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Dancer at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Porcupine Hills

Trail History

The Porcupine Hills lie between Highway 2 and the Cowboy Trail and is one of the few unglaciated outlying hills in Alberta. The large Douglas Fir and Rough Fescue grasslands, make this a unique grazing environment and give this geological feature its name, with tall spiky trees on top of the ridges and soft grasses on the lower slopes.

Be sure to make some time to visit the World Heritage Site located at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The jump is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved sites in North America dating back 6,000 years.

It’s easy to imagine the thrill of the hunt as you stand on the edge of the jump. From here the vast open prairies fill the horizon to the east. If you’re up for the adventure, check out the overnight packages, complete with tipi accommodation, interpretive learning programs and the chance to dine on buffalo and bannock.
Canada’s strongest concentration of authentic ranch vacations can be found
in the Porcupine Hills and the hosts are delighted to share their family history and working knowledge of ranching with you. With so many attractions in the area you have lots of optional activities on your days off or just kick back and enjoy the scenery.

Did You Know?

It is still common to see cowboys trailing a herd of cattle along the roadside as they move from one grazing area to another. If you are lucky enough to run into one, good etiquette requires you to slow down and wait for one of the riders to tell you what to do. Get out your camera and enjoy the view! It is a sign that cowboy culture still lives on the Cowboy Trail and at one of our ranch vacations you could be riding alongside.

Did You Know?

Rough fescue grass played a big part in the establishment of the ranching industry in southern Alberta. A large tufted bunchgrass, it is very nutritious throughout the winter and throws down roots over a metre deep. Early ranchers banked on Chinooks to uncover fescue each winter to feed their cattle.

Around Town

Gateways to the Cowboy Trail - Fort Macleod, Claresholm and Nanton provide services to the Porcupine Hills and offer wonderful spots to eat, shop and explore.

The historic sandstone buildings on Main Street in Fort Macleod combined with the Fort Museum is an excellent tour that tells the story of the exploration and settlement of western Canada. Make sure to stop in a for a soda at the counter of the Silver Grill and see the bullet holes in the mirrored bar.

The Frontier Western Shop in Claresholm is the largest retailer of tack in Canada, shipping specialty items all over the world.

The Antique Walk in Nanton provides shoppers with a dozen curio shoppes and unique hand-made gifts from stores like the Willow Creek Forge and Gallery. Stop in for old fashioned candy treats and take a gander in the model train store.

Side Trails

You will want to check out the alternative loops and side trails that give great options to explore the Porcupine Hills and the upper Oldman valley.

Hwy #520 connects the Cowboy Trail to Claresholm on a gravel and paved road from the top of the hump down into town. From Chain Lakes, Hwy #533 heads over to Nanton along a winding paved road that offers wonderful views. Along the top of the ridge, the beautiful Skyline Road runs north to south with great options for off road rambles.

You can also head west up into the Rockies from Chain Lakes over Plateau Mountain into the Livingstone River valley which boasts some of the best eastslope cutthroat flyfishing in the world. Loop back to the Cowboy Trail south along the Oldman River and then east through the Gap, a narrow slice in the Livingstone Range.

Look for our Partner Logo at all participating venues in the Porcupine Hills.
  1. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre
    One of the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jump sites known to exist. Located 18 km north-west of Fort Macleod on Highway 785.

  2. Skyline Ranching & Outfitting
    Bed and breakfast, cabin rentals, trail riding, fishing, ranch activities, hiking, photography. Located in the Porcupine Hills W of Claresholm..
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