Sign up

Plan a scenic autumn drive through South Kananaskis and the Foothills


The weekend’s here, it’s a beautiful day, and the mountains are calling! Round up the crew and head out for a scenic loop drive through South Kananaskis and the Foothills.

This tour starts on the TransCanada Highway heading west from Calgary. You’ll leave the main highway, turning south, when you reach Highway 40 (approximately 45 minutes from west Calgary).

If coffee and Timbits are calling your name, stop at the Tim Hortons located beside the Stoney Nakoda Resort & Casino at the junction with Highway 40. Otherwise, head south, where Kananaskis Village will be your first big stop for refreshments, snacks, or lunch.

En route to the Village you’ll pass by Barrier Lake, which is a beautiful spot for photos. Children will also enjoy playing along the lakeshore where there is often a fairly large sandy/rocky beach area.


Kananaskis Village

You’ll reach the turnoff for Kananaskis Village approximately 20 minutes after turning onto Highway 40 (if you don’t stop). Here, we like to go inside the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge Resort where there’s a lovely coffee shop which also sells grab-and-go lunch items.

While at the Village, I recommend taking a stroll around the paved Village Rim Trail, stopping to visit the playground, and purchasing ice cream inside the Village Centre building.

If your family would rather have a picnic lunch, you’ll find beautiful day-use areas nearby at either Mt. Lorette Ponds (just off the highway between Barrier Lake and the Village) or at Wedge Pond (a few minutes south past the Village turnoff).  Both areas have fire pits, picnic tables, and simple pit toilets. 

Note: Check for fire bans before planning to have a fire. It’s usually better to bring your own portable grill.


Highwood Pass

If you’re still keen to keep driving, continue south until you come to the junction with the Kananaskis Lakes. Stay on Highway 40, continuing south towards Highwood Pass. This is the highest paved pass in Canada and the highway closes on December 1 every year just past the junction for the lakes.

The drive over Highwood Pass is incredibly scenic, and you can stop to take a short stroll along the Highwood Meadows Interpretive Trail from the parking lot at the top of the pass. The trail is 1km return with no height gain. It is not paved, but the trail is packed gravel for easy walking.

Note: Winter comes early to the Highwood Pass area of Kananaskis, and chances are high you’ll be able to have a snowball fight by mid to late October while you walk along the Highwood Meadows Trail. Mittens, hats, and warm coats are recommended if you plan to stop here.


Cat Creek Day-Use Area

If you didn’t stop for a walk at Highwood Pass, I recommend hopping out of the car for a short hike to the Cat Creek waterfall, 20 minutes south after driving over the pass. Park at the Cat Creek Day-Use Area, cross the highway, and follow the short trail along the creek to the scenic waterfall. The 2.5km round trip hike is easy for young children, but good footwear is still recommended along with warm clothing for an hour spent outside. Bear spray should also come on all hikes in Kananaskis.


Returning to Calgary via Longview, Diamond Valley and Bragg Creek

Highway 40 ends five minutes south of the Cat Creek trailhead at Highwood Junction. Continue straight on Highway 541 heading northeast for the village of Longview. It should take about 30 minutes to reach the village.

In Longview, we often stop at The Sugar Shack for ice cream, or there’s the Little Apple Café and Bakeshop where you’ll find decadent treats, homemade lemonade, and a good cup of coffee.

From Longview, you’ll turn north onto Highway 22 for Diamond Valley (formerly Black Diamond and Turner Valley), a short 12-minute drive.

There is no shortage of restaurants and coffee shops in Diamond Valley, but by now, dinner could be approaching if you’ve been driving all day with lots of stops along the way. I recommend visiting Granny’s Pizza in West Diamond Valley where they’ve been serving great food for 45 years!

Head northwest on Highway 22 from Diamond Valley and you’ll end up in Bragg Creek for your final stop in about 40 minutes. If you didn’t stop for food earlier, we like the pizza at the Mountain Bistro & Pizzeria in the plaza off Balsam Avenue. It’s conveniently located next to the Frontier Candy & Ice-Cream for dessert afterwards.

Leave Bragg Creek by continuing north on Highway 22, and then return home via the TransCanada Highway or Highway 8 if you live in south Calgary.

Know before you go:

This full loop is approximately 300km, starting and ending from West Calgary. It can be shortened by returning directly from Kananaskis Village. Families living in north Calgary can also choose to return the same way after reaching Highwood Pass, skipping the loop to shorten the distance by about 50km.

A shorter option for families living in south Calgary would be to complete the drive in reverse, returning the same way after reaching Cat Creek.

Make sure you fill your gas tank as you leave the city. If you find yourself needing to top up the tank, you can always make an emergency stop at the Fortress Gas Station 20 minutes south of Kananaskis Village.

Finally, don’t forget to purchase your Kananaskis Conservation Pass at before you get on the road. You must pay and register your license plate if you want to stop at any of the parking lots in Kananaskis, including the Village.


Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky seven-year-old. She loves hiking, camping, skiing and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies,


See our related articles:


Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2024 Calgary’s Child