They say that the journey can be as rewarding as the destination, and that adage certainly holds true in Alberta. From expansive fields of yellow canola, to jagged rows of mountains upon mountains, this province is home to some of the most interesting and diverse drives in the country. Here are a few to set out on to explore the cities, nature, and history that can be found around each curve of Alberta’s roads.
Old west vibes will greet you where the foothills meet the Canadian Rockies. Set out on 457 miles of road from Mayerthorpe (about 85 miles outside of Edmonton) and make your way south on Highway 22. You’ll see Calgary, Turner Valley, Longview, and of course, Western culture on display. Be sure to make a stop at Chain Lake Provincial Park for a dip or a picnic, and sidle up to The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site to learn about the ranching history of the area that dates back to 1882.
Travel from Lake Louise to Jasper through some of the most stunning scenery the country has to offer. The Icefields Parkway route has earned a reputation and it’s easy to see why once you’ve made your way through 144 miles of sparkling glaciers, turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife. Stop by the Columbia Icefield to explore the Athabasca Glacier — the most visited glacier in North America — then take some time to explore the mountain town of Jasper.
After you’ve checked on Banff and Jasper, you’re likely left wanting more and luckily Kananaskis Country delivers. Outside of Calgary and traveling to the east, you’ll find a ton of provincial parks (we recommend Grassi Lakes and Spray Valley Provincial Park) as well as a bevvy of wildlife — including bears and moose! Stop by Barrier Lake, go on a hike, and enjoy this low-key version of probably the most popular tourist spot in Alberta. Plus, if you’re looking for more excitement, you can extend this trip (by about 185 miles) to Banff if you haven’t already checked it out.
Step back in time in the Alberta Badlands. From Calgary, you’ll head west into the geologically rich areas on your way to Drumheller. Spot red rock ridges, incredible Hoodoos, and fossils — if you’re lucky. Be sure to check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum (and a variety of other dinosaur-oriented activities) as you weave your way along the Red Deer River. Then check out one or two of the parks in the area (like Midland Provincial Park), as well as the Rosedale Suspension Bridge, and the Last Chance Saloon for a Wild West throw back.
Stretching from Southern Alberta almost to the British Columbia border, the Crowsnest Highway driving route is full of mining history and beautiful scenery. Starting in Fort Macleod, just under two hours south of Calgary, you’ll find just about 60 miles of road ahead for you to explore. The charming towns of Bellevue, Hillcrest, Blairmore, and Coleman dot your path and offer opportunities to explore the history of coal mining in the area, while also leading you to picturesque hikes and quaint mom and pop shops. If you swing by Burmis, a small community along this drive, be sure to look for the Burmis Tree — rumored to be the most photographed tree in Canada.
Traveling from Calgary to Edmonton? Check out the road less traveled by taking the Boomtown Trail. Typically, the drive between Alberta’s two major urban cities can be long and uneventful, but this alternate route, that takes you away from the Trans-Canada Highway, is much more inspired. Splash in the warm waters of Buffalo Lake, familiarize yourself with pioneer throwbacks in Camrose and Delburne, then peer into the past at the Heritage Park Historical Village. Bonus: Spot the world’s largest lamp in Donalda!
With some much to explore in Alberta, we think it’s time to hit the road!
For more road trip inspiration, check out the Travel Alberta website.