As the world continues to evolve, the prospect of a domestic road trip has never looked more enticing. We asked Matt Bailey of Must Do Canada for his thoughts on a Bucket List Alberta Road Trip.
From the rugged badlands of Drumheller to the towering mountains of Jasper, Alberta is a great place for a Canadian bucket list adventure. Whether you’ve got a weekend or a couple of weeks, you can have an incredibly varied experience, such as admiring one of Canada’s darkest skies in Jasper, walking on a glacier in Banff, or partying at the greatest outdoor show on Earth in Calgary. In this Alberta bucket list guide, I’m going to give you some ideas for turning a road trip into the trip of a lifetime.
Most people start with Calgary. As Alberta’s biggest city, not to mention the most central for Alberta’s top attractions, Calgary is a great place to start. Some people simply fly in to the city and immediately head out on the road, but Calgary is worth at least a couple of days. From exploring the stunning National Music Centre and the world-renown public library to admiring the city views from up high at the Calgary Tower or down low at the beautiful Peace Bridge, there are all sorts of things to do in Calgary. If you happen to be there in early July, you certainly don’t want to miss the exciting Calgary Stampede.
After that, we’d recommend going either from Calgary to Banff or from Calgary to Drumheller. If you have any interest in Dinosaurs or badland scenery, Drumheller and the surrounding area is bound to please. Depending on interests and time, we recommend spending 1-2 nights in Drumheller, taking the time to visit the world-famous Royal Turrel Museum, do some light hiking around the hoodoo’s and Horsethief Canyon, get a “foods eye view” from the mouth of the World’s Largest Dinosaur, and maybe visit the haunted Last Chance Saloon in the very small town of Wayne.
The journey from Calgary to Banff, whether done before or after Drumheller, is a totally different experience. Although the distance between Calgary and Banff is about the same as from Calgary to Drumheller, the landscapes couldn’t be more different. From flat prairies and rolling foothills, the Rocky Mountains seem to magically appear out of nowhere. Within less than an hour and a half of driving, you’ll reach Banff National Park, one of Canada’s most visited places. From here, the options for bucket list experiences are almost endless. Do you want to take the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur mountain for summit views without the hike or do you want to use those leg muscles to hike your way up to one of the many mountains summits to enjoy nature at your own pace? Do you want to paddle a canoe on spectacular Lake Louise or go on a day hike to Johnston Canyon? Then again, you could also extend the road trip and drive from Banff to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway, which is known as being one of the most beautiful road trips on the planet. Although the drive is spectacular in its own right, you can also stop along the way to witness sparkling turquoise-coloured lakes, stand on the magnificent Athabasca Glacier, wander out on to the Glacier Skywalk, or admire a variety of wildlife such as bears, elk, and deer. Then again, why not do all four? That’s one epic day.
Once in Jasper, we highly recommend jumping aboard the Jasper Sky Tram, which takes you up Whistlers Mountain, allowing you to hike a little further to the summit at (2,463m/8,081ft) for magnificent 360° views of the surrounding valley. The next day you could take a side trip out to Lake Maligne and take a boat cruise out to Spirit Island. Then, you can relax your tired muscles in the Miette Hot Springs, before heading east from Jasper to Edmonton to indulge in North America’s largest mall, which includes North America’s largest indoor waterpark, North America’s largest indoor amusement park, an underground aquarium, a mini-golf course, movie theatre, and much more. Another option would be driving back down the Icefields Parkway to enjoy the views once again but from a different point of view.
Within as little as a few days, you can experience dozens of bucket-list experiences, both urban and rural, in just one small area of one province, all easily doable on your own. And if that’s not enough, you can easily add many more exhilarating experiences by driving from Calgary to Vancouver, taking the time to stop at places such as Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, the Okanagan Valley, enjoying some of Canada’s most breathtaking scenery before arriving in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.