Wedged between razor-sharp mountains and rusted-out mines in southwestern Alberta, Crowsnest Pass is ripe for exploration. Made up of five communities—Bellevue, Blairmore, Coleman, Frank and Hillcrest—the municipality is known for mining, but a new tourist-friendly wind is blowing through.
OUT & ABOUT
Learn: The awesome sight of the Frank Slide—a massive field of crumbled rock strewn across the valley—marks your entry to town. In 1903 the collapse of Turtle Mountain buried more than 90 residents. The interpretive centre documents the tragedy and the area’s coal mining ways. Off Hwy 3
Hike: The trek up Turtle Mountain is a grunt-filled grind—so be sure you’re up for the challenge—but the seven-km out-and-back route offers rich rewards. The jagged 925-metre-high ridgeline provides panoramic views of Crowsnest Pass, including a bird’s-eye view of the Frank Slide. Hwy 3
Relax: Miners like their beer. Among The Pass’s thirst-quenching options are Tin Dogs Pub and Brewery, The Pass Beer Company and The Rum Runner. For a relaxed, rustic experience—and some liquid gold—visit Oldman River Brewing in nearby Lundbreck. Hwy 22 and Hwy 3
Explore: Numerous ruins dot the Crowsnest Pass landscape. While some are closed to the public, others are readily accessible. Uncover the region’s rich history and coal mining past at Hillcrest Mine & Cemetery and Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site. Off Hwy 3
In 2014, Heather Davis moved to Crowsnest Pass, fell in love with the place and started her own guiding company. For the past three years, Uplift Adventures has helped hundreds of wide-eyed enthusiasts explore the area by ski and snowshoe.
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What do you love most about Crowsnest Pass?
First and foremost: the people. I wave at my neighbours; everyone smiles at each other. Crowsnest is also a small town in the Canadian Rockies and, when compared to more famous mountain towns, it’s inexpensive and less developed. There are many times on the trails when I don’t even see another soul.
What’s your favourite local trail?
I have so many! But the Miner’s Path in Coleman is ideal for young families. It’s just 1.6 kilometres round-trip and leads to a small waterfall. I also recommend Allison Chinook and Pass Powderkeg because they’re well marked. If you feel confident navigating off-trail, Castle Wildland Provincial Park is simply stunning.
What other activities can be enjoyed in the Pass?
There’s world-famous fly fishing in the Crowsnest, Oldman and Livingstone rivers. Mountain biking at Pass Powderkeg, our local ski hill, has gained plenty of traction as the trails are fast and flowy. And the new course at the Crowsnest Pass Golf Club has incredible views from every hole. For culture, Crowsnest Pass Art Gallery hosts some amazing art classes, film nights and more. There are many talented artists and photographers who call this area home.
ON YOUR MARK…
A handful of regional races worth crowing about:
1 The Minotaur SkyRace isn’t for the faint of heart. The tough-as-nails 32-km run takes place on soaring ridgelines and ultra-rugged mountain terrain. It’s the perfect way to test your stamina in the Rockies. For something a little less demanding, consider the 10.5-km Mini-Taur run.
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2 Billed as “the greatest challenge of your life,” Sinister 7 Ultra makes the Minotaur look like a walk in the park. Racers have 30 hours to complete this gruelling 160-km brute, which includes 6,400 metres of elevation gain. The celebratory beer at the post-race party will be the best one you’ve ever had.
3 Shortly after the 1903 Frank Slide, freight train brakeman Sid Choquette raced across millions of tons of jagged rubble to warn an incoming passenger train about the blocked tracks ahead. Follow in Sid’s footsteps at Run the Rocks, an approximately five-km scramble that’s more parkour than pure running.