The Iron Horse Trail is a well-groomed trail that runs on a variety of long paths and all-terrain paths through Central Alberta, giving riders an opportunity to visit many different destinations easily on their sleds.
“There is 300 kilometres of trail, so it really depends on what the snowmobilers want to do,” said Marianne Price, coordinator for the trail. “With the Iron Horse, there is access to a bunch of different communities along the trail if you want to stop for lunch or stay overnight in one of the communities and continue on riding the next day. It’s really flexible in terms of what time frame riders have and whatever trip they want to organize.”
Where to ride
One such community to stop in is the town of Smoky Lake, famous for its pumpkins and annual pumpkin festival. This little Alberta town has plenty of places to stop for delicious food or warm drinks, such as Betsy’s Burger Shack or the Country Garden Cafe.
“Some people like to start off in Smoky Lake and then come to St. Paul, and that’s a good day’s ride,” said Price. “That’s a 90-kilometre ride, and once they get into St. Paul there are lots of things to do. If you’re planning a second day, you can go down to Heinsburg and back; that’s about 85 kilometres one-way.”
Heinsburg is a small hamlet known as the liveliest little ghost town in Alberta. The title stems from the old-time downtown area, and is certainly a fun place to stop and take a break to explore. It’s not abandoned, however—Heinsburg has a grand hall where music jamborees are often held, free camping at its Water Tower Campsite, and a railway theme park that features an impressive 60,000 gallon restored CN water tower and station along the Iron Horse Trail.
Amenities and accommodation
The Iron Horse Trail is fantastic for multi-day trips for the avid sledder, since each of the stops along the way has plenty of overnight accommodations that are easily accessible by snowmobile.
“All the communities on the trail are very snowmobile and ATV friendly, they all have access routes to get to hotels, restaurants and gas stations,” said Price.
So, even if you’re not out adventuring through the groomed trail itself, you’ll never be bored when you’re travelling through communities along Iron Horse.
“There are a lot of really good restaurants and a lot of good locally-owned restaurants, and different things to do in each community,” Price said. “In Smoky Lake there’s the pumpkin park, and in St. Paul there’s the landing pad, movie theatre and bowling alley. There’s places to go out in the evening. Whether you’re in the mood for a lounge or a restaurant, there are plenty of options.”
Local snowmobile clubs along the trail, as well as other casual local sledders, are more than willing to offer recommendations for places to ride, stay or grab some good food. These clubs know their areas like the back of their hands, and are also often the hosts of exciting events, races and other exciting sled gatherings.
“There are a lot of events that take place in winter that you can access from the Iron Horse Trail,” said Price. “There are snowmobile rallies that take place, and different events in the communities.”
If you’re planning a weekend trip, be sure to check out the events schedule on the Iron Horse Trail website to see exactly what you want to take in on your Alberta snowmobiling journey.