Pincher Creek, the perfect basecamp to explore southern Alberta

 
Photographer
Chris Wheeler

Pincher Creek, the perfect basecamp to explore southern Alberta

 

 

This article is part of our #BucketlistAB campaign – allowing you to string together an assortment of destinations across Alberta’s south for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Start here www.BucketlistAB.ca and be sure to use the tag #BucketlistAB and let us know how the travels are going!

By Andrew Penner for #BucketlistAB

Pincher Creek, AB – Shortly after 10 a.m. on a frosty, fresh-powder morning, we reach the newly-marked trailhead for the Drywood Creek recreation area in Castle Provincial Park. Not surprisingly, we have the parking lot to ourselves.

My hunch: due to the -15C temperature and the sunless sky, most of the other would-be snowshoers decided to sleep in. It worked in our favour. In minutes, we had our snowshoes strapped on and were blasting through unblemished pow along a gorgeous creekbed, the ragged mountains of the Castle region looming all around.

Understatement of the year: the newly minted Castle Provincial Park (it was officially designated a provincial park in February 2017) is one of those special wilderness areas that is ripe for adventure and exploration. For people who want to avoid the crowds and revel in idyllic, unspoiled Alberta wilderness, it doesn't get any better. And the best place to use as your homebase for all of your adventures? Pincher Creek.

Check into Pincher Creek to start planning your trip's activities.

Situated approximately two-and-a-half hours south of Calgary (40 minutes north of Waterton Lakes National Park), the historic town of Pincher Creek, population 3,642, is on the Castle's doorstep. In less than half an hour from the historic downtown, you can be pouncing through the powder in numerous scenic locations in Castle Provincial Park (or neighbouring Castle Wildland Provincial Park).

Pincher Creek, which is home to a handful of cozy motels and hotels (I stayed at the clean and contemporary Heritage Inn, which boasts a new pool area and 12-person hot tub that's ideal after a ski), is also within easy driving distance of other nearby activities such as Castle Mountain Ski Resort, Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, and of course, Waterton Lakes National Park.

Additional attractions such as Frank Slide Interpretive Centre in the Crowsnest Pass, the Remington Carriage Museum in nearby Cardston, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site are all within an hour of Pincher Creek.

My three-day tour of the area included a trip to Castle Mountain Ski Resort (an unpretentious powder playground that features some of the steepest, most unrelenting fall-lines in North America), a snowshoeing adventure in Castle Provincial Park and a memorable morning of cross-country skiing at the Pincher Creek Golf Course.

Photographer
Andrew Penner

Pincher Creek flies somewhat under the radar when most Albertans plan their next mountain getaway,” says Heather Davis, the owner of Uplift Adventures and my snowshoeing guide for my adventure in the remote Drywood Creek area of Castle Provincial Park. “You won't find sprawling resorts and thousands of tourists. But the people who come here aren't seeking that. They want adventure and authenticity. They want to explore trails and embark on activities that get them into the unspoiled backcountry and wilderness areas, where they can truly 'get away from it all.'”

Pincher Creek
Photographer
Andrew Penner

Case in point: the Drywood Creek Valley, where nobody appeared to have ventured for days before our arrival. (Of course, a busy day here might be three cars in the parking lot) With no tracks around, we descended into the pure-white confines of the creek and put on our explorer's hats. It was a blissful little journey that got our heart-rates going and made for excellent photo-ops. In a couple of hours, we were back at the charming Beaver Mines General Store chowing down on the best meatloaf burger I've ever had. And, not only was it delicious (this store is a must stop), it provided the necessary fuel for plenty of powder turns at the Castle Mountain Resort in the afternoon.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast at Heritage Inn, I met Rhonda Oczkowski, the Recreation Office administrator for Pincher Creek, at the Pincher Creek Golf Club. Of course, with the temperature hovering around -14C and a foot of fresh snow, the majority of golfers were long gone. The ones that were around were either crying in the clubhouse or putting on their cross-country skis. I joined the latter group and had a giddy little glide around the pretty 9-hole course on freshly-waxed Nordic skis.

Afterwards, our crew (skiers Susan and Scott Gerber joined us), went for a delicious lunch at The Grill in downtown Pincher Creek, which is located in a historic hotel.

“We're right on the Rockies’ doorstep in a beautiful natural setting,” says Oczkowski. “And whether it's fly-fishing or hiking in summer or skiing or snow-shoeing in winter, it's all here in Pincher Creek.” Minus the crowds, of course!

When You Go

This article is part of our #BucketlistAB campaign – allowing you to string together an assortment of destinations across Alberta’s south for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Start here www.BucketlistAB.ca and be sure to use the tag #BucketlistAB and let us know how the travels are going!

Get the most out of your trip to Pincher Creek by following along with this great itinerary.

Snowshoe and cross country ski rentals are available at the Pincher Creek Library. Learn more here.

Check into Pincher Creek to start planning your trip's activities.

Travel Alberta also has lots of great information about things to do and places to see in Southern Alberta.

Community
Pincher Creek
Region
Interior Alberta
Province
Alberta