Where the heck is Trochu?


Charming French roots will win you over

Join ZenSeekers as we go on expedition across the #BoomTownTrail. Learn more on what several communities across this region have in store. You’ll find inspiration and education to explore Alberta via our #BoomTownTrail expedition hub.

Jeremy Derksen

Ask for recommendations on where to go for a quick romantic getaway in Alberta, and the town of Trochu probably won’t top the list. But somehow, like a hot prairie day that slow cooks a sultry evening tempest, the town has simmered into a romantic getaway destination.

Given its French roots, maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising for this tiny community an hour-and-a-half northeast of Calgary. But these days Trochu — pronounced “Tro - shoe,” population 1,072 — is generally known more for the World’s Largest Golf Tee and its self-deprecating “Where the Hell is Trochu?” marketing campaign.

All that fades away as you pull up to the St. Ann Country Ranch provincial historic site.

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Tucked in a rolling prairie dell, on the original townsite, the St. Ann Country Ranch holds the key to the French connection. A handful of Trochu’s original buildings are spread across the grounds, preserving the history of town founders Armand Trochu, Joseph DeVilder and Leon Eckenfelder. They were French aristocrats who came here to establish a new home in the early 1900s.

The centrepiece of the ranch is the DeVilder country house, that now serves as a 10-bedroom inn and retreat. Spacious, quiet and free from modern distraction, the ranch is a peaceful hideaway filled with country charm.

Holly Frere owns and operates the ranch with her husband Tom. Among its more contemporary claims to fame, she says, the site was used as a set for the CBC TV show Heartland.

"The props manager told me, 'This place is so perfect, I don’t even need to pull anything out of my trailer!'" she says with a chuckle.

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Holly Frere, along with her husband Tom, own and operate the St. Ann Ranch Country Ranch.

If there was ever a place made for long, romantic walks, it has to be the Trochu Arboretum.

Meandering through groves of mixed elm, oak and pine, you’ll find more than 200 species of tree and shrub — some of them unique in all Alberta.

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Head to the Trochu Arboretum for a beautiful walk among the groves of trees, some you won't see anywhere else but in Alberta. 

At the lush heart of the garden sits the Sweetgrass Cafe, in the old Dr. Hay Memorial House. Here, Suzanne Sinclair stirs up her own tempest of tastes. Soups from scratch, homemade grilled sandwiches and decadent desserts served in such a fresh, intimate setting make for a rare experience. Intimate tables offer beautiful views in all directions, perfect for sharing with someone special.

Photo: Jeremy Derksen

Dessert with a view. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Sweetgrass Café with a delicious from-scratch dessert.

On a mini-vacation with the family, staying at the Trochu Golf and Country Club, Kim and Jeff Reder agree there is something special about the town.

“It’s a small town, so everybody is friendly with everybody,” says Jeff. “It’s nice to feel welcomed like that.”

The two like to indulge their shared passion for golf and are beginning to teach their two young children the game. They praise the well-maintained Trochu course as both family-friendly and challenging.

From Tolman Crossing, looking out over the badlands of the Red Deer River Valley, the setting sun paints the stage. With its deep roots and natural beauty, it’s clear the romance of this place originates not from its people or its landscape alone, but also from the union of place and personality.

If You Go

Play a round at the Trochu Golf and Country Club, a well-kept and challenging course, and snap the obligatory selfie at the World’s Largest Golf Tee.

For shoe lovers, Henry’s Shoes is a must. It’s said that even New Yorkers have made the pilgrimage to see the store’s vast collection.

Be sure to pick up an “I Know Where the Hell Trochu Is” cap or button, the ultimate Trochu souvenir.

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