Cochrane Ranche is a National Historic Site at Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.
The morning is misty and the drive northwest from Calgary on Crowchild Trail (Hwy 1A) gains altitude into dense fog where cold, moist air has created an amazing display of forest frost. Range of visibility is less than half a kilometer (0.3 miles).
The drive continues a short distance past the day's hiking objective to enjoy breakfast in Cochrane while waiting for fog to dissipate and air to warm.
Cold weather is taking more time to shift than expected. The historic town of Cochrane is nestled in a valley about 25 KM (15⅝ miles) northwest of Calgary. Although fog is gradually lifting and temperature is warming, evidenced by frost dropping gently from the tree branches, patience is required to visit the hiking objective for this day. This provides time and opportunity to visit the Cochrane Ranche Historic Site on the west side of town near the junction of Hwy 1A with Hwy 22.
The Cochrane Ranche Historic Site is a National Historic Site maintained and developed to honor the people who settled here and learned, through significant hardship, how to survive and prosper on this northern land. It took foresight, courage and substantial investment.
From the parking area on Hwy 1A, a short walk along the creek towards the frosty valley provides the opportunity to ascend a small hill for better views of the surrounding terrain and the town of Cochrane.
Spectacular views expand on the ascent until one of Cochrane's iconic trademarks appears through the mist in the form of a single horse and rider standing tall at hilltop.
The bronze statue, called 'Men of Vision', commemorates the hard-working wranglers, cowboys, and their families who established major, Cochrane area ranching operations in spite of the 1881 and 1882 harsh winters, where large portions of livestock were lost. This beautiful and historic location begs for a photograph to be taken.
The Cochrane Ranche Historic Site hosts an interpretive trail with exhibits which provide historical insight into the area's early days of development. On the loop descent off the hill, an open area at the bottom contains large descriptive displays near outlines of the original locations for the cowboy's bunk house and the building wranglers called home.
The Cochrane Ranchehouse is a large, impressive structure, visible from the park but most conveniently accessed from Highway 22. The structure contains meeting and convention rooms as well as offices for municipal politicians. Notably, The Cochrane Ranchehouse contains the Bert Sheppard Library and Archives maintained by the Stockmen's Memorial Foundation dedicated to preserving western history and growth. There is a good-sized parking area and the opportunity to hike from this location further into the valley.
There is a wide variety of hiking opportunity in the Cochrane area. The dense morning fog has delayed original plans but other opportunities have been discovered for early and all-season hiking and biking on scenic trails through diverse terrain near the historically significant Bow River.
The short drive from Cochrane towards Calgary on Highway 1A arrives at the original location for the planned hiking mission into the recently inaugurated Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.