ALBERTA

Alberta's Best Road Trips

06/08/2013 12:29 EDT | Updated 05/18/2014 10:59 EDT
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Albertans are huge fans of the "stay-cation" - where you stick close to home and pamper yourself with local dining and luxuries - and there's good reason for this: Alberta is absolutely beautiful and there's so much to see and do.

So, in case you find yourself hankering for a trip this summer, but don't want to be gone for an entire week or cut into precious vacation time, why not take some time to try out a different part of the province? It's a great way to refresh and recharge and combines the best of a road trip with the comfort of being home in just a few short hours.

It would be impossible to list all of the amazing places to discover throughout the province, but here are some of our top picks for day-trips throughout southern and central Alberta.

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The Best Road Trips In Alberta

1. Canmore

Where: One-hour west of Calgary on the TransCanada

What to do: Eat and drink on Main Street, take a drive or hike up to Spray Lakes, explore the Nordic Centre, go for a swim in Quarry Lake (yes, it's warm enough in the summer!) A great alternative to the ever-busy Banff.

2. Banff

Where: One-hour-fifteen minutes west of Calgary on the TransCanada

What to do: Browse the Main strip and play "who's a tourist, who's a local?" (Hint: almost everyone is a tourist.) Visit one of the town's many candy shops, go for a dip in the hot springs or take the gondola up a mountain. Play a round of golf and enjoy afternoon tea at the Banff Springs Hotel.

3. Columbia Icefields/Jasper

Where: 3.5 hours from Edmonton, 4.5 hours from Calgary

What to do: Take your time on the drive. Stop to visit the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Take a ride on an ice bus over glaciers at the Columbia Icefields. Yield to bears and mountain goats. Take lots of pictures. Once in Jasper, make sure to stop at Athabasca Falls and Maligne Lake/Canyon. Stay at a quaint log cabin-esque hotel. Eat deep-fried pickles.

4. Waterton Lakes National Park

Where: Three hours south of Calgary

What to do: Stop to take photos of the Prince of Wales Hotel. Stop in the town of Waterton to see the mountain goats and have lunch on a patio. Bring your passports so you can cross over into Montana and Glacier National Park and drive the majestic Going To The Sun Highway. Stop at Cameron Lake and rent a paddleboat...you can paddle over to the U.S. - no passports required!

5. Lake Louise/Moraine Lake

Where: Two-and-a-half hours west of Calgary

What to do: Make sure to stop and visit both lakes - don't skip Moraine Lake just because it looks like it's off the beaten path. Go for a hike to the back of either lake or rent a canoe. Skip stones. Admire the mountains. Stop to catch your breath. Grab a bite to eat.

6. The Dinosaur Trail/Drumheller

Where: Four hours from Edmonton, 1.5 hours from Calgary

What to do: Climb to the top of a T-Rex. Check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum and learn more about dinosaurs. Explore the hoodoos (but please don't deface them.) Look for fossils in the rocks. Pack a picnic and enjoy the hot, dry weather.

7. Dorrien Smith Spray Trail

Where: The back-route into Spray Lakes, Canmore. More info here.

What to do: Go camping. Bring a picnic. Enjoy the quite. Jump in the lake (if you dare! It's freezing.) Strum a guitar. Read a book. Chat and laugh and enjoy each other's company.

8. Crowsnest Pass

Where: Approximately two hours south of Calgary

What to do: Stop on the way for lunch and antiquing in Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Don't forget to pick up some beef jerkey in Longview. Admire the gorgeous foothills, livestock and windfarms. Stop to pose on the giant truck in Sparwood. Grab a cinnamon bun from Cinnamon Bear. Bring your fishing rod and sit by the river.

9. Lacombe

Where: Two hours north of Calgary, one hour south of Edmonton

What to do: Get lost in the corn maze. Take a tour of a bird sanctuary. See some working blacksmiths. Stop for lunch or grab some ice cream.

10. Millarville

Where: Under one hour south of Calgary

What to do: Go on a Saturday to attend one of the best farmers' markets in Alberta. Check to see if there's horse racing or rodeo events at the track. Marvel at the gorgeous foothills. Visit a farm and go for a trail ride.

11. Sundre

Where: One-and-a-half hours northwest of Calgary

What to do: Go for a trail ride, rent a quad or take a raft down a river. Visit a ranch and ask for a tour. Tee up for a round of golf or take a covered-wagon ride. Make sure to have a burger or steak while you're in true cowboy country.