Back Roads Diary: The Kananaskis Highway

My first back road

My love of back roads started with this one. We drove by "The Gap" while hunting. Beyond its sharp cliffs, the gravel track rolled off into the wilderness, to places unknown. I wanted to follow it to its end, wherever it went.

That curiosity has driven my life since. I became a photographer, a scientist, then a globetrotter. I toured the world then went on to worlds metaphorical and virtual, governed by natural laws and mathematics. The lure remains the same after all the years; to see what's there and maybe capture the images.

The Kananaskis grew along with me. Its northern end is paved now, often overrun with visitors. Two hundred kilometres no longer seem a vast distance to me. Indeed, it's a side trip on some days.

Yet, on its southern part, sometimes, I can still feel the isolation and the thrill of wandering the lonely road. I bathe in the scenery, letting my mind roam while keeping an eye on the roadsides. Distractions fade away and my mind wanders through a parallel world of thoughs and ideas and plans.

Sometimes I still get lucky and see a bear or a sheep, or something new.

Just The Facts

Alberta highway 40 stretches between highways 3 and 1 (the Trans-Canada), through the Rocky Mountains. Sections of it may be labelled as Forestry Trunk Road or highway 943. Other roads, farther north, are also numbered 40 but those have to wait for another drive,

The main access points are Coleman on highway 3, and Seebe on highway 1. Side roads connect to other highways and range roads. One of these, highway 517, threads through the Livingstone Gap to Maycroft, and is worth a detour.

You can make a scenic loop by returning on highway 22, which runs parallel on the other side of the Livingstone range. Another side road connects to highway 22 at Longview, allowing for a northern loop entirely on pavement. If you do pass by Longview, be sure to stop and buy some of their excellent beef jerky.

The northern stretch of highway 40, through Peter Lougheed Park, has been paved since the Calgary Olympics. On summer weekends, Highwood Pass can be overrun with tourists.