Download GPX file for this article
49.6325-114.6925Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Crowsnest Pass

Crowsnest Pass is in Southern Alberta, Canada. Gateway to the southern Alberta and some of the last untouched beauty of the Canadian Rockies. It is on the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3).

The municipality of 5,500 people (2016) resulted from a legal amalgamation of five towns (from east to west): 1 Bellevue Bellevue, Alberta on Wikipedia, 2 Hillcrest Hillcrest, Alberta on Wikipedia, 3 Frank Frank, Alberta on Wikipedia, 4 Blairmore Blairmore, Alberta on Wikipedia, and 5 Coleman Coleman, Alberta on Wikipedia, in 1979. Blairmore and Coleman are the largest towns; Frank is the smallest. Within its boundaries are also the former communities (abandoned, or much reduced) of 1 Lille Lille, Alberta on Wikipedia, 2 Passburg, 3 Sentinel (Sentry), and 4 Crowsnest.


Map of Crowsnest Pass

The Crowsnest Pass area on both sides of the provincial boundary is rich in coal deposits, which were quickly developed after completion of the rail line. All the mines on the Alberta side were closed by the end of the 20th century as cheaper and safer open-pit mines opened on the British Columbia side of the pass. Some logging and oil and gas exploitation also occur in the area and a sulphur plant has been in operation there for several years.

Tourism based on the natural and historical resources of the area remains underdeveloped but is slowly growing.


Before the arrival of Europeans, Aboriginal people used this major breach through the Front Ranges for seasonal migrations, and also for trade between mountain and plains cultures.

Crowsnest Lake, near the summit of the Crowsnest Pass, looking east toward Crowsnest Mountain.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built the Crowsnest Route line from Lethbridge, Alberta, to Kootenay Landing, British Columbia, through the Crowsnest Pass between 1897 and 1898. This line was built primarily to access mineral-rich southeastern BC via an all-Canadian rail route, and to assert Canadian (and CPR) sovereignty in an area into which U.S. railroads were beginning to build. It also opened up coal deposits in the Crowsnest and Elk River valleys which were important to mineral smelting operations and assisted the CPR in its conversion of locomotives from wood to coal. The CPR sought and received construction funding from the federal government, partially in exchange for a freight subsidy on prairie farm exports and equipment imports which came to be called the "Crow's Nest Pass Agreement".

The first motor vehicle to cross the Canadian Rockies did so via Phillipps Pass, about 1 km north of Crowsnest Pass, and in 1917 a road was blasted around the shores of Crowsnest Lake and across Crowsnest Pass, renamed Interprovincial Highway Three in 1932. It is also known as the Crowsnest Highway.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

The easiest way to get there is by car, from either the east or west on Highway 3 or from the north on the undeveloped Highway 940 (this route is quite hard on the suspension and is only advised in a 4x4 or SUV).

The Crowsnest Pass is 269 km (about 2½ hours by car) southwest of Calgary, 70 km east of Fernie or 140 km west of Lethbridge. If travelling from Calgary it is well worth taking the picturesque Highway 22 via Black Diamond and Longview, which follows part of the Cowboy Trail.

By bus[edit]

CNP Shuttle (+1 403-564-4911) offers a private hire mini-bus service between Calgary/Lethbridge and the Crowsnest Pass.

During ski session it is possible to get a chartered ski bus from Calgary airport and arranged to be dropped off en route, you will probably have to travel to Fernie to catch the return journey.

Get around[edit]

Once 'in town' public transport is limited. There is a taxi (yes, one single one) and a 'Town Rounder' bus service.

If staying in or near Blairmore most amenities are within walking distance.


  • Leitch Colleries. An interpretive display at Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site, the ruins of a historic coal mine.
Leich Colleries Provincial Historic Site
  • Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
  • Bellevue Mine Provincial Historic Site. underground tours
  • Crowsnest Museum (in downtown Coleman). Pamphlets for self-guided historical driving tours of the municipality are also available.


The main attraction of the Crowsnest Pass is its pristine wildness, which is highly accessible from any of the towns.

There are a lot of trails and backcountry roads, which are well signed and popular with walkers, cyclists and ATV/quad riders. During the winter cross country skiing, snow-shoeing and snow-mobiling take over as the wildness 'escapes'.

The area offers hiking and fishing in the summer, and in winter snowmobiling, a groomed cross-country ski area, and is about 70 km (43 mi) from major ski hills at Fernie Alpine Resort and at Castle Mountain Resort. There is a small ski-hill located in Blairmore, which is more of a beginner's slope.

There is a small single screen cinema on the main street in Blairmore (map) and a bowling alley underneath the Legion on 129th Street (map).

During the summer months there is an outdoor swimming pool on 121th Street (map), with changing and shower facilities open to hikers and walkers for a small fee.

The area hosts the world-class Sinister 7 Ultra Marathon, a 161-kilometre foot race that winds through the mountains around the community.


  • The Gifted Crow, 13149 20 Avenue, Blairmore, +1 403-562-7230. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. Antiques, gift shops, home decor.
  • Crockets Trading Company, 2701 - 226 Street, Bellevue, +1 403 564-4389. Rocky Mountain souvenirs and keepsakes: maple syrup, candles, wildlife animal tracks, clothing, RCMP memorabilia, books, stationary, and active wear.


  • Cinnamon Bear Bakery and Cafe, 8342 20 Avenue, Coleman, +1 403-562-2443. M Th-Sa 7:30AM-5PM, Su 10AM-5PM. Soups, sandwiches, bakery.
  • Chris' Restaurant, 7802 17 Avenue, Coleman, +1 403-563-3093. Tu-Su 8AM–8:45PM. Classic diner food.
  • Stone's Throw Cafe, 13019 20th Ave., Blairmore, +1 403-562-2230. M-Sa 8AM–4PM, Su 10AM–4PM. Breakfast, soups, sandwiches, wraps.
  • 51 RT Restaurant, 12337 20 Avenue, Blairmore, +1 403-753-2000. M-Sa 11AM-8:30PM. Chinese food.


  • The Rumrunner, 7902 20 Ave, Hwy 3, Coleman, +1 403-562-7552. M-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th 1PM–10PM, F-Su 6:30AM-11PM. Pub and restaurant.


  • Country Encounters, 7701 17th Ave, Coleman, toll-free: +1-866-500-4938. On-site restaurant, free breakfast and wireless Internet access. Barbecue grills and some free parking. A smoke-free property. Choice of self-catering in a quaint guest house, or B&B in a historic main street building. 3-course dinner in the restaurant: $25. Will prepare picnic lunches. From $105 B&B.
  • SpringBreak Flower Farm bed and breakfast, 1606 East Hillcrest Drive, Bellevue, toll-free: +1 844-378-4769 (ext. 700), . Free WiFi, private parking. Gourmet breakfasts are prepared from scratch and they're happy to accommodate any special dietary needs. From $145.
  • [formerly dead link] Highwood Motel, 11373 20 Avenue, Blairmore, toll-free: +1-866-500-4938. Rooms with King beds or 2 Queen beds. Microwave, fridge and hair dryers are standards in all rooms. Free breakfast. From $95.
  • The Kanata by BCMInns Blairmore, 11217 21st Avenue, Blairmore, +1 403-562-8851, toll-free: +1-866-500-4938. A variety of suites including fully equipped kitchenettes, one bedroom suites, a 2-storey family suite, and a Jacuzzi room. Dedicated Wi-fi and HD TV. Hot continental breakfast is included. From $150.


Go next[edit]

Routes through Crowsnest Pass
CranbrookFernie  W Crowsnest Highway E  → Jct Alberta Highway 22.svg NPincher CreekLethbridge

This city travel guide to Crowsnest Pass is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.