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Things to do in Alberta

Things to do in  Alberta

Welcome to Alberta

Home to shimmering lakes, soaring peaks, dense pine forests, and some of Canada's most impressive unspoiled wilderness, the western province of Alberta is an outdoor explorer's paradise, with spots such as Banff and Jasper drawing nature lovers from across the globe. A helicopter sightseeing flight provides an unconventional look at the Rocky Mountains, as does a via ferrata mountain tour, in which fixed iron ropes assist climbers of all abilities. Paddle through the swirling currents of Kicking Horse River on a white-water rafting trip or, for something a little more sedate, spot native Canadian wildlife on a dusk safari in Banff National Park. Don't miss Alberta's top sights, which include Columbia Icefield in both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, as well as Banff's UNESCO-listed Lake Louise, where the crystal-clear waters reflect the mighty Rockies. Edmonton, the capital, and Calgary have plenty to offer travelers looking for a more cosmopolitan experience, too. Urban explorers can spin through diverse Edmonton neighborhoods such as Glenora and Old Strathcona by Segway, and take in top landmarks such as Whitemud Park and 124th Street with ease on a tour led by a local. To get to know Calgary, take a culinary walking tour, a brewery tour, or use the city as a base for alfresco trips to Bow River, Fort Calgary, Inglewood, St. Patrick's Island, or the Trans Canada Trail and get back to the nature for which Alberta is so well known.

Top 15 attractions in Alberta

Maligne Canyon

Carved out of the limestone bedrock by a rushing river, this narrow and steep canyon—which reaches depths of up to 160 feet (50 meters)—is one of the most striking geological features of Jasper National Park. In summer, hikers flock here to follow trails that span the gorge, while in winter, the canyon freezes into an icy wonderland.More

Calgary Tower

Standing sentinel over the city’s downtown since 1968, Calgary Tower features an observation deck with a glass floor and a revolving restaurant 627 feet (191 meters) above ground. Both afford 360-degree views across the city to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance.More

Bow Falls

Dropping off a 30-foot (9-meter ledge, Bow Falls is not particularly high though it is powerful, with the strong flow creating a dramatic frothy torrent. Easy trails along the Bow River lead to scenic viewpoints from where the falls can be observed, with the glacier-carved valley and the Canadian Rockies visible in the background.More

Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is a grand celebration of Canada’s Western heritage that has been attracting visitors every year since 1923. Visit to experience small-town fun in a big way. The Stampede includes rodeo events, chuckwagon races, blacksmithing competitions, a midway, 300 performers on five stages, and First Nations cultural events.More

Moraine Lake

Hemmed in by the dramatic Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park’s glacier-fed Moraine Lake is renowned for its bright blue-green waters. The surreally vivid color results from light refracting off of tiny glacial rock particles. Stunning Lake Moraine was famously featured on the back of Canada’s $20 bill between 1969 and 1979.More

Lake Minnewanka

Just outside of Banff, Lake Minnewanka is everything a mountain lake should be: crystal clear, glacier fed, and surrounded by alpine forests and imposing peaks. A visit to Lake Minnewanka is a perfect introduction to the beautiful Canadian Rockies. It’s also the only lake in Banff National Park that allows privately operated motorboats.More

Banff National Park

Within the boundaries of Banff National Park lie some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. The park, which showcases Canada’s Rocky Mountains in all their glory, offers world-class skiing, hiking, biking, and outdoor attractions. It’s a year-round haven for day-trippers from nearby Calgary and for international visitors galore.More

Fort Calgary

Visit the spot where Calgary was born at Fort Calgary, and explore the city’s formative years from 1875 to 1914. A wooden fort was built here by the North West Mounted Police in 1875, and today, the legacy of those times is recreated with interactive exhibits, replica barracks, guided tours, and an interpretive center.More

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Bubbling up from beneath the Canadian Rockies at a toasty temperature of around 102°F (39°C), Banff Upper Hot Springs have been drawing visitors to Western Canada since the late 19th century. For weary travelers, a soak in the warm mineral-rich waters of the pools, which overlook Mount Rundle, is the ultimate tonic for sore muscles.More

Maligne Lake

With its vivid aquamarine waters and impressive backdrop of jagged, glacier-studded peaks, Maligne Lake has visitors to the Canadian Rockies reaching for their cameras. The glacier-fed lake is the largest in Jasper National Park. Tiny tree-topped Spirit Island stands in the middle of the lake and is the subject of countless postcards.More

Johnston Canyon

The jewel-blue water of Johnston Creek streams through the sheer-sided canyon, foaming white as it careens down waterfalls into pools below. A well-maintained trail—including a cliff-affixed walkway with incredible views—makes Johnston Canyon one of Banff National Park’s most accessible and beloved day hikes.More

Medicine Lake

An alpine lake surrounded by the rugged mountains of Jasper National Park, Medicine Lake is not only a wildlife watching and recreation destination, it is also a geological anomaly. In summer, the pristine lake is brimming with glacial water. Come fall, sinkholes at the bottom of the lake drain the water, leaving nothing but mudflats.More

Sulphur Mountain

Named after its gushing thermal springs, Sulphur Mountain rises to a height of 8,041 feet (2,450 meters), towering over the town of Banff and Bow Valley. Banff Upper Hot Springs sit on its lower slopes, while the Banff Gondola carries you up to the summit ridge for views out across the peaks of the Canadian Rockies.More

Yoho National Park

The unofficial slogan for UNESCO World Heritage–listed Yoho National Park, “rock walls and waterfalls,” aptly describes the stunning Canadian Rockies scenery here. Yoho in the indigenous Cree language may not be as descriptive, but it’s more fitting—as an expression of wonder and awe, it can roughly be translated as, “Wow!”More

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Jutting out from the side of a Jasper National Park cliff, the elevated, glass-bottomed Columbia Icefield Skywalk, also known as Glacier Skywalk, is an exhilarating—if somewhat unnerving—way to experience the epic, untouched landscapes of the Canadian Rockies. From this vantage point, the view of the park’s ice-hatted peaks and glacial valleys is nothing short of spectacular.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

How to Spend 3 Days in Calgary

How to Spend 3 Days in Calgary

How to Spend 1 Day in Calgary

How to Spend 1 Day in Calgary

Rocky Mountain Day Trips from Calgary

Rocky Mountain Day Trips from Calgary

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All about Alberta

When to visit

Alberta is 1.5 times larger than California, spanning the high peaks of the Rockies to stark badlands, prairies, canyons, and forests. Given its size, there’s no one time to visit. Hikers headed to the province’s high-elevation national parks—like Banff—find great weather (and crowds) from late June to mid-September, and snowshoers and skiers show up December through March. The province’s two biggest cities, Edmonton and Calgary, pop with year-long energy, though Calgary’s epic winter festival, Chinook Blast is noteworthy.

Getting around

Once in Calgary or Edmonton, most visitors find that renting a car is the simplest way to get around, no matter the destination. But for something a bit more memorable, consider the train: VIA Rail service from Edmonton to Jasper (at the edge of Jasper National Park) runs regularly, and the ultra-luxurious Rocky Mountaineer runs from several cities—including Vancouver—to Jasper and Banff/Lake Louise. Tours, from chauffeured scenic drives to guided hiking adventures, also abound out of Edmonton and Calgary.

Traveler tips

Often Canada’s provincial parks are as worthy of your time as their “national” counterparts, and that stands true for Alberta. Kananaskis Country used to be a part of Banff National Park, but its designation change has given it far fewer crowds. For an effort-to-reward ratio you just can’t beat, the 2.1-mile Grassi Lakes Trail gets you a Lake Louise-esque experience but with serenity and a lack of crowds, something you won’t find at Lake Louise.

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