Nordegg & Abraham Lake is a different kind of Rockies experience where nightlife means campfires and starry skies, where the best trails are often unmarked, sometimes even missing from the maps.
Adventures off the beaten path take a little more effort, but the rewards are well worth it: stunning canyons, incredible peaks, glaciers, amazing rivers and the ice bubbles of Abraham Lake. Our mountain setting is what draws our guests to the region and keeps them coming back.
It provides the backdrop for the activities they love, and the ones they are discovering, whether that’s taking in the sights, hiking, snowshoeing, or capturing those moments through art or photography.
The natural history of our dramatic landscape help explains what draws us here in the first place while the human history connects us with the past, present and future of the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region.
Yes, our region is a little more rugged than the nearby National Parks or Central Alberta, but that’s part of the charm for those who love an adventure. After all, it’s a place for adventures, for people that love to do things and enjoy playing outside.
Why Our Guests Want To Visit The Region
It doesn’t matter how often we ask visitors or residents why they love the region, the answers are almost always the same. It always comes down to the feelings we all get when spending time in a gorgeous natural area and the connections that happen when we get away from the busy life of the city.
The main reasons our guests want to visit the region are:
- The feeling of awe as we enjoy the natural beauty of the region;
- The sense of connection as we share moments with others;
- The pride that comes with challenging ourselves to explore off the beaten path; and
- The ability to get lost in the moment as we spend time away from our daily lives.
Which of these is the most important varies from guest to guest, but a combination of these drives most visits to the region.
What They Want To See And Experience
Even though how visitors engage with the region has changed over the years, what they want to see and experience has remained consistent. Our guests typically mention:
The mountains, including the summits, ridges, meadows and the views from the valley;
- The waterfalls and canyons;
- The lakes and rivers;
- The wildflowers and wildlife;
- The frozen wonders of winter; and
- The people that make this place special.
None of these are unique to our region and that’s OK. Curious adventurers love to learn and go deeper in their understanding of the world. We often hear from visitors who choose to travel to Abraham Lake, Lake Baikal and other similar lakes that what they love is seeing how each of them can be so similar yet different.
How They Experience The Region
Why people choose to come here hasn’t changed a lot over the past 50+ years, what has changed is how they engage with the region. The early years of tourism were about outfitters, hunting, fishing and random camping. The activities drawing visitors in changed in the 1990s with ice climbing, mountain biking, climbing, backpacking, paddling and other adventures leading the way.
The early 2000s saw a push toward establishing Nordegg as a historical destination with the designation in 2001 of the Nordegg National Historic Site of Canada. The potential is still there but with the historic site operating on a limited basis, the lack of history-focused tourism products and the rebuilding of the downtown core this has remained a small niche within our destination.
Another change started to happen in the mid-2010s and accelerated with the pandemic. A lot of the activities remained the same but there was a shift from pushing the limits and reaching summits to enjoying the journey and more contemplative activities. Photography, arts, ice walks, sightseeing, evenings by the campfire and shorter hikes became some of the main ways visitors engage with the region.
Horseback riding, random camping, backpacking and climbing are still an important part of the visitor experience. Each change in activities builds on the work of those that came before, leading to a more diversified destination accessible to a larger population.
How visitors experience the region also changes with the seasons. What matters to visitors in the summer is different than what they look for in January. That’s why we structure most of our work around seasonal themes.
The Odd Season - Spring
March + April
We’re looking back at an awesome winter, wrapping up those adventures we couldn’t fit in earlier before the snow is all gone. At the same time, we’re dreaming of summer adventures and excited for what’s to come. The weather doesn’t help, one day we could be skiing and the next day we can get on the water for a paddle.
Ramp up to Summer
May + June
The views are the backdrop for doing the activities. Hiking, paddling, biking and all kind of outdoor adventures fill the day while the evenings are spent around a campfire with friends.
July + August
This is the time to play outside, have family adventures and spend lazy afternoons relaxing in nature. The days are longer and so are the adventures. It’s less about the hiking, paddling or biking activities at this time of the year and more about the waterfalls, stunning views and wildflowers we come across along the way.
It’s a time of change. For some it’s about trying to finish the list of hikes that was planned in the spring. For others it’s about slowing down to enjoy the fall colours, chasing the moments with a camera and relaxing by the warmth of a campfire. It’s also a time to reconnect with co-workers and plan ahead for the upcoming year.
The Odd Season - Fall
October + November
The first snow is here. We’re excited for the winter to come along with the ice bubbles and frozen waterfalls that are starting to form. At the same time, fall is hanging around making it an unpredictable season where we could hike one day and snowshoe the next.
The Magic of Winter
The magic of the holidays and the fresh snow on the trees put us in a festive mood. It’s time to play outside without pushing our limits. The days are spent taking in the sights of the ice bubbles and winter beauty while the evenings are spent by the fire back at the cabin.
The conditions are harsh but the rewards are well worth it. Amazing sunrise and sunsets, the clearest ice bubbles and majestic frozen waterfalls make us stop to capture the moment.
The days are getting longer and sun warmer. We’re heading back out for longer adventures, pushing a little harder as we play while enjoying late afternoon campfires with friends and family.
Regions get defined in a number of ways based on municipal boundaries, administrative districts, service centres, etc. We choose to define it based on the visitor experience.
There’s a point, as you head west on the David Thompson Highway from Rocky Mountain House where the mountains appear in front of you and you know you’ve arrived. The same happens coming from the west, as you leave the Icefields Parkway and the North Saskatchewan River valley opens up in front of you.
In a more practical way, the Nordegg & Abraham Lake Region is the area from:
- Alexo/Saunders to the Banff National Park boundary along Highway 11; and
- Ram Falls to the Blackstone River along the Forestry Trunk Road.
On the tours and activities side, we include the section of the Icefields Parkway between Bow Lake and the Columbia Icefields, an area that is easily accessed from our region and that complements nicely what we have to offer locally.
We are part of David Thompson Country, a broader region defined by the municipal boundaries of Clearwater County. From a visitor’s perspective, David Thompson Country represents two distinct destinations.
The Central Alberta Destination Management Plan identified agritourism and western heritage as the main themes for the eastern portion of David Thompson Country, including Rocky Mountain House and Caroline.
Our destination, on the west side of David Thompson Country, offers primarily adventure and nature-based tourism opportunities. There are many opportunities for collaboration between the two destinations, but we need to keep in mind that each attracts a different type of visitor.
There are four distinct areas within the Nordegg & Abraham Lake region offering unique but related visitor experiences. These are the Foothills, Abraham Lake, the Kootenay Plains and the Upper North Saskatchewan River.
The Foothills region surrounds Nordegg and extends west to Tershishner Creek. It’s an area of rolling hills, lakes and meadows. This area is where many visitors to the region spend the night but is somewhat less developed than the Abraham Lake or Kootenay Plains when it comes to outdoor activities.
The Abraham Lake region, from Tershishner Creek to Preacher’s Point and including the many areas accessed from trailheads along the highway, is the most popular area for hiking, sightseeing and other similar activities.
Most of the Kootenay Plains, from Preacher’s Point to Whirlpool Point, are protected as part of the ecological reserve. It is a popular area for hiking, with some of the region’s most popular trails like Siffleur Falls.
The Upper North Saskatchewan River, from Whirlpool Point to Owen Creek is a lesser-known area connecting Abraham Lake to the Icefields Parkway. It’s a gorgeous area but trails and river access are less developed in this area, making it an ideal place for those looking to explore off the beaten path.
The nearby Icefields Parkway region is most often associated with Lake Louise or Jasper but is a popular area to explore from Nordegg. The driving time to the Columbia Icefields from Nordegg, Lake Louise and Jasper are all approximately the same.
Getting here takes a little more effort but that is part of the adventure.
Many of our guests, in parts due to the lack of single-night lodging options locally, choose to join our adventures as part of a day trip from Calgary, Edmonton or Banff. Visitors from Central Alberta and Edmonton access the region through Rocky Mountain House while guests from Calgary typically do a loop coming up through Sundre and back through Lake Louise.
Our international guests typically fall into one of three categories:
- day trips from Lake Louise as part of a longer trip based in the Bow Valley;
- side trip to Abraham Lake as part of their drive from Lake Louise to Jasper; or
- multi-day trips, starting with a drive along the Cowboy Trail from the Calgary Airport to Nordegg where they spend a few days before making their way to Lake Louise or Banff for the rest of their vacation.
The Forestry Trunk Road is gaining popularity and could offer more adventurous options but the market interested is still small at this point.
We’re located in the Rocky Mountains, between Central Alberta and the mountain national parks, giving our guests the option to extend their itineraries by visiting our neighbours and making us a great day trip option for visitors already planning trips to those regions.
- Calgary is the primary gateway for out-of-province visitors with Edmonton providing an alternative, especially for visitors planning to include Jasper in their adventure.
- The east side of David Thompson Country and Rocky Mountain House are the gateway for visitors from Central Alberta while the Sundre region offers a number of complementary adventures that appeal to our visitors planning a longer Alberta adventure.
- Banff & Lake Louise are iconic destinations and on the must-see list for our visitors. It’s also the best option for guests looking for the lodging and dining options we do not have available locally.
- Jasper connects primarily with our guests from Edmonton and those doing a side trip to Abraham Lake while driving the Icefields Parkway.