So-called signature trails are recommended as ways of attracting international visitors to the wilderness in the western part of the region. (The Canadian Press)

So-called signature trails are recommended as ways of attracting international visitors to the wilderness in the western part of the region. (The Canadian Press)

Wilderness trails could lead to boost in tourism

Trails for off-road vehicles, hikers and mountain bikers could become international visitor draws

An Olds-to-Lacombe cycling trail — along with backcountry hiking and off-road vehicle treks in the forests west of Rocky Mountain House — are pitched as ways to put the region on the tourism map.

The Central Alberta Tourism Alliance, which includes area municipalities and tourism groups, commissioned the recently released Our Path Forward study.

The 83-page report by RC Strategies+PERC recommends creating “signature trails” to tap into destination tourism markets as part of a 10-year plan.

Alliance chairman Jerry Pratt said one of the main purposes of the study was to create an inventory of the trails in the area and to follow up on previous work done in a destination management plan and accommodation study.

“We wanted to take a look at what could raise our trails up possibly from being just recreation trails to tourism attraction trails. The consultant did a pretty good job outlining what it would take to do that.”

The Central Alberta Heritage Cycling Route is designed to use existing trails in the area to create a 120-kilometre cycling route.

Future trails might link Red Deer to Sylvan Lake and Red Deer to the historic Mintlaw rail bridge south of Red Deer through the proposed 30-kilometre Alberta Central Rail to Trail project.

To cater to hikers and backpackers, a Continental Divide Hut to Hut Backpacking Experience is proposed to take advantage of the large network of existing trails in the wilderness west of Rocky Mountain House.

Using routes such as the Cline River and Coral Creek trails, a 138-kilometre route with huts strategically placed for overnight stays could be created.

The Rocky Mountain House to Bighorn Backcountry Off-Highway Vehicle Trail Experience would be aimed at ATV, hikers and mountain bikers, and would use an abandoned rail line between the town and Nordegg.

On-trail accommodations and a new campground near the Bighorn Dam would encourage overnight stays.

There appears to be a ready home-grown market out there for the kinds of trails envisioned. The short-haul market (within a three-hour drive) includes an estimated 1.3 million day hikers, 137,000 overnight backpackers, 1.2 million cyclists, 247,000 mountain bikers and 357,792 off-road vehicle users.

But the alliance wanted the study to look beyond provincial, and even national, borders.

“We were looking beyond just the province. We were looking nationally and internationally.

“A signature trail is something where someone is willing to pay to fly out and to come and stay in hotels and that kind of thing,” said Pratt, offering the Appalachian Trail in the U.S. and a trail network in New Zealand as examples of destinations with international reputations.

Developing signature trails will take time and money. Trailheads and accommodation, whether campgrounds, hiking huts, bed and breakfasts, or small hotels will be needed. Tourist operators ready to cater to visitors would also eventually be important to creating a destination.

There is work already underway on the trail linking Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg, which is being slowly cleared a few kilometres at a time.

The province has also shown support, providing $600,000, which will be used to restore the Taunton Rail Bridge east of Nordegg in Clearwater County, where Pratt serves as economic development officer.

There are hopes the province will make some of the Crown land in the area available for the development of a campground to support the trail.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Trails

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two roundabouts will be built at each end of the Highway 2 and McKenzie Road overpass in Red Deer County at the south end of Gasoline Alley. Major detours will be in place this summer while construction is underway. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Powerline work causes delays on Highway 2 in Red Deer

Southbound drivers on the QEII are experiencing delays Wednesday morning. Powerline work… Continue reading

Ponoka RCMP said Traytyn Okeymow, 22, was last seen at this residence at about 9:45 p.m. on April 4. (Photo contributed)
Missing man located by Ponoka RCMP

Ponoka RCMP seek public’s help

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP lay cattle rustling, drug and firearm charges in central Alberta

A cattle rustling investigation in Clearwater County led to firearms and drug… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement after a meeting of the college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans Wednesday for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023. (John Thys, Pool via AP)
EU reaches major climate deal ahead of Biden climate summit

Provisional deal reached after officials negotiated through the night

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Opinion piece
Opinion: Federal budget spends more on everything with no plan to pay for it

The British politician Nigel Lawson once said: “To govern is to choose… Continue reading

FILE - Ted Nugent performs at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Aug. 16, 2013. Nugent revealed he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus — months after he said the virus was “not a real pandemic.” “I thought I was dying,” Nugent says in a Facebook live video posted Monday. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)
Ted Nugent, who once dismissed COVID-19, sickened by virus

Rocker a supporter of ex-President Donald Trump

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Most Read