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Just a short cruise down Alberta’s Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) is one of the most true blue Albertan experiences. If you’ve ever watched a Country Western movie and wondered where you might be able to get a true glimpse into authentic cowboy culture, keep reading.
Nestled along the gorgeous foothills of southern Alberta, Bar U Ranch National Historic sits as one of the coolest historic sites in the country. This preserved and functional ranch operated for 68 years as one of the largest and most productive ranching operations in Canada, at one time extending over 160,000 acres with 30,000 cattle and hundreds of horses.
Today, you’re able to live out any dreams of the Old West like the cowboys and outlaws that lived on the ranch over 100 years ago. Cattle, horses and other livestock still roam the grounds as active ranch hands ride around the open pastures laid out in front of the stunning Rocky Mountains. Visitors are able to learn cowboy skills like roping a steer, saddling a horse and making bannock bread with cowboy coffee over an open fire. Follow your nose into “The Belly of the Bar U” and watch the cook whip up hearty meals for the cowhands. While there are guided elements, visitors to the Ranch are welcome to dip in and out of stables, the post office, and cookhouse, or just wander the trails and dirt roads throughout the property.
What To Do
You can take a guided tour by horse-drawn wagon or foot. Explore the heritage buildings, watch ranching demonstrations such as roping, cattle handling, saddle making, leather making, black smithing, bannock bread making and more. If you’re after some exercise with a view, roam around the ranch’s vast terrain.
Where To Stay
Bar U Ranch National Historic site doesn’t offer overnight accommodation. There are a number of B&B’s, places to camp, and hotels in some of the ranch’s nearby communities such as High River, Pincher Creek, Longview, Okotoks, Black Diamond, and Turner Valley. Chain Lakes Provincial Park offers seasonal camping in the surrounding foothills just ten minutes south of the ranch. Finally, if you want to keep driving down Cowboy Trail, Alberta’s pristine Waterton Lakes National Park is less than two hours away.
Where To Eat
Bar U-Cafe, located at the cookhouse, prepares incredibly delicious traditional style ranch food such as homemade soups, chili’s, burgers, and salads. If you’re visiting with a group or are intending to have a private function at the ranch, catering is available.
Hours And Admission
Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is open from the middle of May to the end of September, seven days a week, from 10 am to 5 pm. It’s best to contact the administration office for the most accurate opening and closing dates.
Admission fees range from $3.90 for a child to $19.60 for an entire family.
Quick Facts About Bar-U Ranch National Historic Site
• While a fraction of its original size, the ranch still occupies 148.43 hectares.
• The Bar U is the only PC administered NHS in Canada that commemorates ranching.
• Nearest town: Longview, AB (population 300).
• Saddle horses, draft horses, and cattle still roam the range at large.
• The Foothills surrounding the range are still immensely prosperous and active agricultural lands.
• Features tons of wilderness viewing as the area is home to many deer, moose, elk, coyotes, wolves, cougars, black bears and grizzly bears.
• Nearby Pekisko Creek offers some great fly fishing opportunities.
• Open to the public from the middle of May through the end of September.
• Harry Longabaugh, the famous outlaw known as the Sundance Kid, called Bar U home for a stretch in 1891.
• Edward, The Prince of Wales visited Bar U in 1919 and was so impressed he purchased a neighbouring ranch.
Like this post? Check out Explore The Best Of Alberta This Winter In One Amazing Road Trip and Do You Dare Explore The Ghost Town Of Nordegg, Alberta?, too!