Alberta has been privileged and honoured to host the production of a huge number of films over the past four decades. While numerous areas throughout Alberta have been in the lens of movie, TV and commercial film locations, none come close to being as popular as sites along the Cowboy Trail. There are, in fact, too many to write about in one single article so listed below are a handful our readers may find interesting enough to visit, stay, photograph and perhaps, where available, pick up a souvenir or two.
The Cowboy Trail, beginning in Pincher Creek in the southwest, running north along Highway 22, culminates just north of Mayerthorpe. This 700-kilometre stretch of highway features some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes for filming opportunities in all of North America. As such, movie producers and location managers flock to the unique area to focus on realizing their visionary creations. Clint Eastwood once described filming opportunities in the area stating – “Within 100 miles, you can make it look like five different states.” This proclamation truly describes locations along the Cowboy Trail.
Numerous productions have had scenes filmed near the Cowboy Trail as far back as 1970 with “Little Big Man” starring Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway and Chief Dan George. “The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet” was filmed partially in Pincher Creek in 2013. When travelling through ‘Pincher’ stop in at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, which is open all year. The Village consists of over twenty-three historical buildings on the six-acre site. Along with over 18,000 artifacts, many other historical archives are accessible to the public as well.
Continuing north on the south leg of The Cowboy Trail you will arrive in Cowley, just north of Pincher Creek, where two well-known movies, “Getting Married in Buffalo Jump” (1990) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), were partially filmed.
The John Scott Ranch located forty five minutes southwest of Calgary at Longview, complete with its own western town, has seen productions like “Unforgiven” with Clint Eastwood and the western TV movie “Monte Walsh” with Tom Selleck. Current projects include “The Revenant” with Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Calgary Stampede,” “Diablo,” “Night At The Museum 3,” “Hell On Wheels” and “Heartland.” Other movies shot at the ranch include “Days Of Heaven,” “Little House On The Prairie,” “Legends Of The Fall,” “The Jack Bull,” “Shanghai Noon,” “The Virginian,” and “Crossfire Trail.” John Scott Productions also has horses, buffalo, longhorns and thousands of items for props and set decorations.
Longview and area is known for its cattle ranching history as well as the many famous and wellknown celebrities living in the area. The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site and the fabled OH Ranch are nearby as is country music legend Ian Tyson’s ranch. There are many interesting things to see and places to visit when in the area. Stop by and visit the Lost American Art Gallery and Museum when passing through. Visit http://www.thelostamericanartgallery.com to find their location and hours. The area also boasts several interesting choices to stay, RV camp and some great restaurants to enjoy a home cooked meal. For more information on the village and area go to
The majority of filming for the made for TV series “Heartland” occurs near Millarville, a little farther north along The Cowboy Trail. A 100-acre parcel of land near the hamlet serves as the series’ main ranch set, while ten kilometres away is the series’ dude ranch film set. While in the area, plan on attending the Millarville Farmer’s Market and Fair, which runs each Saturday morning through the summer months up to Thanksgiving weekend.
Just west of Calgary the CL Ranch has created a fully stocked rustic western town as a permanent movie set, forty minutes from downtown and fifteen minutes from Springbank airport. The list of credits for this location is truly impressive.
“Hell on Wheels” TV Series (2015)
“Fargo” TV Series (2015)
“Diablo” Feature (2014)
“Hell on Wheels” TV Series (2014)
“Away and Back (Big Sky)” MFT (2014)
“Mutant World (Fallout Asylum)” Feature (2014)
“Hell on Wheels” TV Series (2013)
“Forsaken” Feature (2013)
“Klondike” Discovery Channel TV Series (2013)
“Hell on Wheels” TV Series (2011)
“Heartland” TV Series (2011)
“Hanna’s Law” MFT (2011)
“When Calls The Heart” MFT (2008)
“Blue Mountain” (2005-2008)
“Prairie Schooner” TV Series (2005)
“Broken Trail (Daughters Of Joy)” TV Mini Series (2005)
“September Dawn” Feature (2005)
“Shanghai Nights” Feature (2002)
“Monty Walsh” MFT (2002)
“Nissan” Commercial (2002)
“Johnson County War” TV Series (2001)
“Roughing It” TV Mini Series (2001)
“Saturday Night Magazine- Globe and Mail” Fashion Shoot (2001)
“Tide- Bernard Callebeau Chocolate” Commercial (2001)
“Almost America” Feature (2000)
“For All Time” MFT (2000)
“Papa’s Angels” MFT (2000)
“After The Harvest” MFT (2000)
“High Noon” MFT (2000)
“Toyota- You Belong Outside” Commercial (2000)
“Shanghai Noon” Feature (1999)
“Cross Fire Trail” MFT (1999)
“The Jack Bull” MFT (1998)
“You Know My Name” MFT (1998)
“Ebenezer” MFT (1997)
“Honey I Shrunk The Kids: The TV Show” Episode of TV Series (1997)
“In Cold Blood” MFT (1996)
“Rose Hill” MFT (1996)
“Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years” TV Series (1995)
“Lonesome Dove” TV Series (1994)
“One More Mountain” MFT (1993)
“Black Fox” MFT [Movie for TV] (1993)
“Little Big Man” Feature (1970)
The actual location of the CL Western Town and Backlot resides on secluded private land inaccessible to visitors, but you can get an idea of the topographical features of the area by looking straight west in a line from the intersection of highway 8 and the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22).
Kananaskis Country is a park system located west of Calgary, in the foothills and along the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The terrain is breathtaking, the view is stupendous and the photographic opportunities are endless, which makes the area a natural choice for every kind of filming location imaginable.
The experiences of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass in Montana and South Dakota were the backdrop to the movie “The Revenant” shot primarily in Kananaskis country, with a battle scene shot on the nearby Morley First Nations settlement.
While exploring the uncharted wilderness, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was severely injured from a brutal bear attack in 1823. After being left for dead by his close friend John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Glass must survive at any cost while he finds his way back home to his beloved family. Filled with anger and focused on vengeance, Glass travels through harsh winter conditions, rough country and several life threatening challenges, to track down Fitzgerald.
Kananaskis country is known worldwide for its unforgettable lush forests, beautiful mountain peaks, unbelievable trails, hiking, horseback riding and camping experiences. For lots of great information about ‘K-Country’ visit: http://www.kananaskis-country.ca
The Tsuu T’ina Nation, just outside the western edge of the city of Calgary, has hosted film locations and also has a permanent set. Other scenes shot in the Morley area west of Calgary were for: “Legends,” “In The Valley Of The Wild Horses,” “Open Range” and “Buffalo Bill And The Indians.” Bragg Creek is the location of the made for TV show “North of 60”. Rafter Six Ranch was the site of many film projects including “River of No Return”, “How the West Was Fun” starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (the Twins), and the TV hit “Grizzly Adams.” The Cochrane area has the Bow River Ranch, the Wineglass Ranch and Albertina Farms – all film sets.
Further north, take a short drive west of the Cowboy Trail on Hwy 13 to Winfield, turn left at the school, drive two miles (3.2 km), go right two miles (3.2 km) and a hop, skip and jump to the end of the road and you will be at Em-Te town, where “Tall in the Saddle – a Kurt Browning Special” was produced in the winter of 1990. McDonald’s Canada filmed a commercial for the “Western Burger” here in the summer of 1992 and “Makin’ 8 – Rodeo’s Best & Wrecks” video for RDTV was shot here in the fall of 1995. Documentaries filmed at Em-Te Town include “On the Road Again” by Wayne Ronstad, “CBC” with Colin MacLean, and CFRN’s “Alberta Getaways” with Terry Lynn Myers.
Nestled along Rose Creek, Em-Te Town is a replica of an old western town, whose creation was based on the Sackett novels of Louis L’Amour. The name is a tribute to two characters in one of the books in the fictional series, Emily and Milo Talon. It also stood for the fact the town was indeed empty, except for its one lone occupant – creator and builder, retired carpenter Len Mohr, who started building the town in 1980.
Take a step back in time and visit for a day, a week or longer. Em-Te town, complete with blacksmith shop, Hog’s Breath Saloon, jail, church, school and Drifter’s Diner with a full western menu plus several other buildings, offers all kinds of activities. Enjoy comfortable accommodations by way of cabin rentals, RV camping facilities, a full service motel, tenting sites and even a tipi. Book the town for a wedding, company BBQ, corporate retreat or just to experience the old west. Check out http://www.emtetown.com for more information or to make reservations.
Travel and sightseeing destinations abound from one end to the other along the Cowboy Trail with numerous places to stop, explore, take photographs, buy some keepsakes, enjoy a wonderful meal, and stay if desired. Accommodations include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, log cabins, RV camping, tent campsites and tipis. You can even shake out your bedroll and sleep under the stars if you so desire.
Story by Ray Johnson