will probably enjoy it as well. This outdoor discovery park includes a playground, a bike pump track, outdoor gym equipment, seating and relaxation areas, a boardwalk feature and further outdoor play facilities. There are picnic areas, so bring along a snack or lunch to enjoy. As you spend time here, you can soak in the beauty of the area.
Nordegg Historic Golf Course
Opened back in 1916, this historic golf course is perfect for golfers who enjoy being in gorgeous surroundings while hitting a ball off a tee. The nine-hole course has extremely reasonable fees and is a perfect morning or afternoon activity if you are in the area. The uniquely challenging course is great for both experienced golfers and novices. Cart and club rentals are available here as well.
Nordegg Viewing Platform
If you just happen to be driving through on the David Thompson Highway, and don’t really have time to explore off the highway, the Nordegg Viewing Platform is a convenient spot close to the center of town where you can still experience the beautiful views of the area. The long reaching views allow you to see all the way to the distant mountains and there’s a good chance of spotting local wildlife if you sit quietly for awhile.
Hike Coliseum Mountain
Just north of the town of Nordegg, this mountain was named after its amphitheatre bowl shape resembling the Colosseum of ancient Rome, and has a summit of 2,035 meters above sea level. This is one of the most popular hikes in the area, as the panoramic view from the top provides stunning vistas of the surrounding area. This is considered a moderate level hike, with distances varying, depending on what route you take or how far you want to scramble.
View this post on Instagram
Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area
This little campground is perfect for those who want to spend a night or two getting in some good fishing, kayaking or canoeing. There is excellent fishing just downstream, and the dock is a perfect place to put your boat in the water. Just five kilometers outside of Nordegg, the campground only has un-serviced sites, but the tranquil setting certainly makes up for it.
Jackfish Lake Provincial Recreation Area
More of a secluded campground than a recreation area, if you are looking for a quiet place to camp for a night or two, this may be your spot. There is a pier and a boat launch, and even OHV trails nearby for some entertainment opportunities. Of course, you can always throw a line in the lake, or take your watercraft out for some time on the water.
Horburg Provincial Recreation Area
This Provincial Recreation Area provides visitors with access to the North Saskatchewan River, so if you are looking for a place to launch your boat, kayak, SUP, raft or canoe, this is the spot for you. If you are not a water person, you may want to bring your bike or hiking shoes along with you to check out the more than 85 kilometers of trails. The Phoenix Whistle Stop is also a great mountain biking trail accessible from the campground nearby.
This is an incredible Outdoor Adventure Education Center that provides individuals (along with groups) the opportunity to experience some of the incredible adventure activities that abound in this region in a safe and educational manner. They offer activities such as canoeing on lakes and rivers, whitewater rafting, wilderness trips, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and outdoor living skills. All of the programs are delivered from a holistic perspective by well trained and experienced educators and guides with a focus on active living in nature and outdoor education. They also offer canoe rentals and shuttles along the North Saskatchewan River, between Nordegg and Drayton Valley.
Rustic River Resort
A little bit different than the provincial recreation sites and campgrounds, this is a full-on RV resort that may be the perfect place for you to hang out this summer. They have over 180 acres of secluded parkland and two kilometers of shoreline along the North Saskatchewan River, so you know it is going to be a pretty amazing place to stay. Not to mention the fact that you can fish, go boating, go swimming or take a walk to keep you busy. There is even a cool splash park to keep the kids entertained.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Close to Rocky Mountain House, this pretty Provincial Park provides a variety of opportunities for visitors to enjoy the outdoors. Along with a place to launch your watercraft, there is also a pier and a beach to hang out on. Mountain biking and hiking trails will give you the chance to get some action into your day. Take your fishing gear along with you to throw in a line. Spend some time viewing the abundant bird life. Camp overnight at the convenient campground. Keep your eyes out for wildlife, as there are commonly bears and other mammals in the area. Whatever you do, this is a perfect place to spend some time.
JKL Trail Rides & Petting Zoo
This is a great place to spend some time with your kids this summer, although there’s nothing saying that you need kids to be able to enjoy the services. Offering one hour and longer trail rides for people with no experience, or with tons of experience, it’s a perfect chance to see some of the area without walking. As well, there is a nifty little farm petting zoo experience that your kids, and you, will just love.
There are three different locations, so you can choose the one that works best for you.
Wilderness Village Resort
A slightly different way to camp, this resort is actually a not for profit that has been around since 1989. As one of the most successful members owned RV resorts in Canada, you won’t be surprised when you see all the amenities that come along with staying here. Non-members are welcome to reserve nightly camping, with the exception of long weekends. With the pool and hot tub, there are plenty of chances to relax at the resort, and if not, this is in a very convenient location to access other activities in the area.
Pine Hills Golf Club
This lovely 18-hole course nestled in by Rocky Mountain House offers players all the right things. With 397 acres of grounds, the area is sculpted from the natural dunes and a challenge for any level of golfer. This championship course harmonizes perfectly with the natural elements and stunning views. Along with the course, there are twenty tee boxes for their driving range.
Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
One of the most interesting historical sites in the area, this National Site gives visitors the opportunity to see what life as a fur trader was like, and how fur trading helped shape our province. Containing the remains of several forts, this is still considered an archeological site. Rocky Mountain House has received its designation due to its role in the historic fur trade; its association with David Thompson and ”exploration towards the westward”; and its relationship with the Blackfoot peoples (Nitsitapi) particularly the Peigan (Pikani). You can spend time enjoying the exhibits and remains of the forts, learn about the First Nations of the area, or even spend the night.
Rocky Mountain House Museum
Located in Rocky Mountain House, this museum is a great place to get an understanding of how the pioneers in the area started off and lived. This is the chance to step into the past and see how the settlers worked their homesteads, the sawmills and lumber mills, and how children learned in the one room schoolhouses. The exhibits include the 1911 Meadows Forestry cabin and the 1923 Glacier Schoolhouse, amongst others.
If you are looking for a different way to explore the Rocky Mountain House area, then perhaps zipping around on the back of an ATV might intrigue you. This company provides ATV adventures with a professional guide and all the equipment that you require. They have a half day tour, a full day tour and even private tours available. A fantastic way to experience the zone without having to walk!
Art on the Range
A lovely, unique little Art Gallery and Art Studio featuring Artist Crystal Mossing is located in the village of Caroline. Check out the Bronze and Clay Sculptures, Limited Edition Prints and original paintings that are on display here and available for purchase. They are open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm or welcome people by appointment on evenings and weekends.
This summer village is completely surrounded by Crown Land, where you can probably find some cheap camping (don’t forget there is a new fee in place for this), but you can also enjoy the Lake itself, as it has some good fishing and boating opportunities. Northern Pike, Walleye and Yellow Perch all make their home here in Burntstick Lake. There is no fishing from shore though, so make sure you are prepared with your own boat. This is a great place for beginner fishermen and fisherwomen to learn some skills. If you don’t want to access the Crown Land for other activities or camping, there is a proper campsite where you can spend the night.
Caroline Wheels of Time Museum and Historical Village
A great little museum that will show visitors what life was like back in the pioneering days of Alberta. There are a number of historic buildings to explore, such as the main building with its incredible genealogy display; the Trunnel House, which was built in the early 1900s; the Anderson Cabin which is set up like a trapper’s cabin; the Fire Hall, complete with an old fire wagon and a truck, an office, and a lock-up; a large one-room school house which includes photos of past classes, desks and a piano; and the teacherage which is the tiny house provided for the school teacher. There are also nature trails to enjoy if you like. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it is well worth planning a visit here.
As the name implies, this family owned and operated business in Leslieville offers up very unique home décor items, all handcrafted out of quality wood and genuine railroad spikes! There are all sorts of neat things to put in your house or garden, and they are all individually unique in some way. The owner is the artist and he takes pride in every piece.
Whiskey Jaxx Antiques
A unique place to spend a bit of time, especially if the weather is not nice. Offering their clientele a blend of interesting antiques, collectibles, apparel, western themed items and even confectionary, this store is a great little stop in Leslieville.
Botts Berry Farm
During the berry season, this is where you want to be. U-Pick and We-Pick Saskatoons, strawberries and raspberries are available, seven days a week from sunrise to sundown. That’s a whole lot of time every day that you can be out enjoying the atmosphere. Good for family time, there is even a picnic area where you can sit and take advantage of the atmosphere.
Adventuring off on your own may not be for you. If not, that’s okay, you can adventure another way. Pursuit Adventures, located in Nordegg, offers visitors the chance to go on guided tours, hikes, Heli sightseeing tours, Heli backcountry treks, and even white-water rafting on the nearby Upper Red Deer River. They can customize for you, or join one of their small group day trips to experience the area. They take care of all the details; you just have to show up and enjoy.