You’re a motorcyclist heading from southern Alberta to B.C. (or vice versa), who’s looking for a place to stop, stretch the legs and perhaps take in a little history. Well, if it’s Crowsnest Highway 3 that’s beneath your tires, look no farther than these five attractions along the way:
1. Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site
Coal mining played a significant role in the history of the Crowsnest Pass, and you can learn more about this history by taking a stroll through one of the area’s oldest mines. Located on the side of Highway 3, the Leitch Collieries were once the site of a coal processing plant, but now they lie in graceful ruins at the eastern entrance to the Crowsnest Pass. Here, you’ll find interpretive panels and walking trails to explore. Guides are also on site from mid-May to early September.
2. Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
Travelling through the Pass, there is one attraction you can’t miss—even if you tried—the infamous Frank Slide. Known as Canada’s deadliest rockslide, this disaster took place in 1903 when Turtle Mountain, which overlooked the town of Frank, suddenly let loose, covering the CPR railway and part of the town in massive boulders. There are places to stop and survey the wreckage from the highway or there is the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre where visitors can learn about what caused the slide and if it will happen again. The centre is open daily all year long.
The site of Canada's deadliest rockslide. — Monte Smith photo
3. Bellevue Underground Mine
See how miners extracted coal in the early days by walking 300 metres through dark tunnels in the Bellevue Underground Mine. Visitors don hardhats and headlamps and hear stories about what it was like for a miner back in the day—the work, the hazards and the wages. You’ll also hear about the 1910 explosion that claimed the lives of 31 men. Tours run daily from mid-May to August.
4. The Terex Titan
Leaving Crowsnest Pass, you’ll head west along a twisty section of highway that crosses over the Continental Divide and then follows Michel Creek to where it flows into the Elk River. Here, on the banks of the river, sits the coal mining town of Sparwood, and its most recognizable landmark—the Terex Titan. This 350-tonne roadside attraction is a great place to stop, stretch and take a selfie. The Titan is also parked right next to the Sparwood Visitor Centre, which has the fifth and final attraction on our list.
5. Active Coal Mine Tour
Three days a week during July and August, the Sparwood Visitor Centre hosts guided tours of Teck’s Elkview operations. An open pit mine, Elkview employs massive trucks and other heavy equipment to extract the high quality coal that is hidden in seams in the mountain. On the tour, you’ll get to see the day-to-day operations of the mine and learn about the journey each chunk of coal takes before it goes into making steel.