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National Park

Whirlwind Alberta Tour: Culture, History, and Top Attractions (8-day/7-night Road Trip)

Kid raising arms in victory with mountains in the background

Out-of-province friends or family coming for a visit and you want to show off Alberta? My Toronto-based world-traveling cousin is (ahem – finally) visiting her Alberta relatives, and we have one week to tour the province. It’s going to be a whirlwind with highlights in Edmonton, Jasper, Banff, and Calgary to show off the best of what Alberta has to offer! Here’s my itinerary for 1 week in Alberta.

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5 Reasons to go to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Rocky Mountain House National Historic Park


We recently had the opportunity to camp at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site in a Metis Trappers tent which you can read about HERE, but there’s so much more to do than just camping at the site.

If you haven’t heard of the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, you’re not alone. Tucked away off HWY 11, in Rocky Mountain House, the park was completely unknown to me and I was completely blown away when I arrived at how amazing this National Park really is.

Here are 5 reasons you need to go before school starts:

It’s Easy to Get There!

Just an hour from Red Deer, 2.5 hours from Edmonton and 2 hours and 15 mins from Calgary, Rocky Mountain House is a quick (we live in Alberta, 2 hours is fast) and is relatively easy to access if you’re in central Alberta. Live further away? Plan a camping trip at the site or the many camp sites in the area. You can find directions to the site on the National Site website.

It’s not that big

You love Fort Edmonton and Fort Calgary right? Well, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is Fort Edmonton/Calgary “light.” If you have small kids, it’s the perfect combination of not being overwhelming, and lots of spaces to run. Bonus points: It’s not really busy!

Because Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site it’s still a hidden gem, when we went in July, there were a handful of people there. Go now before other people know about it.

The Play Fort

It’s interactive

I’m sure you know a kid that likes Minecraft right? My kids are obsessed, so it was really cool to see a  VR version of the site that was created and donated to the park by local YouTubers.  I don’t have to tell you that despite spending the day at the park learning about local history, this was the kids favourite part. Sigh.

History that you can touch

This part blew me away. You see the image below? It’s an excavation spot from the original Rocky Mountain House. The site is hundreds of years old and kids are welcome to run around in and out of the small holes. Literally playing in the areas where fur traders hung out in the late 1700’s. Knowing that this was a historical landmark I was trying to “shoo” my kids off it, and I was told no, let them play.

Unlike Fort Edmonton or Fort Calgary, the historical touch points are not in one area, but rather spread out. As you’re walking down David Thompson trail at the south west corner of the park, you’ll run into candle making interactive sites or other craftspeople telling you what life was like for the fur-traders and the Metis living in the area that that time. Travel north up the David Thompson Trail and you’ll pass by a small fort perfect for kids to climb as well as a daily puppet show depicting the life of David Thompson. Further north is a Métis village (hello bannok making) and another of the Forts created by the Hudson Bay Company. In all there were 4 Forts on the site at any given time between the years 1799 and 1875.

It’s Beautiful

Situated next to the North Saskatchewan River, the park is the perfect spot for central Alberta scenes. Take the kids down to the water! Follow the David Thompson Trail south of the park to find easy access to the water.  Add that to the proximity to the prairies, and fields of bison, it’s an amazing place to hang out.  We skipped rocks and then took our shoes off for a little wade in the river.


Rocky Mountain House National Historic Park Tips

Before you head out here are some things you need to know:

  • Like anywhere in the summer in Alberta, there are mosquitoes so you’ll need sunscreen and bug spray.
  • The park is stroller friendly!
  • Bring a picnic. There are lots of places to sit by the river to stop and have a snack.
  • Don’t forget it’s FREE admission for 2017 with your Parks Pass!
  • The hours change in early fall and the site is closed October 1-May … so you need to head on down before the end of season!
  • If at all possible, and you have older kids, see if anyone is available for a quick tour. There is so much to learn at the historical site, and well worth it for kids in higher elementary – junior high.

Have you been to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site before? Tell us your trip experiences in the comments below.



Camping for Newbies | Rocky Mountain House Review

In July, I pulled up my big girl pants and took my kid’s camping by myself for the first time, and by the “first time” I mean like ever.  Ever.  We’ve never really gone camping in a tent, by ourselves in our lives. We didn’t even own sleeping bags.

Now, this isn’t to say we haven’t camped because we have, just with other campers (my family) who have all the things, like trailers, and sleeping bags. Our contribution has been usually booze and food.

We were invited to the Rocky Mountain House National Historical Park to go camping in their Heritage Camping site, and so, of course, we said yes (all hail adventures!!!!)*, and honestly, if you’ve never really camped before this is a really great way to get started.

The Rocky Mountain House National Historical Site is a not only a campsite, but also an amazing living museum. During the day you learn about the fur traders, David Thompson and Métis history, and during the night you stay in a Métis Trappers Tent which reinforces all the amazing things you learnt during the day at the museum.  Educational win-win.

We stayed in a Heritage Métis Tent which is a canvas tent in the same style that the Métis used and is kept to be historically authentic by local organization Metis 845.

The tent includes two single beds (ok, this part isn’t historically accurate, but it makes it much more comfortable), a trunk with items I’ll detail below, two chairs and a table, bison hide rug on an elevated platform, again to make the experience more comfortable, and sleeps up to 5 people.

How did we do?

The first night, like most first nights in a strange place, was harried. It started out well intentioned with kids in their designated sleeping spots and then before you know it there are kids sleeping on top of your head, everyone in one bed, then everyone on the floor only to be woken up at 4 am wondering where you are. Despite all the “musical beds” in the night we all managed to sleep in until 8:30am.

In the morning we made breakfast (cereal and croissants we bought at the local Safeway because we don’t know about camping food yet) and I made a tea with our new camping stove we picked up at the Canadian Tire in Rocky Mountain House because we didn’t have that either.

First night and breakfast were a WIN!

There are 2 communal fire pits that service the 6 Métis Trappers Tents and to be honest I was worried about this more than was necessary, but as a newbie camper I had no idea about camping norms, etiquettes and I know little about the whole sub-culture of sleeping outside for fun.

The first night we were the only campers at the site and we made our own fire! Huzzah! It seems like a small thing, but camping on my own with kids, this felt like a victory, we could now, at minimum have s’mores. The campsite sells bundles of wood that you can purchase when you check in, but you’ll need paper and other supplies to get it started.


After that tremendous success, we went exploring to check out our surroundings and also to burn off some marshmallow/chocolate energy.

Though the museum itself is closed after 5, campers are welcome to go for walks along the trail.

If you’re lucky, the bison will be out in the paddock closest to where you’re camping.

You can see them best from the lookout about a five-minute walk from the campsite.

The look-out that looks out (literally) on the paddock where the bison often hangout

There is a LOT of history and artifacts to see around the campsite itself including Alberta’s Centennial voyageur canoe from 1967 as well as excavation spots from the original North West Fort “Rocky Mountain House” (that’s right, the original Rocky Mountain House).

1967’s Centennial voyageur canoe from Alberta


Excavation site from the original Rocky Mountain House that the kids are allowed to explore and walk on.

You’ll also run into some Tipi’s, which, like the Métis Trappers Tents, can be rented to camp in.

The second night was even better than the first night of camping because the second night brought us….seasoned campers! Even better than that, it brought us seasoned campers with kids who could play with my kids! Our new neighbours  knew how to build a fire in no time and by the end of the night we were making bannock on the fire like we’d been camping together all summer. Communal fire pit on the second night worked amazingly.

What you need to know

Here’s the absolute newbies guide to camping, at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.

What to bring: 

  • Sleeping bags & pillows. If you don’t have sleeping bags, beg borrow and steal from family members and friends. We bought some and it got expensive fast.
  • Warm clothes to sleep in, it got really cold at night.
  • Water! We brought with us an 8L container from Save on Foods, but when you factor in washing your dishes, and making tea and the millions of cups of water kids drink, that only lasted us a day and a half. Be prepared to bring more than 8L.
  • Cooking stove: since fire making for us isn’t second nature, we popped into Canadian Tire and got a cooking stove on sale as well as a little pan set (with a kettle for tea!!!). If you’re already a seasoned fire maker and are comfortable cooking on a fire, you might not need this.
  • Paper to help get your fire going, and a lighter because the flint and steel they provide do not make a fire very fast.
  • Food (and marshmallows and chocolate.. obvs)
  • Cooler to keep your food cool.
  • Fold up chairs
  • Bug spray, sunscreen and all that good stuff you need when going outside
What’s included

Sleeping in a Métis Trappers Tent costs $58.80 per site per night and each tent or a tipi includes a heritage kit (trunk) which provides the renter with the following:

  • bison hide (we used this to put our sleeping mats on)
  • period cooking kit and utensils (including a coffee pot you can use on the fire)
  • flint/steel fire-starting kit
  • bannock mix
  • trapper’s tea, spices, oil and soap

The tents have two single beds, two chairs a small table inside and a picnic table outside.

Fur Trade Camp Kit

Reservations & Getting there

You can’t currently book online so to reserve a camping spot at the Rocky Mountain House National Historical Site, you’ll need to call  1-403-845-2412 or email You can book a Métis Trappers Tent, a Tipi or coming soon, some real glamping in the form of Trapline Cabins! If you have a camper or your own tent and want to go camping are spots to hook up your trailer just outside the site for a really reasonable price.

Would I do it again? YES! The kids loved it, we knew they would but it took the big kids to make the leap and get some momentum to get it going. We’re looking at trying one of of the oTentik that Parks Canada has available that might be less “camping” and a touch more “glamping,” and we can ease our way into proper camping.

* I received two nights free at the Rocky Mountain House National Historical Site for but my thoughts and opinions are my own