Driving Directions for Canada’s Mormon Trail.
Starting in Stirling
25 minutes southeast of Lethbridge
on Hwy. 4, Stirling is the natural place to start your tour if coming from the east.
The town layout follows the “Plat of Zion” format decreed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, making it a National Historic Site. Echoes of this layout are to be found in all four towns of The Mormon Trail.
To understand the Plat system, a great place to start is the cutaway house on the corner of 1st St. and 4th Ave. Here, plaques explain why Mormon settlers built the irrigation canals that brought riches to southwest agriculture. Other sights in Stirling include the 1907 Victorian-style Michelsen Farmstead, to see how early pioneers lived, and the Galt Historic Railway Park, a restored station of the Great Falls and Canada Railway, which once ran to Lethbridge.
Stirling has exactly one gas station/deli/store. Stop in for a map of the town and some excellent hard ice cream. Visitors can stay nearby at the new Country Barn B&B - in a renovated barn, of course!
Heading South thru Stirling on Hwy. 846, turn straight west on Hwy. 52 for the fifteen minute drive to your next stop: Raymond.
Turn left on Broadway, and head south thru the business district to find two beautiful heritage buildings. On your right is the Raymond Museum. The amazingly well organized collection is obviously the result of thousands of hours of volunteer time! A covered wagon in the basement is a highlight, along with the mountain panorama painting.
Kitty-corner to the museum is the building that now houses Raymond’s Town Hall and library. A gorgeous example of brick architecture, the building was originally the Mormon church - different than a Temple. The symmetrical wings and lovely rotunda show the pride that early settlers put into their sacred buildings.
Come in and look around. Like each of the towns on The Mormon Trail, the library here is a thing of beauty.
To get here, turn off Hwy. 5 before the big grain elevators, and head south on 1st St., with it’s restaurants, banks and gas stations. Magrath is called “The Garden City,” echoing the utopian community movement of the late 19th century and its ideals of sustainable town planning.
Beyond the town hall, down the hill you’ll spot the fish pond park and campsite – and another National Historic Site – the Galt Canal Locks. The Galt Canal Diversion Works were designated a National Historic Site in 1899! Most of the early settlers came to build this canal. The Nature Trail here offers great bird watching - see if you can spot one of the leopard frogs!
Further south, turn right just before the cemetery for the golf course, with its restaurant - open to 9 p.m. all summer, including Sundays - and nice views over the creek valley.
From Magrath, back on Hwy. 5, a 30 minute drive southwest will bring you to Cardston. Along the way, you’ll see St. Mary’s Reservoir on the right – site of some of the world’s best fossil finds, including prehistoric camels!
The largest of the Trail communities, Cardston has about 3,500 people and is the closest full-service town to Waterton Lakes National Park. There are hotels and motels here, and a lovely RV park/campsite alongside Lee Creek in the heart of town.
Driving from Calgary
Go south on Highway 2 the whole way until you reach Cardston – about two and a half hours.
Coming north from Montana From Glacier
National Park, cross the border at Carway, and ten minutes further on you’ll arrive in Cardston.
Stroll along Main St. for a visit to the Card Home, an original ‘little house on the prairie;’ built for the leader of the 1887 settlers. A few steps away is the Carriage House Theatre, with movies or live theatre in a beautifully renovated deco building. Dozens of cast members – local and professional - perform family-friendly musicals. Book ahead - LDS families take up a lot of seats, and most shows sell out!
Near the south end of Main St., over the bridge, and at the foot of the big hill, is the Visitor’s Centre. Behind it is the Remington Carriage Museum. Started with a collection donated by a local LDS rancher, it now features over 250 horse-drawn vehicles, all brought to life with great displays, videos, and lively interpreters.
How to Get to Southern Alberta
There are several airports in the region.
Calgary provides the closest Alberta hub. Once in Calgary, rent a car and head south on Highway 2 all the way to Cardston - about a three hour drive. Or, for a truly scenic route, head down Highway 22X - the Cowboy Trail - which meanders south along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains through Alberta’s famous ranch country.
In Montana, you can fly in to either Great Falls or Kalispell. Good highways link both cities to Southern Alberta, but the road from Kalispell can be a highlight of your trip! If you’re arriving in summer you can go through Glacier National Park, and have the chance to drive over the famous “Going to the Sun Highway.” This is truly one of the world’s most spectacular drives! It goes not through the Rocky Mountains, but over the Rocky Mountains!
From the east end of Going to the Sun, you are only a half hour drive to the Canadian border, and ten minutes on to Cardston and the start of start your Canadian Mormon Trail experience.
The Milk River near Cardston, with Chief Mt. in the background.
Driving in this region is easy, beautiful, and with relatively little traffic.Throw in the endlessly changing vistas, some really unique radio stations, and the Rockies on the horizon as your constant guidepost, and a road trip here becomes a wonderfully relaxing