Crowsnest Pass

Blairmore offers more than a history lesson

by Trina Ayling
View of Turtle Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
View of Turtle Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta — Photo courtesy Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce

Initially the site of a lonely CP Rail stop, the small town of Blairmore is the perfect home base for exploring the Crowsnest Pass–the high mountain pass traversing the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Situated on the border between the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, the Pass is also home to a series of small towns including Lundbreck, Hillcrest, Bellevue, Frank, Blairmore and Coleman.

With a distance of just over 30 kilometres (18 miles) between the five communities, this relatively small area is steeped in 19th century mining history, period buildings, museums and natural and mining disaster sites including the Leitch Collieries, Bellevue Mine, Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and Hillcrest Mine Disaster. For more information on these attractions, visit RVwest magazine.

Blairmore and Crowsnest Pass are also home to some of the most spectacular natural beauty in Western Canada. From its scenic peaks to its natural forests and pristine lakes, the area is perfect for year-round outdoor adventurists, photographers, artists and RVers looking for a nature getaway.

Sunset in Blairmore, Alberta
Sunset in Blairmore, Alberta — Photo courtesy Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce

One of the best ways to experience the history of these small communities while also enjoying the natural beauty of the area is to hike or bike the Crowsnest Community Trail. According to Brian Gallant, president of the Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce, this non-motorized route covers 23 kilometres (14 miles), linking most of the Crowsnest Pass area.

Star Creek near Blairmore, Alberta
Star Creek near Blairmore, Alberta — Photo courtesy Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce

“You are able to walk from the river in Hillcrest Mines, then grab an ice cream in Bellevue at the Old Dairy. From there, you continue west on a single-track dirt trail through the Frank Slide to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. After visiting this awe-inspiring site, you can walk into Blairmore and see some of the urban sites and enjoy a coffee.”

From Blairmore, the trail continues through beautiful wetlands into the community of Coleman and the historic Coleman mine site and to the Crowsnest River, one of Western Canada’s premier trout streams and a favourite of fly fishers. In the future, the trail is expected to extend to the Leitch Collieries. Visit the map of the community trail.

According to Gallant, the area is also home to some spectacular local lakes. “Allison Lake is a secluded little gem with a great campground," he said. "Nearby you will also find Emerald Lake, Crowsnest Lake, Island Lake, and Summit Lake. You can paddle from Crowsnest Lake into Emerald Lake and enjoy the views of the massive cliffs on Mt. Sentry.”

Tourist paddleboarding on Allison Lake
Brian, a tourist, is paddleboarding on Allison Lake. — Photo courtesy Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce

While there is plenty to see and do year-round, Gallant suggests planning your visit around a community event.

“Blairmore is host to several festivals and events throughout the year. There is a summer-long country market that runs on the weekends. We have an extra big market on August 1st as a part of the Doors Open and Heritage Festival.”

During the Heritage Festival, the Crowsnest community comes together to offer guided photography hikes, a country market and heritage building tours. During most years, an historic pub tour also occurs. This year’s festival runs from July 30 to August 3.

Other festivals include the Kananaskis Pro Rodeo in April, Bellecrest Days in June, Canada Day Celebrations in July, Alberta Culture Days in September, and Christmas in the Mountains in December.

For more information on what to see and do in and around Blairmore, visit the Chamber of Commerce website and download the Visitor’s Guide.

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