Additional trip planning resources
Start your trip planning by visiting the official Cowboy Trail and Travel Alberta websites, where you'll find detailed maps and information on the area's attractions, accommodations, ranch and farm stays, dinning, and activities.
Calgary, Alberta's biggest city, is the logical starting point for exploring the Cowboy Trail, and is easy to fly to from most major U.S. airports. To find the lowest prices for your route, you can compare airfares from multiple sources at BookingBuddy.com, a sister site of SmarterTravel.com.
The city itself is worth visiting , especially if you come in July when the city hosts the Calgary Stampede. The self-billed "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" features the most popular rodeo in Canada, chuck wagon races, country and western performers, and dozens of other western-themed events and exhibits.
Most summer visitors come to this part of Alberta in the warm, sunny months of July and August. Prices and crowding subsequently increase, and you must book months in advance and expect to pay even more if you're staying in or around Calgary during the Stampede. The weather is also warm in June and September, so you'll pay less and have many of the sights to yourself like I did. The locals told me that June is known for rainy spells, but when I visited it was mostly clear.
Back in my hotel in Calgary I packed for the trip home, rinsing the mud off my cowboy boots and dusting Maggie's dark chestnut hairs off my jeans. I turned on my laptop to clear out my work and personal email accounts—one less headache on Monday morning. As I started going through the emails, a wave of anxiety washed over me about all the tasks I had to complete once home. It wasn't until that moment that I realized just how relaxed I had been on the road, far from my cell phone, Wi-Fi, and all the other "innovations" of the 21st century.
I quickly logged out of my accounts and disabled the internet connection—it wasn't time to go back to the "real world" yet. Instead, I popped in the DVD copy of Brokeback Mountain I had brought along to see how much of scenery I recognized. After watching for while, I closed my eyes and went back to mountains with Maggie. Only this time I didn't worry about bears, but prayed that the alarm telling me it was time to go to the airport would keep silent until we made it back to the ranch.