Now that the weather is warming up, we're starting to dream about hitting Alberta's highways.
The great thing about central and southern Alberta is that a road trip won't cost you an entire week worth of vacation — most of these trips you can conquer in a day or a weekend. So why not take some time to visit 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 places you really need to see in Alberta this summer.
The Icefields Parkway
<strong>Where:</strong> 3.5 hours from Edmonton, 4.5 hours from Calgary. <strong>What to do:</strong> The Icefields Parkway is arguably one of the most scenic drives in Canada. Between Lake Louise and Jasper you'll see the bluest lakes, towering green glaciers and plenty of wildlife. The road takes you from high in the mountains to the valley floor. This highway can become quite busy in the summer, so give yourself plenty of time to travel and soak in the glorious surroundings. Pictured: Peyton Lake
Walk On A Glacier
<strong>Where:</strong> One hour from Jasper and 2.5 hours from Banff. <strong>What to do:</strong> While you're making your way along the stunning Icefields Parkway, carve out some time to stop at the Columbia Icefields and take it all in. You can hike up or take an <a href="http://www.explorerockies.com/columbia-icefield/" target="_blank">glacier-equipped motorcoach</a> onto the Athabasca Glacier. The stunning green/blue ice and sound of rushing water underneath are exhilarating.
Dare To Step Out Onto The Glacier Skywalk
<strong>Where:</strong> 3.5 hours from Calgary, 4.5 hours from Edmonton <strong>What to do:</strong> While you're stopped at the Columbia Icefields, why not take a trip to the area's newest attraction — <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/29/glacier-skywalk-jasper-open_n_5234003.html" target="_blank">The Glacier Skywalk</a>. The glass-floored platform hangs nearly 300 metres above the Sunwapta Valley and promises to give visitors a bird's eye view of glaciers, mountain crags and wildlife along the cliffs below.
The Grande Prairie Stompede
<strong>Where:</strong> 7.5 hours from Calgary, 4.5 hours from Edmonton <strong>When:</strong> May 28 thru June 1, 2014 <strong>What to do:</strong> It doesn't get more western than this. Experience the thrills and spills of Cowboy Way as some of the best in the west compete in Rodeo, Pony Chuckwagon Racing and thoroughbred Chuckwagon racing. Beer gardens, midway and pancake breakfasts round out the weekend of boot-stomping good times.
Torrington Gopher Hole Museum
<strong>Where:</strong> 1.5 hours northeast of Calgary <strong>What to do:</strong> Seventy-one tiny, taxidermy gophers are on display at the Torrington Gopher Hole museum — each one carefully dressed in costume and dropped into anthropomorphic settings. The Torrington Gopher Hole museum is officially open from June 1 to September 30, but if you call or email ahead someone will come meet you and let you in.
<strong>Where:</strong> 1.5 hours west of Calgary, in Banff National Park <strong>What to do:</strong> This easy hike is a sure bet for almost anyone of any fitness level. The hike to the lower and upper falls has plenty of guardrails and handrails, with some modifications to the path to make it easier. As you go, you'll see powerful waterfalls, crystal clear water at the base of the canyon and the effect the torrents of water have had in shaping the canyon over the years. For those looking for a longer hike, the option to continue on to the Ink Pots is well worth the extra hours. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic!
Moraine Lake/Larch Valley
<strong>Where:</strong> 2.5 hours from Calgary, 5 hours from Edmonton <strong>What to do:</strong> One of the most stunning vistas in the Canadian Rockies is just a few steps from your car at Moraine Lake, located just a few kilometres off the main road to Lake Louise. The stunning colour of the water and the accessible look-off points make this one of the most photogenic places in all of Canada. For those looking for more adventure, the hike to Larch Valley will take you high above the lake into a beautiful mountain meadow full of great spots to rest your tired feet and eat your packed lunch.
Explore The Hoodoos Near Drumheller
<strong>Where:</strong> Four hours from Edmonton, 1.5 hours from Calgary. <strong>What to do:</strong> Explore the incredible formations of the arid hoodoos (but please don't deface them.) These hoodoos in particular formed 70 - 75 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period and maintain a unique mushroom-like appearance. The underlying base erodes at a faster rate compared to the capstones, a rate of nearly one centimeter per year, faster than most geologic structures.
Take A Dip At Sylvan Lake
<strong>Where:</strong> Two hours north of Calgary <strong>What to do:</strong> Plenty of people from Calgary and Red Deer travel to Sylvan Lake on hot summer days to take advantage of this pristine swimming spot. Once you get tired of splashing around, head to the nearby town of Markerville, an Icelandic settlement, which boasts some of the best ice cream at the Historic Markerville Creamery Museum.
The Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show
<strong>Where:</strong> Calgary Stampede Grounds <strong>When:</strong> <strong>What to do:</strong> The evening show at the Calgary Stampede is some of the best entertainment of the summer. For the cost of admission you get to see the always-exciting chuckwagon races, before the <a href="http://cs.calgarystampede.com/events/transalta-grandstand-show" target="_blank">Grandstand Show</a> starts. This year's show promises plenty of star power, with different guest celebrities performing nightly. The fireworks that end every show are a tradition that happen every night of Stampede.
Waterton Lakes National Park
<strong>Where:</strong> Three hours south of Calgary <strong>What to do:</strong> 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!
The Ghost Town Of Nordegg
<strong>Where:</strong> Three hours northwest of Calgary, 3.5 hours southwest of Edmonton <strong>What to do:</strong> A visit to Nordegg is like a step back in time. A small camp was established at the future townsite in 1911, after the discovery of coal, and by 1942 the Nordegg mine was one of the top-producing coal mines in Alberta. Once a bustling town, many of the original buildings remain, but the population has dwindled to a few hundred people.
We asked our readers why Alberta is the best place to live in Canada. Click through to see what they told us ----->
The Diverse Landscape
"I love that in Alberta we have a sampling of everything. Mountains, prairie, forest, and badlands." - Lisa Fiderko
"The way the frost covers the trees... They are beautiful. I love the light fluffy snow... And there is nothing like a late fall... Laying in the fresh cut wheat fields, soaking in the sun, cool breeze blowing your face ... the beautiful yellow canola fields .... Just golden.... And the best is the amazing northern lights we are able to see..... Sigh. I love Alberta." - Amber Morin
The Sky at Night
"The night sky... Absolutely stunning!" - Lauri Sadlemyer Braat
The Sky, Again
"The sunsets, the chinooks..." - Star Shelly
The People - Past and Present
"The history of strong, inspiring women and the can-do, independent spirit and generosity of the people." - Star Shelly
Opportunities To Enjoy Nature
"Blue sky, the Rockies, the lakes, the hiking, fresh air." - Joy Mamer
"The optimism of the people." - Anthony Aleksic
Lots of Work To Be Had
"Jobs!" - Susan Cowtan Cherkas
The Beautiful Views
"Landscape. The stretch of prairies that go on forever. From a plane it looks like beautiful patchwork quilt sewn together. The colors of the seasons. The air is dry not so much humid as other places. Also the lakes and forests up north. Our mountains to the west. And chinook winds in the south and full of history." - Jessie Clarke
A Chance To See These Fellas
"The wilderness." - Roddy Wolf Cross
The Sunsets.. Again
"The forever sunsets." - Michelle Jesse Benko
Stuff Gets Done
"Blue sky, mountains and I can actually see my tax dollars being spent on roads, etc." - Dy No-Gucci
These Pops of Yellow
"Canola fields." - Star Roshuk
It's Not Anywhere Else
"It's not Ontario." - John Collison
Weekend Getaways On The Cheap
"Great camping." - Krista Klippenstein Servant
The Sometimes-Crazy Weather
"I don't live there anymore but loved the electrical storms that lit up the night sky. We don't get much of that on the West Coast." - Robin Yeager
Everything Is So Stunning
"It's so beautiful here!" - KOVACS SPORTSWEAR
The Wide-Open Spaces
"When your husband leaves and your dog leaves you can watch them for 6 days woohoo." - Jennifer De Guglielmo Hayes
The Spirit of the People
"The Maverick Spirit of the people. It's an amazing place!" - Agnieszka Helena
The Lay of the Land
"Love the topography - nature. The way the mountains fall into the foothills and then smooth out into the prairies. The majestic vistas and the open wide skies." - Rod R Campbell
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