Best known simply as “Rocky,” Rocky Mountain House of 6,800 straddles the North Saskatchewan River and is surrounded by gently rolling hills in a transition zone between aspen parkland and mountains. Highway 11 (also known as David Thompson Highway ) passes through town on its way east to Red Deer  (82 km/51 mi) and west to the northern end of Banff National Park  (170 km/106 mi).
Make your first stop in town the tourist information center (54th Ave., 403/845-5450 or 800/565-3793, www.rockychamber.org , late May–Aug. Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., the rest of the year Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.), beside Highway 11 north of downtown.
Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site (seven km/4.3 mi west of Rocky Mountain House on Hwy. 11A, 403/845-2412, mid-May–Aug. daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sept. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., adult $4, senior $3.50, child $2) commemorates the important role fur trading played in Canada’s history.
The first trading post, or fort, was built on the site in 1799. By the 1830s, beaver felt was out of fashion in Europe, and traders turned to buffalo robes. By the 1870s, the fur trade had ended and the last post at Rocky Mountain House closed.
Today, the protected areas include the sites of five forts, a buffalo paddock, and a stretch of riverbank where the large voyageur canoes would have come ashore to be loaded with furs bound for Europe.
The visitor center is the best place to begin a visit to the site; its interpretive displays detail the history of the forts, the fur trade, and exploration of the West. Two trails lead along the north bank of the river. The longer of the two, a 3.2-kilometer (two-mile) loop, passes the site of the two original forts. Frequent “listening posts” along the trail play a lively recorded commentary on life in the early 1800s.
All that remains of the forts are depressions in the ground, but through the commentary and interpretive displays, it is easy to get a good idea of what the forts looked like.
Rocky Mountain House Museum (5406 48th St., 403/845-2332, July–Aug. daily 9 a.m.–8 p.m., June and Sept. daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., the rest of the year weekdays only, adult $4, child $1.50) is in the same complex as the information center. Exhibits include an array of pioneer artifacts, including an early Forest Service cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, and an interesting rope-making machine.
Least expensive of the motels spread out along Highway 11 east of town is the Voyageur Motel (403/845-3381 or 888/845-5569, www.voyageurmotel.ca , $60–75 s, $75–90 d), which has large clean rooms with fridge and microwave, or pay an extra $15 for a kitchenette. Walking Eagle Inn & Lodge (4819 45th St., 403/845-2804 or 866/845-2131, www.walkingeagle.net , $99–129 s or d), easily recognized by its striking log exterior, has comfortable rooms, a steakhouse restaurant, and a steam room.
Riverview Campground (Hwy. 11, 403/845-4422, unserviced sites $16, hookups $19–26) is the only commercial camping facility in town. The unserviced sites are tucked in among a grove of trees along the North Saskatchewan River. Amenities include a small grocery store, laundry, showers, and free firewood.
Another recommended spot is Crimson Lake Provincial Park (403/845-2330, $22–28), northwest of town along an access road off Highway 11, where you’ll find two campgrounds; sites along the bank of Crimson Lake are mostly powered, whereas those beside Twin Lakes aren’t.