As you all know by now, I am obsessed with riding motorcycle’s around the world. Canada, my home, happens to have some of the best motorcycle treks in the world. Near my home in Okotoks is a secret corner of Kananaskis Country that I often don’t write about as the flocks of tourists have not made it to this slice of paradise. This is a trip for those with motorcycles, for those who love the outdoors. If you are of the Instagram selfie-taking kind, mark my words this area is not for you and stay away as the wildlife here have been known to have a taste for insta-tourists. If you dawn a motorcycle and yearn for unspoiled Canadian Wilderness! My friends, this is a trip you will come to do multiple times a year.
Okotoks and the Big Rock – Gateway to Kananaskis
The first stage of the journey whether you start in Calgary or the area is Okotoks, the gateway to Sheep River. Here is the home of the big rock also known as “Okotoks Erratic”. It’s a cheesy stop, but obligatory and if you choose not to stop and do not have a phone pic of your bike with the rock then it is equivalent to not getting your passport stamped when you enter a country.
Stop at the rock, walk around the rock, and enjoy one of Alberta’s larger-than-life weird sights. From here the views get extraordinary, every hill reveals more dramatic views over the Rock Mountains and Kananaskis. You will pass through Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Here is a great lunch spot, I recommend the Westwood in Black Diamond, it serves up local beer, high-quality sandwiches, and some dam good burgers. Oh, they have that vegan shit if you are into that as well. Stock up here on water and snacks as it is the last spot you will find anything!
Sheep River Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country
Once you pass through the Sheep River Gates you will notice something that most do not see even in Banff National Park, wildlife. Honestly, I have traveled across the Canadian Rockies and Kananaskis but in Sheep River Provincial Park you see a rich abundance of wildlife incomparable to most of the regular stops in the Canadian Rockies. On one motorbike trip, I saw a Bear with two cubs, bighorn sheep, and a moose.
There are many Texas gates (cattle gates) and often wildlife on the road at this point, it’s best you keep it slow, not to mention the roads get very curvy with blind corners! Right past the entrance sign you will find the Sandy Mcnab campground. It is a beautiful spot to fly fish and has great river views. Stop here and have a quick break.
The first viewpoint is unlabelled, but it is a gravel pullout on your left with an epic view about ten minutes past the entrance sign. So, it’s hard to miss. There are short walking trails into the Kananaskis birch forests and further down you will find the Sheep River.
Big Horn Lookout and Hidden Valley’s in Kananaskis
The next stop is the signed “Big Horn Lookout”, it is a quick gravel pull out to your left and trust me, this one is worth a stop. Here you walk through a birch forest until it opens into an amphitheater of mountains peaks and windy grassy plains dropping down to a dramatic river cliff. Depending on the time of year you visit, the valley is often filled with wildflowers. The next five or so kilometers are filled with countless stops, none of which are signed, and you are subject to find them yourself. It is not hard, just look around you as you glide past valleys filled to the brim with wildflowers and dramatic cliffs!
Be careful with pulling over, as the road shoulders sometimes do not provide enough room to stop, not to mention many corners are a steep drop into the forest below.
Sheep River Falls and the End of the Road
Follow the road for the next thirty minutes and you will see multiple signs for Sheep River Falls on your left. This is the park’s most famous sight. From the parking lot follow the dirt path heading west. It will take you up to the top of the falls in which both sides cascade into emerald, blue pools with stunning mountainous backdrops. This is where you will want to relax and take a good portion of your day to explore.
A short five minutes past the falls is the end of the road. If you are planning on camping you can find the Bluerock Campground and I highly recommend this as an option. If not, the area has plenty of walking trails, but many require several hours to complete. There are also picnic tables if you planned and brought food… and beer of course.
Texas BBQ in Okotoks
You have obtained your Big Rock selfie, rode across Sheep River Park, and enjoyed a beer at the waterfall. On the journey back be sure to watch for more wildlife, but alas! There is one more stop for you to make and that my friend is the home of juicy, heavy on the smoke, giant plates of heavenly meat, Big Sky BBQ.
A classic stop on Kananaskis country loop, day-tripping, wannabe like motorcyclists. Big Sky BBQ pit often sees hundreds of motorcycles in its “Motorcycle Only” parking lot (there is room for cars in the other lot).
Even if you drive a moped, do not have tattoos or a white beard you will still feel as though you
have joined the motorcycle cult here. Grab a beer and a giant pile of meat, this is where motorcyclists go when they die!
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