We took a day trip from Calgary Alberta through Cochrane to Canmore and back and along the way, visited the Yamnuska WolfDog Sanctuary. Map, distances and wildlife.
Easy Day Trip from Calgary
In November, we flew to Calgary for a short family visit. We had one unscheduled day to do a drive – and we wanted to take a drive that was a little different from what we have previously done.
We love to drive to Banff and Kananaskis from Calgary – but just wanted to see something a little different. It was a very cold November day and the roads were clear of snow – but there was a light dusting anticipated. We wanted to see some scenery and wildlife, take a short but easy walk, and then maybe have some lunch.
Calgary to Canmore Hwy 1
Normally when we drive from Calgary to Canmore we take the fastest route – Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway. This is a well travelled route and takes just over an hour. There will be a few deer around the highway here and there, and the suddenly stunning view of the Rocky Mountains – and perhaps some more wildlife!
The Road Less Travelled
This time around we took Route 1A through Cochrane up to Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary and then onward to Kananaskis Village and Canmore. This is just a slightly longer drive – about 15 minutes more in good weather (if we didn’t stop so much to see the wildlife!) – with ample mountain views, lakes and forests. The road is primarily a single lane two way road – but nicely paved and cleared for our drive.
This piece of Highway 1A West is also called the Bow Valley Trail and follows the Bow River – along the northern side – while Highway 1 follows the Bow River on the south side.
Cochrane is a small town (population about 35,000) in a valley surrounded by open range. It is home to the Historic Cochrane Ranche – a 136 acre public park with trails, a museum and reconstructed corrals.
The Cochrane Ranche was Alberta’s first large-scale cattle ranch. In 1881 Senator Matthew Cochrane, acquired several huge leases of land along the Bow River, near the present town of Cochrane, Alta. At its peak Cochrane Ranche totalled about 144 000 ha of range land. In 1881 and 1882 Cochrane’s company purchased thousands of head of cattle in Montana and drove them north to these leases, making Cochrane the first of western Canada’s great cattle ranchers. Many of these cattle died during the first 2 winters of operation, but in time the ranch became one of several successful large-scale cattle operations along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.The Canadian Encyclopedia
We are saving the visit to Historic Cochrane Ranche for a nice summer day – as our plan for the day was a nice and easy walk around the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary and then a drive to Canmore.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
From Cochrane, we continued along the Bow Valley Trail to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. (I had of course misread the description and thought we were going to see wolves, but no they were wolfdogs!) We booked the tickets in advance online – but it is possible to buy tickets when you visit – if they are not already overbooked.
The Wolfdog Sanctuary is a 160 acre property which is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a home for wolfdogs – and educating the public about them. Wolfdogs are the result of the intentional breeding of dogs with wolves – or wolfdogs, and have been growing in popularity – however, they just aren’t like regular dogs – and can not always be managed by their owners as pets.
As the popularity of wolfdogs as pets grew in Canada, Georgina De Caigny identified the need for a knowledgeable and experienced rescue organization that would make the rehabilitation and rehoming of displaced wolfdogs a priority……….the Sanctuary was created to drive public awareness and education surrounding wolfdogs and wolves in the wild. We welcome visitors to come and experience our wolfdogs in person to learn about their unique nature, how we can reduce backyard breeding of these animals and the connected importance of wolf conservation.Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
When we visited, there were about 40 Wolfdogs, in 16 different packs or enclosures. The enclosures were wire fences – labelled with the names , history and “amount of wolf” – high, medium or low. We had a nice easy walk around all of the enclosures and enjoyed looking the the animals for about an hour.
You can either book a self-guided tour (which we did – $28 each), or guided tours ($41 ea), or even interactive tours ($69) – in which you enter a wolfdog enclosure. I found the self-guided tour to be just right – some of the wolfdogs were happy to stand close to us behind the fences for photos. A few were harder to see – but I believe we saw everything we needed to see. Our daughter had previously tried the interactive tour and said that the guide had encouraged the wolfdogs to howl – which she really enjoyed!
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary to Canmore
After Cochrane and the Yamnuska WolfDog Sanctuary, we continued travelling on the Bow Valley Trail. From the sanctuary to Canmore, it is another 45 minute drive (59km).
At Ghost Lake, we were confused because we thought the ice couldn’t have been frozen enough this early in November – but there seemed to be skating and maybe ice fishing occurring already? I’m pretty sure it was too soon.
Wild Horses from the Ghost Forest
We passed through Stoney 142, 143 and 144 which is a reserve of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation – our narrow road passed through a snowy forest of Aspens. This is just south of the Ghost Forest.
Suddenly, wild horses appeared on the road in front of us. We waited while these beautiful and healthy looking horses crossed the road and continued on their way. They were not too worried about us, and we wondered if they were really wild. A quick google revealed that they were – and we read that one story of the origin of the wild horses from the Stoney Nakoda elders is that they emerged from Kananaskis Lake.
We continued along 1A past the villages of Kananaskis and then Exshaw.
Bighorn Sheep Exshaw Alberta
My husband commented that he still hadn’t seen any Rocky Mountain Bighorns. Conveniently, as if our phones had been listening to us again – some Bighorns appeared along the rocky horizon. We couldn’t (and shouldn’t) stop on the narrow roadway, but we circled back a few times to try to catch some photos and a closer look.
Gap Lake and Canmore
We stopped for beautiful views at Gap Lake before heading in to the town of Canmore.
We stopped for lunch at the Georgetown Pub in the Georgetown Inn in Canmore. We enjoyed soup and sandwiches and I may even have enjoyed a beer! We were not looking for something fancy – just a chance to sit down for a minute and relax.
We enjoyed our drive from Calgary to Cochrane along the Bow Valley Trail. The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary was the perfect choice for a place to take a nice walk around, and learn something new. Even if we hadn’t stopped at the Sanctuary, just the appearances of the wild horses and bighorns magically at the right time – made the day a success. After lunch in Canmore, we headed back to Calgary.
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