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Two of the buildings that make up the Prairie Creek Inn
Two of the buildings that make up the Prairie Creek Inn

What to Do in & Near Rocky Mountain House

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Sitting smack in the middle of some of Alberta’s oil country, Rocky Mountain House, might not seem like a destination for a weekend getaway – let alone a luxurious weekend getaway. So I was pleasantly surprised not only with my stay at Prairie Creek Inn, but at the activities available within about an hour’s drive of Rocky Mountain House.

It’s a two hour drive to reach Rocky Mountain House and the inn from Calgary. Already popular with people from Edmonton and Red Deer, it’s not as well known to people in Calgary, who tend to head west says owner Terri Cameron.

This post was updated in February 2022.

Two of the buildings that make up the Prairie Creek Inn
Two of the buildings that make up the Prairie Creek Inn

Location map of things to do near Rocky Mountain House

                       

Base yourself at the Prairie Creek Inn, not far from Rocky Mountain House

Our room – the Aspen Treehouse room – as you can see in the photo below – is roomy and beautifully decorated. Even with two large windows, it feels very private. 

On the one side, the only thing you might see is birds and deer. On the other – perhaps a fleeting glimpse of another guest sharing the adjacent room in the Treehouse.

The bathroom is luxurious with a big soaker tub, a large shower and a sink area with enough room for a couple of toiletry bags (I can’t believe how many places don’t get this right. I hate it when my toothbrush falls into the toilet bowl.)

Our room at the Prairie Creek Inn
Our room at the Prairie Creek Inn
Our room has a private sitting area outdoors
Our room has a private sitting area outdoors

What to do at the Prairie Creek Inn

The inn is a great place for rest and relaxation. In fact it would be easy to do nothing but curl up with a good book, watch a movie from the video library or sit by the river and watch the world go by.

I only managed a bit of R&R but I did enjoy lingering over breakfast and dinner.

In good weather you can relax by Prairie Creek near Rocky Mountain House. In winter you can ski or snowshoe the creek
In good weather you can relax by Prairie Creek. In winter you can ski or snowshoe the creek

What to do in and near Rocky Mountain House

I asked many people what there was in the way of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the area. The first and only place mentioned was the Pine Hills Golf Course. I prefer skiing in wilder areas but because I was new to Rocky Mountain House, I figured it was worth exploring, even for a short time.

There are a couple of loops at the golf course; it’s all very pretty but the snow cover was unusually thin for early March. Wax disappears in minutes from skis so a four kilometre loop is far more taxing than normal. It’s hard skiing on ice! In a normal winter, the golf course would make a fine destination for a workout.

We did find a Visitor’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain House area after skiing so while sipping lattes and eating muffins at the Pebble Ridge Coffee House in town, we came up with a plan for the afternoon. Check out the trails at Crimson Lake Provincial Park, just a 17-minute drive away.

Thin snow cover on the Pine Hills Golf Course
Thin snow cover on the Pine Hills Golf Course

Go cross-country skiing in Crimson Lake Provincial Park 

With over 20 kilometres of trails, the park is ideal for cross-country skiing in winter (or hiking in summer). We chose to do the 10 kilometre Amerada Trail around Crimson Lake.

Although signs say that the trail isn’t groomed, it must see enough skiers that it’s easy to follow tracks. Signs every kilometre mark your progress and there are benches as well. The snow conditions weren’t great – icy like the golf course but the trail is truly beautiful.

We stopped a couple of times just to admire the view. The park was busy with people ice-fishing but we saw no other skiers.

All told we skied about 14 kilometres over the day but with so much slip-sliding on skis it felt like twenty.

Cross country ski at Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Several kilometres of pure bliss skiing in the aspens at Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Near Rocky Mountain House enjoy delightful skiing around Crimson Lake
Delightful skiing around Crimson Lake
About the five kilometre point on the trail
About the five kilometre point on the trail

Explore Highway 11 – The David Thompson Highway from Rocky Mountain House

The next day our plan was to do a loop drive starting and ending in Rocky Mountain House. But that’s not how it worked out.

The day started with a drive to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, though unfortunately it was closed. It tells the story of the vibrant fur trade in the area between 1799 and 1875. In the summer you can spend the night onsite.

There are a lot of oil wells in the Rocky Mountain House area
There are a lot of oil wells in the Rocky Mountain House area
Check out the buffalo art at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
Buffalo art at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Drive the David Thompson Highway

From there we drove Highway 11, the David Thompson Highway to Nordegg. The plan was to visit Crescent Falls and then return to Rocky Mountain House via Highway 734, a Forestry Trunk Road, where we could visit Ram Falls.

This would be an outstanding drive to do in summer but I wasn’t so sure about the driving once we got there. It’s a quiet road in early March and I don’t trust our car on snowy hills. We decided to continue to the Icefields Parkway and return to Calgary from there.

Our first stop was at an overlook into the Bighorn Gorge. The views up and down the gorge are nothing short of spectacular.

Bighorn Gorge - three kilometres up the road
Bighorn Gorge – three kilometres up the road

Visit Crescent Falls

Next up was Crescent Falls, named for the crescent shaped cliff over which they fall. They are an awe-inspiring sight even with bad lighting. Crescent Falls is actually a series of two waterfalls on the Bighorn River. Do exercise caution as you get close as people have drowned here in the summer, and slipped on ice in the winter.

Crescent Falls
Crescent Falls

Do the Siffleur Falls hike off the David Thompson Highway

Continuing southwest, we drove past Abraham Lake to reach the Kootenay Plains and the trailhead for the hike into Siffleur Falls. This area deserves a full day of exploration. We made it as far as the first waterfall, but there are two more waterfalls if you continue up the valley.

The long suspension bridge across the North Saskatchewan River
The long suspension bridge across the North Saskatchewan River
Looking down the gorge towards the trailhead
Looking down the gorge towards the trailhead
You can hear the water; this would be an amazing place to stand during the spring melt
You can hear the water; this would be an amazing place to stand during the spring melt

Enjoy the drive on Highway 11

The drive from Nordegg, and particularly from the Kootenay Plains to the Icefields Parkway is gorgeous. Mountains and glaciers filled our line of sight for miles.

For  a weekend without much in the way of plans, we sure covered a lot of territory! I would also recommend exploring Highway 11 in the dead of winter when you can experience the Abraham Lake bubbles

Pretty scenery on the way to Siffleur Falls
Pretty scenery on the way to Siffleur Falls
Mountain and glacier scenery that competes with the Icefields Parkway
Mountain and glacier scenery that competes with the Icefields Parkway
Abraham Lake is a photogenic place for photography
Abraham Lake is a photogenic place for photography even in late winter when the bubbles aren’t at their prime

Further reading on things to do in Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

What to do in and near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta

This post was sponsored by Travel Alberta but all thoughts and opinions as always are strictly my own. 

 

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