Don’t be fooled by the name. Rocky Mountain House isn’t a house – it’s actually a town in central Alberta. Back in the early days of Canada’s history, this was the centre of the fur trade. The North Saskatchewan River was the highway of the day along which trappers, traders and indigenous people travelled.
The scenery is knockout, the stories of olden days as gripping as any TV soap and the fishing, trekking and kayaking in Clearwater County are inspiring. It’s in the heartland of Canada, about 2.5 hours north of Calgary and Banff, and two hours south of Edmonton.
The Wild West
Brush up on the wild west at Rocky Mountain House historic site. There’s a museum, interactive technology and guides to tell the story of the fur traders and trappers.
If you’re lucky you’ll see a blacksmith at work, watch how the first nations people beaded their clothes or made dream catchers and learn how hats were made and why the poor hatters went mad (it was the toxic glue they used).
Don’t miss the herd of bison in the park – they’re impressive creatures.
Abraham Lake (about an hour’s drive) is eerily beautiful in summer but winter is when most people choose to visit. When the lake freezes over, you can see the most amazing bubbles trapped underneath the ice.
Photographers have been flocking here for the past decade and social media has helped spread the world.
The bubbles are actually methane gas (formed by decaying plants on the bottom of the lake) that gets frozen when winter sets in. A photographer’s dream.
The original hoop dance
When the sun’s going down and the drums are beating, there’s nothing more mesmerising than a hoop dance. This incredibly skilled aboriginal performance involves dancing with as many as 30 hoops.
Watching someone like Shawn Beaver-Hawmen work his magic is very special at Rocky Mountain House national historic site. And it’s hard to resist joining in Pam Piche’s red river jig.
She tells fascinating stories of how the Metis people (descendants of First Nations women and European men) developed their own culture, language and dance.
There’s lots to see and do around Rocky Mountain House. Bring your fishing rod as this is an angler’s paradise with many streams and lakes to choose from (try Crimson Lake).
In winter, believe it or not, ice fishing is popular. Kayaking down the North Saskatchewan River is a great way to see the countryside.
There are lots of trails for hikers and bikers (just remember you’re in bear country so stay bear smart).
Chuckwagon races are held every August – after all Calgary, known for its stampede, is only 200km south.
Discover Rocky Mountain House
Just a 12-minute drive from town is the lovely Prairie Creek Inn, a luxury B&B with surprisingly good food. Hearthstone Restaurant (open to the public) focuses on local produce and is known for its indulgent two-course breakfast (think frittatas, soufflé or apple pancakes). Run by the helpful Terri Cameron, the 10 suites and five cabins are nicely furnished and surrounded by 20 hectares of forests and countryside so it’s the perfect getaway.
Exploring the Rocky Mountains
Find out more about Rocky Mountain House and visit the Rocky Mountains in Alberta for amazing scenery. There are several ways to explore the Rocky Mountains, including on the Rocky Mountaineer train journey and a helihiking adventure.
Here are more unique places to stay in Alberta.