Originating near Red Deer and running west through Rocky Mountain House to Nordegg and the Banff - Jasper Highway, this drive takes you through magnificently forested foothills and offers panoramic mountain vistas. It only takes two hours to reach Banff National Park from Rocky Mountain House, plan to take at least three hours to enjoy a few stops along the way.
Westbound from Rocky on Highway 11, these are the sights you'll see:
• Shunda Viewpoint: just 60 km from Rocky this viewpoint offers a breathtaking view of the front range of mountains and the North Saskatchewan River valley.
• Nordegg: reborn as Alberta's newest Hamlet, offers amenities to travelers and tours of the historic mine site. It is the hub for a wide range of recreational activities.
• Fish and Goldeye lakes nearby.
• Crescent Falls: about 15 km further west near the Bighorn Stoney Reserve, the falls are easily accessible, and offers spectacular perspectives of the deep Bighorn River Gorge.
• The Bighorn Dam: less than 10 km past Crescent falls turn off, is a Trans Alta Utilities power generation facility which holds back Alberta's biggest man-made reservoir, Abraham Lake. There are day-use facilities near the dam.
• Cline River: on the shores of Abraham Lake, offers a series of developments such as the David Thompson Resort, Aurum Lodge and Icefield Helicopter Tours.
• Kootenay Plains: an ecological gem. A well sheltered montane region, the area gets little snow attracting wintering herds of elk and mountain sheep. A large part of the area is a regulated ecological reserve.
• Siffleur Falls Trail: with a well marked parking lot and staging area on the Kootenay Plains, the trail offers an easy walk across a suspension bridge over the North Saskatchewan River to the falls.