Wild West vistas in Cochrane, Alberta (photo: Tim Hall)

Community Watch: Cochrane, Alberta

By Andrew Penner

Sitting snug in the Bow River Valley northwest of Calgary, the town of Cochrane, Alberta is the epicentre of our province’s Wild West ways. While ranching reigns supreme, a historic and revitalized downtown area reveals the town’s progressive side.

Explore: Established in 1881, the Historic Cochrane Ranche Site was Alberta’s first large-scale ranching operation. The 55-hectare grounds features creek-side trails, a quaint museum and a Saturday farmers’ market in the summer months. 101 Ranchehouse Rd.

Shop: Cochrane’s updated downtown boasts a number of cool businesses, many in historic buildings with western facades. After perusing art galleries and shops, treat yourself to some homemade ice cream at MacKay’s, a local institution since 1948. 220 1 St. W.

Eat: Chow down on an Alberta beef burger and chase it with a tasty ale—both made in-house at the popular Half Hitch Brewing Company. Can’t decide on your beer? The aptly named Farmer’s Daughter is a tart but sweet citrus-infused pale ale. 10 Griffin Industrial Point

Hike: The extensive system of pathways throughout Cochrane includes walking trails along the Bow River. On the outskirts of town, provincial parks like Big Hill Springs and Glenbow Ranch serve up stunning prairie and mountain views. 255001 Glenbow Rd.

cochrane alberta mayor jeff genung
Cochrane mayor Jeff Genung (photo: Tim Hall)

Jeff Genung has lived in Cochrane for more than 43 years. He’s also its mayor and a local business owner. An avid cyclist and founder of Cochrane Coffee Traders, he makes a convincing case for the town’s many charms.

What do you like most about Cochrane?
Our location: We’re in a beautiful river valley that’s close to the mountains, close to Calgary, close to the airport and close to wide-open plains. You can’t beat it! There’s also a healthy lifestyle that prevails in the culture here; people are grounded and we don’t take our setting for granted.

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Any insider tips?
The trail system in town is great for all recreational modes of movement. Cochrane is also home to some of the best road cycling in the world. The Horse Creek/Grand Valley Loop is an amazing two-hour ride with 50 kilometres of gently rolling ranchland, non-stop mountain views and photo ops around every bend. If you don’t cycle, you can just drive it to get a pure taste of Alberta.

What’s the best part about being mayor of Cochrane?
The diversity of the job: It’s incredibly challenging but also very rewarding. Today, for instance, I met with the elders of the Stoney Nakoda Nation; tomorrow, I’ll meet with architects and bridge builders. Our town is growing fast and it’s fuelled by positive energy from many sectors.

cochrane alberta lions club rodeo
The Cochrane Lions Club Rodeo (photo: Jacquie Matechuk)

Cochrane is known for its many festivals and community events, which run annually during every season.

1  Because this is rural Alberta, the town hosts awesome rodeo. The Cochrane Lions Club Rodeo, held every Labour Day weekend, is one of the west’s best small-town rodeos featuring world-class cowboys. 109 Fifth Ave. 

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2  For most Albertans, an outhouse is a smelly bit of history best forgotten. For Cochranites, it’s a state-of-the-art, finely-tuned speed machine that careens down Main Street each fall during the Great Cochrane Outhouse Races (Sept. 28). 312 1 St. W.

3  Ride the Scrambler or Ferris wheel at the annual Cochrane Fair (Aug. 16–18). For even more lively action, check out death-defying bull riders, the “anything goes” pet show and mini chuckwagon races too. 43080 Bow Valley Trail

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