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The Foothills are the part of Central Alberta where the Rocky Mountains transition to the Great Plains. Running from northwest to southeast across much of Central Alberta, this region includes landscapes ranging from rugged in the west to gently rolling in the east. Despite being a rural and relatively undeveloped region, it is easily accessible from Alberta's three largest cities: Edmonton to the northeast, Red Deer to the east, and Calgary to the south.

Towns[edit]

Drayton Valley
  • 1 Edson − main town on the Yellowhead Highway between Edmonton and Jasper. Near Sundance and Obed Provincial Parks.
  • 2 Drayton Valley − mainly an industrial town, but also a starting place for entering the Pembina River and Brazeau River wilderness areas.
  • 3 Rocky Mountain House − more commonly called just "Rocky" by locals, this is the eastern anchor of David Thompson Country and also the site of a national historic site consisting of a reconstructed fur trading post and an eclosure for buffalo (bison)
  • 4 Sundre − small town of 2,700 that 8s a good base for outdoor tourism.
  • 5 Entwistle-Evansburg − small twin communities at the junction of Highway 16 & 22 on either side of the Pembina River Gorge.

Understand[edit]

Map of Foothills

Unlike in Wyoming, where the mountains suddenly spring up out of the plains, in Alberta there is a wide area of transition. As a landform, the Foothills are an elongated wedge, a bit like an icicle, extend along the eastern flank of the Rockies. The foothills-as-landform extend south into the Calgary Region and even into Southern Alberta, but there the transition from plains to mountains is much more abrupt. This guide covers the Foothills in Central Alberta, where the hills are wide enough to form a distinct region with its own character. There are also foothills in large parts of Northern British Columbia but without much a tourism infrastructure there unless you stick to the Alaska Highway.

This is region that mixes strict wildlife preserves, minimally-developed wildland parks, highly trafficked recreation areas, and even some industrial development.

Get in and get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

International flights are available to the Calgary and Edmonton airports.

By train[edit]

The closest full Via Rail service stops in Edmonton. The Canadian stops at the Edson and Evansburg railway stations three times per week in each direction as a flag stop

Itineraries[edit]

See[edit]

Rocky Mountain vistas.

The Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site contains the remains of several early 19th-century fur trade forts.

The Bergen International Sculpture Garden, south of Sundre, is a forested garden displaying stone sculptures (2–4 m high) created each summer by artists from around the world.

Herds of wild horses inhabit the fields and slopes of the lower Rocky Mountains. You can also see them at a rescue facility west of Sundre.

Do[edit]

Pembina River gorge

Ride horses, canoe, hike, drive off-road, fish, hunt, and generally enjoy outdoor life. Rocky Mountain House provides access to many trails for ATVs, mountain bikes and hikers. You can go tubing down the Pembina River Valley from Entwistle.

South of Sundre, the Painted Warriors Ranch teaches visitors about First Nation (Indigenous) culture, and there are several outfitters southwest of Sundre who can arrange trail rides on horseback.

The Pembina River Provincial Park, near the Pembina River Gorge, has cliffs as high as 62 metres, camping, and a wide variety of wildlife.

Stay safe[edit]

Know your limits when it comes to going into the backcountry, or travel with someone more experienced. And throughout this region always be bear aware!

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to Foothills is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.