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6 scenic drives through Alberta

Abraham Lake, Rocky Mountains, Alberta - credit: Lacey Gilmour @laceylannae

6 scenic drives through Alberta

They say that the journey can be as rewarding as the destination, and that adage certainly holds true when driving in AlbertaExternal Link Title. 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 Alberta road trips to set out on to explore the cities, nature, and history that can be found around each curve of the province's roads.

Cowboy Trail

Saddle up to where the Canadian prairies meet the Canadian Rockies for a road trip where you'll be welcomed with that old Western charm. This scenic route along Highway 22 is a pick and mix of horseback trail rides, guest and working ranches, historic sites, rodeos and all round adventure. The route stretches from MayerthorpeExternal Link Title (about 136km outside of EdmontonExternal Link Title) to Lundbruck south of CalgaryExternal Link Title with no shortage of pit stops to don your cowboy hat. Pass through cozy townships such as picturesque Cochrane with its Rocky Mountains backdrop and historic downtown, rustic hamlet Bragg Creek, Turner Valley with Alberta's first independent craft distillery, Black Diamond full of vintage stores, and Longview for a world-famous steakExternal Link Title. Continue the adventure and feature in your own Western with local outfitters and trail riders. Other suggested stops include Chain Lake Provincial ParkExternal Link Title for a dip or a picnic, and sidle up to The Bar U Ranch National Historic SiteExternal Link Title to learn about the ranching history of the area that dates back to 1882.


Starting point: Mayerthorpe, outside of Edmonton
Distance: 700km
Time: 2-3 days 
Suggested stops: Rocky Mountain House National Historic SiteExternal Link Title,
The Bar U Ranch National Historic SiteExternal Link Title, Marv's Classic Soda Shop and DinerExternal Link Title


Giddy up and start planning your road tripExternal Link Title

Icefields Parkway

Collect your jaw from the pavement as you round each bend and rise from Lake LouiseExternal Link Title in Banff National Park to JasperExternal Link Title nestled in it's gentle namesake Jasper National Park. Icefields ParkwayExternal Link Title route has earned a reputation and it's easy to see why with more than 100 ancient glaciers, turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife along the journey. This Banff road trip provides  no shortage of places to stop to take yet another photo, hike to see it all from a new angle or breathe in the fresh mountain air. Stop by the Columbia Icefield to explore the Athabasca GlacierExternal Link Title -- the most visited glacier in North America -- then take some time to explore the mountain town of Jasper. A few other tips: look for parked vehicles parked on shoulders (likely looking at wildlife), stay within your vehicle when you too stop for wildlife, fill up your tank in Lake Louise and stay on established trails to protect the vegetation.


Starting point: Lake Louise
Distance: 235km
Timing: 1-2 days 
Suggested stops: Fairmont Chateau Lake LouiseExternal Link Title, Columbia IcefieldExternal Link Title, Glacier Sky WalkExternal Link Title and Athabasca GlacierExternal Link Title, Athabasca FallsExternal Link Title, Jasper townshipExternal Link Title 


Take me to the mountains. Start planning your road tripExternal Link Title

Kananaskis Country

After you've checked off BanffExternal Link Title and JasperExternal Link Title, you're likely left wanting more. If you're heading out on another road trip from Calgary,  Kananaskis CountryExternal Link Title delivers. Traveling to the east, you'll find a ton of provincial parks (nine to be exact), as well as a bevvy of wildlife -- including bears and moose! The region offers year-round adventures for all ages and abilities. Bike, stroll, paddle, hike, fish, camp, climb, horseback ride, snowshoe, ski, snowmobile or snow sled -- the options are endless. Plus, if you're looking for more excitement, you can extend this journey (by about 297 kilometres) into a Banff road trip if you haven't already checked it out.


Starting point: Calgary
Distance: 300km
Timing: 1-2 days
Suggested stops: Yamnuska Wolfdog SanctuaryExternal Link Title, CanmoreExternal Link Title
Grassi LakesExternal Link Title,  Spray ValleyExternal Link Title, Elbow Falls and Bow ValleyExternal Link Title Provincial Parks, Boundary RanchExternal Link Title, Grotto CanyonExternal Link Title


Start planning your road tripExternal Link Title to recharge in nature.

Canadian Badlands

Step back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed in the Alberta BadlandsExternal Link Title on this road trip from Calgary. Explore intriguing rock formations, fossil beds around the geologically rich areas surrounding DrumhellerExternal Link Title. 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)External Link Title 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 ParkExternal Link Title), as well as the Rosedale Suspension BridgeExternal Link Title, and the Last Chance SaloonExternal Link Title for a Wild West throwback.


Starting point: Calgary
Distance: 228km
Timing: 2-3 days
Suggested stops: 
Royal Tyrrell MuseumExternal Link Title, Horseshoe CanyonExternal Link Title, Horsethief CanyonExternal Link Title, Wayne, Hoodoos and Hoodoo TrailExternal Link Title


Get digging and plan your road tripExternal Link Title

Crowsnest Highway

Stretching from Southern Alberta and all the way to Vancouver into British Columbia, the Crowsnest HighwayExternal Link Title route is full of mining history and beautiful scenery for driving. The Alberta portion starts a couple hours south of Calgary, where you'll find just about 95 kilometres 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 TreeExternal Link Title -- rumored to be the most photographed tree in Canada.


Starting point:  Fort Macleod
Distance: 95km
Timing: 1-2 days (and into British Columbia)
Suggested stops: Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic SiteExternal Link Title, Lundbruck FallsExternal Link TitleFrank Slide Interpretive CentreExternal Link TitleBurmis TreeExternal Link Title

Boomtown Trail

Skip the highway between Alberta's two major urban cities Calgary and Edmonton and travel the road less traveled along the Boomtown Trail. First explore Edmonton's rich history before hitting the road to journey through townships that didn't look all that different 100+ years ago when the railway came through. Be ready to chuckle at the frontage facades on simple buildings, explore regional museums, picnic in local parks. Splash in the warm waters of Buffalo LakeExternal Link Title, familiarize yourself with pioneer throwbacks in CamroseExternal Link Title and Delburne, then peer into the past at the Heritage Park Historical VillageExternal Link Title. Bonus: Spot the world's largest lampExternal Link Title in Donalda!


Starting point: Edmonton
Distance: 482km
Timing: 1-2 days 
Suggested stops: Fort Edmonton ParkExternal Link Title, Camrose Railway Station Museum Archives and CafeExternal Link Title, Rochon Sands Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial ParkExternal Link TitleFort CalgaryExternal Link Title


With so much to explore driving Alberta, we think it's time to hit the road!