Kananaskis Country

Calgary to Kananaskis Road Trip

We took a drive from Calgary to Kananaskis and back, during our visit to Calgary. It’s an easy drive in the summer if you want to see beautiful scenery and wildlife. This post is about the drive, the distance and what we saw along the way.

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During our end of August Canadian Road Trip this year, we visited our son in Calgary. During the day, when he was busy with his daily activities, we took another road trip. Generally when we visit Calgary, we take a drive or two to Banff or Jasper, or maybe even the badlands. All are spectacular.

This time around our son suggested that we take a different – but easy drive through Kananaskis. He often visits this area with his cycling and hiking friends and frequently sends us pictures of wildlife spotted along the way.

An Easy Drive to Kananaskis from Calgary

Alberta Grizzly Bear
Grizzly spotted by our son while on one of his hiking/biking/camping adventures in Kananaskis

He suggested that if we headed out that way we would definitely see some wildlife! While Banff, Canmore and Jasper are breathtakingly beautiful scenic mountain drives, we wanted to take a different but easy drive and stay away from people. Kananaskis Country is an area to the west of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Kananaskis Country contains (at least) 10 Provincial Parks, campgrounds, a golf course, hiking trails and of course ski hills and nordic trails. (Note that some roads are closed for winter months). It is over 4000 square KM but is sparsely populated.

Kananaskis Country Map

Calgary to Bragg Creek

That was definitely what we needed – wildlife, scenery, but no pandemic tourist crowds please. We travelled west from Calgary along the TransCanada Highway (1), and then turned south onto Highway 22 towards and along the Elbow River, and then towards the little town of Bragg Creek.

Deer near Bragg Creek Provincial Park
Deer near Bragg Creek Provincial Park

Bragg Creek is a picturesque small town along the Elbow River – about half an hour from Calgary – with rustic log cabin style homes amongst the forest and artisan style shops. It’s in Rocky View county, and was a diversion on our way to Kananaskis. We did not know that Bragg Creek was the main filming location for the Canadian CBC series “North of 60”, but that explained the way the town seemed so familiar to us. We saw a few deer crossing the road near Bragg Creek Provincial Park.

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Bragg Creek to Kananaskis

We continued southwest along Highway 66 and then headed north along the Powderface Trail past Elbow and Jumping Pound and then west again on Highway 68 (partly paved) towards Highway 40. We travelled south along Highway 40 just past Highwood Pass – and eventually turned around to head back to Calgary (straight north on 40 to the TransCanada) as it was getting dark!

Elbow River - Kananaskis Country
Elbow River – Kananaskis

Kananaskis is beautifully forested, but less touristy than Banff.

Wasootch Creek Kananaskis (about 10km North of Kananaskis Village on Highway 40)
Wasootch Creek Kananaskis (about 10km North of Kananaskis Village on Highway 40)
thrifty traveller flights

Highway 40 Kananaskis Country is two laned with paved shoulders
Highway 40 Kananaskis Country is two laned with paved shoulders
Camping site and parking behind the trees - Kananaskis Country
Camping site and parking behind the trees – Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country
Kayak- Save More on Your Next Flight
Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country

There was very little traffic along the way. At one point a number of cars were stopped and a park ranger was using police tape to close off a trail. It turned out to be a grizzly bear sighting. He was long gone when we arrived.

Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country

We finally ran into a traffic jam at the intersection of Highway 40 and Smith-Dorrien Spray Trail. A herd of mountain goats was happily crossing the road.

Traffic jam at the intersection of Highway 40 and Smith-Dorrien Spray Trail
Traffic jam at the intersection of Highway 40 and Smith-Dorrien Spray Trail

I had read that mountain goats avoided human activity, but these goats had no concern about cars and people. They seemed a bit like the animals at “African Lion Safari” or a petting zoo – but I wouldn’t want to get out of the car and test their disposition.

Mountain goats Kananaskis
Mountain goats Kananaskis
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Mountain goats Kananaskis
Mountain goats – Kananaskis country

After seeing very little wildlife on our trip west from Ontario, it was worth the drive to see these creatures.

Mountain goats Kananaskis
Mountain goats – through the car window
Highway 40 towards Highwood Pass
Highway 40 towards Highwood Pass
Highway 40 towards Highwood Pass
Kananaskis Country
Mountain goats Kananaskis
Even more goats further down the road
Mountain goats Kananaskis
Is it a flock, a herd or even a plethora of goats?
Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country

Further on down the road towards Highwood Pass, I thought I saw a bear in the forest. We stopped to have a look and a herd of cattle slowly meandered out onto the highway. Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Canada at just over 2200metres.

Kananaskis Country is free-range, which means that livestock, as well as wildlife roam freely.

Cattle on Highway 40 heading toward Highwood Pass - Kananaskis Country
Cattle on Highway 40 heading toward Highwood Pass
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Cattle on Highway 40 heading toward Highwood Pass
Cattle Traffic Jam Kananaskis

Now my husband is usually the wildlife “spotter”, but this time I really did spot a black bear on the left side of the road up the hill.

Kananaskis Black bear
I think I spotted a bear

We stopped and just barely (not a pun, honest) caught a glimpse of this bear.

Kananaskis Black bear
Black bear – through the windshield.
Kananaskis Black bear
Kananaskis Black bear

We decided to head home at this point. We could have continued south and headed back east to Calgary from the south end of Kananaskis – but we turned around and headed back north on Highway 40 to the TransCanada Highway.

This was an easy wildlife and scenery viewing drive – not far from Calgary, which kept us busy for a full day. There is a daily fee of $15 or $90 for the season per vehicle visiting Kananaskis. It’s worth every penny.

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14 thoughts on “Calgary to Kananaskis Road Trip

  1. Great recap of one of our favourite playgrounds. I’ll correct you though, they are Rocky Mountain Sheep. Mountain Goats are the very hairy white shaggy ones that are much more shy. Maggie

  2. Such a wonderful road trip! This reminds me of our road trip in The Rockies, we had great opportunities to spot wildlife along our route.
    Christie

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