The area is made up of small towns and rural landscapes stretching from prairie plateaus in the east to foothills in the west and includes the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The territory covered by the Prairies to Peaks tourism association is a large rural area centred on Olds, Alberta which encompasses a population of 31,000 scattered across just over 5,500 km² (a bit smaller than Prince Edward Island). This area includes:
- Eastern Rocky Mountains: A remote back-country with waterfalls, inland lakes, larger white-water rivers, and creeks. They are divided into 2 sections: "Big Horn Back Country" and "Ghost Area". Its lower elevations support the largest herds of wild horses in Alberta as well as more common species such as mountain sheep, elk, moose, deer, cougars, and bears. There are no towns or villages. There is a small seasonal population of rangers, lodge and tourism service staff, oilfield workers, and loggers.
- Foothills: Traditional ranching country and moderately forested. They are a northern extension of the Kananaskis foothills that lead to Banff and Canmore. Many of the roads through this area were placed on older established foot or horse paths, such as the historic Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22), easily one of Alberta's most scenic roads.
- Parkland: Alberta's boreal and aspen parkland run in north-south strips across the province. Parkland is mainly rolling green hills, pastures, and large sections of mixed forest. P2P's parkland was heavily affected by volcanic ash from Mount St Helen's eruptions, creating an amazingly fertile area. Much of the original forest, however, was destroyed by fires and buffalo stampedes centuries ago. The low coulees and high plateaus have been reforested by area ranchers and farmers. All of the adjacent prairie towns lay on the border between the parkland and prairies.
- Prairies: Rural farms, small and medium towns lay along or near Alberta's busiest highway corridor between the cities of Calgary (south) and Red Deer (north) The prairie towns grew up in the late 1800s around stations of the Calgary-Edmonton Railway. The first residents came as homesteaders and opened businesses around the stations to cash in on travellers passing through. The railway still runs through the centre of each town and is surrounded entirely by ranches and farms, raising flowers, grains, buffalo, elk, sheep, horses, cows, and chickens.
Towns and villages
- 1 Bowden: the smallest town in the Prairies to Peaks Region, and located in neighbouring Red Deer County, it was once a bustling boomtown, headed for city status until its main commercial centre was completely gutted by fires in the early 1900s. Today the town sits just off of Hwy 2 and preserves it's past with a museum that, among other things, features displays on key women in pioneer history and musical instruments of the early 1900s.
- 2 Carstairs: a smaller town backing onto Alberta wetlands and a waterfowl preserve. It is surrounded with lush green hills housing horse ranches and commercial cowboy supply stores. Carstairs is home to the annual Mountain View Music Fest, a three day, town-wide music fest.
- 3 Cremona: in spite of its size, (pop 463), you simply can't miss the village; the highway speed limit abruptly changes from 100 km/h to 30 km/h (going downhill with very little warning). It has a single main street, 5 or 6 shops, a gas station and 3 hotels.
- 4 Didsbury: the 2nd largest town in the region, is on a plateau peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the wide Rosebud River Valley (a seasonal stream). It's quaint, brick main street has many artisan shops and galleries. Each winter, Didsbury hosts a mushers competition - a 2-day dogsled race through the valley.
- 5 Olds: the largest town and the main commercial centre. The Olds Uptowne & East Village are undergoing historical renovations to revert the buildings back to their original 1900s appearances. Olds College is a living laboratory for agriculture and animal husbandry. It houses botanical gardens featuring unique prairie and parkland flora. The town also has a cutting edge business & technology centre (1 of only 2 in western Canada), a performing arts theatre, and massive health & wellness facility.
- 6 Sundre: a resort town on the Red Deer River, established by cowboys, rangers and a Norwegian postman. In the summer its small population of 2,500 is joined by a constant stream of campers, hikers, "just-out-of-college" back-packers, cowboys, golfers, art lovers, and international tourists. Its commercial centre is the 2nd largest in the region and it is just possible that there are more stores, coffee shops and services than residents.
There are also a few tiny hamlets:
- 1 Bergen: set off the highway with directional signage to "Beautiful Downtown Bergen". This "downtown" is a single building acting as a general store, ice-cream shop, post-office, museum, and library. Bergen is home of the Bergen Rocks International Sculpture Symposium.
- 2 Eagle Hill: set on a plateau towering over the coulees below was a viewing spot for eagles. Today it houses a small co-op that carries everything from band aids and jelly beans to fertilizer and tractor parts.
- 3 Bearberry: along the James River, a traditional pioneer-style general store. The James River Ranger Station from early 1900s was moved to Bearberry and opened as museum, artisan shop and gallery. Bearberry Community Hall has campgrounds and can be rented for group events.
- Neopolis: on the east side of Hwy 2, has a museum with the largest private collection of Budweiser memorabilia in the world.
- 4 Water Valley: looks and feels like the wild-west from a century ago with wood-fronted shops, a saloon and roadhouse. Water Valley is well known for its summer "high end" camping and golfing and holds an annual Celtic Music and Poetry festival.
- 5 Westward Ho: is a valley hamlet east of Sundre and along the Little Red Deer River; a general store serves its year-round campground and recreational area.
While English is the main language of communication in Alberta, in the town of Olds one may sometimes hear Tagalog spoken on the streets, in restaurants and local businesses.
- WestJet. YYC is both the home and hub for Canada's main discount airline.
- Air Canada. The national carrier uses Calgary as a hub.
- British Airways. Daily flights to London Heathrow.
Smaller municipal airports outside of Sundre and Olds-Didsbury serve general aviation but have no scheduled passenger service.
To get to the Foothills and Mountains, take Hwy 1 from Calgary or Banff to Cochrane and continue north on Hwy 22, into the foothills. There are 3 access points to the mountains, west of Water Valley, west of Sundre, and northwest of Bearberry.
Access to Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, and Bowden is via Hwy 2 (QEII), north of Calgary International Airport. It is a 40-minute drive from Calgary to Carstairs and 1½ hours to Bowden. Exits from Hwy 2 are clearly marked and easily accessible.
There are several east-west crossings connecting the parkland and prairies to the foothills. The largest is Hwy 27, which runs from Olds to Sundre.
Maps of the area are available at all travel information centres in Alberta and the Calgary International Airport.
Greyhound Canada terminated all services in Western Canada and Northern Ontario effective October 31, 2018.
- Greyhound Canada buses from Calgary and Red Deer stop in Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, and Bowden. There is no public transportation to Sundre or Cremona and no buses between the towns.
Taxi services are available in Carstairs, Didsbury and Olds. Limousine services are available in Olds.
- Bergen International Sculpture Garden. A forested garden displaying stone sculptures (6 to 12 feet high) created each summer by artists from around the world. The collection represents India, Cuba, Kenya, Vietnam (3), Thailand, Armenia, Ireland (2), and Canada.
- The Bud Barn. The world's largest (and only) museum collection of Budweiser beer memorabilia, from the 19th century to yesterday. The Bud Barn is a family-oriented museum on a farm with hay-rides, horses, and event facilities.
- Pioneer Museums. From wild-west rangers to union loyalists, each museum chronicles the early pioneer history of a town and its surrounding area. Pioneer museums are in Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, Sundre, Bowden and Innisfail.
- Otter Pottery. Exhibit gallery of barrel-fired pottery by Sundre Artist David Todd, who uses a primitive firing pit and glazes made from the ash of local trees.
- Wild Horses. Herds of wild horses inhabit the fields and slopes of the lower Rocky Mountains. Best viewing is early spring and summer.
- Bergen Rocks Sculpture Symposium. A month-long (July or August) summer event featuring world-class sculptors from different nations. The artists have 30 days to transform thousands of tons of sandstone, granite, and marble into monumental artworks. Every artist creates a sculpture that represents his nation's culture. An on-site gallery features classic and modern art works from Canadian artists, including first nations artists and artisans.
- Mountain View Music Fest. A 3-day annual concert, in the 2nd week of August, in Carstairs, featuring an eclectic mix of Alberta's musical talent (country western, pop, jazz, alternative), mobile art galleries, and artisanal markets. Its atmosphere is akin to "Woodstock meets town fair with family values".
- Rosebud Run Sled Dog Classic. A 2-day event in January or February. Mushers from across the continent compete with sleds and sled dogs in an obstacle-laden course in Didsbury's Rosebud Valley.
- Summer Rodeos. Rodeos and festivals take place in the summer throughout the region.
- Water Valley Celtic Festival. A 2-day event in May featuring Celtic music groups and poetry readings.
- Eagle Creek Flowers. U-pick flowers and farm fresh vegetables.
- Solstice Berry Farm. U-pick Saskatoon berry farm.
- 1 Pasu Farms (a short distance from the Queen Elizabeth Highway (Highway #2), off Secondary Highway 580 - watch for signs on Highway 2), ☏ , toll-free: . Tu-Sa the grill is on noon-2PM, light lunches and desserts 2PM-4PM; Sunday lunch buffet noon-1PM, afternoon tea 2PM-4PM. A working sheep farm with a gourmet restaurant that is known as one of the best eating establishments between Calgary and Edmonton. The restaurant is open during meal times and holds events such as dinner theatre and themed-food nights throughout the year. Reservations required.
- Grouchy Daddy's, 5038 46 St, Olds, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 11AM-11PM. Burgers, pizzas, pastas, etc. Mains $13-23.
- The Pit BBQ, 870-6700 46 St, Olds, ☏ . Tu-Su 11AM-8PM. Barbecue, brisket, pulled pork and chicken, ribs. Mains $14.
- Siesta Motel, 5218 46 St., Olds, ☏ . Clean, simple motel. Free WiFi is and parking. Every room has a flat-screen TV. Some rooms feature a sitting area. You will find a coffee machine in the room. The rooms have a private bathroom. From $79.
- Circle 5 Motel, 4513 52 Ave #17, Olds, ☏ . Budget motel offering simple rooms with cooking facilities, free WiFi & parking. From $78.
- Didsbury Country Inn, 1714 20 Ave, Didsbury, ☏ . From $75.
Bears & cougars: The mountains and foothills are bear country and home to the cougar. Understanding wildlife and how they interact with people is key to remaining safe. Bear Smart information is available on the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development website , which also recommends walking in groups of 3 or more, sealing food and removing all trash from any site you visit.
Wild Horses travel in herds dominated by a single male who can become aggressive when threatened. View these noble creatures from a distance.
Moose large wild animals that can cause injury by charging. They are common throughout the region and can be seen on the roadways and even walking down the centre of towns or in parks.
Driving and wildlife Deer and moose frequently cross roads and highways, presenting dangers to drivers. If you see wildlife from any distance, near or on a road way, slow down and be prepared to stop suddenly. They are most difficult to spot at night.
Temperatures in summer range from 18-32°C with strong sunlight. Winter temperatures range from 0°C to -40°C. Very low humidity makes it possible (even pleasant) to insulate yourself from the winter cold with layers of warm clothing.
Hospitals are in Sundre, Didsbury, and Olds.
|Routes through Mountain View County|
|Edmonton ← Red Deer ←||N S||→ Airdrie → Calgary|
|Rocky Mountain House ← Caroline ←||N S||→ Cochrane → Turner Valley & Black Diamond|