What's it all about?
This vast, rugged Canadian province is the ultimate place for adventurers and lovers of the great outdoors. But it’s varied landscapes also have plenty for history and culture geeks – from cowboy culture in the Rockies to dinosaur graves in the Badlands – plus two cosmopolitan cities.
Alberta transforms in the winter, you can walk over the trapped bubbles of icy lakes and explore canyons fringed by frozen waterfalls. The reliable, powdery snow is legendary and Rockies resorts for skiing and snowboarding include Marmot Basin in Jasper and Sunshine Village in Banff. There are plenty of winter sports off the piste – try ice skating, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice climbing, or dog sledding.
Cowboys, Indians, and dinosaurs
Alberta has fascinating culture and history to uncover. Head to the canyons, coulees and wind-whipped hoodoos of the Badlands and the Royal Tyrrell Museum to see the 40 dinosaur skeletons found there, or Dinosaur Provincial
Park where you can dig for your own fossils. Alberta’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people have lived in the province for thousands of years, visit Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump to see how the Blackfoot people hunted or Writing on Stone Provincial Park to see their story told in 4,000 year-old rock art. Soak up Alberta’s Wild West culture and stay at a working ranch like the Bar Diamond Guest Ranch where you can ride old wagon trails and round up cattle
Edmonton and Calgary, are more than gateways to the wilds. Attractions range from the 360-degree observation deck on top of the Calgary Tower to Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum. Explore cool neighbourhoods like Edmonton’s bohemian Old Strathcona or Calgary’s East village, where hip cafes, music venues and galleries fill old warehouses. Alberta Food Tours covers both cities, leading a grazing mission around the best eateries, artisan marketss, and breweries.
Edmonton is home to North America's largest urban parkland, with over 150km of trails in the city.
Twin parks with peaks
On the east of the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper National Parks are both designated UNESCO World Heritage sites for their beauty and geological significance. Connected by the epic Icefields Parkway road passing breath-taking peaks and ice blue lakes, both are home to small, relaxed and friendly towns – bases for mountain adventures.
To get a sense of the scale and grandeur, the Banff
Gondola rides to the top of Sulphur Mountain for bird’s eye views of six mountain ranges and a Summit Walk
for those who dare. In Jasper, the Glacier Skywalk is
built into the rock with a glass floor that juts over the
Sunwapta Valley’s mountains and glaciers.
There are a huge choice of summer activities in the
parks – kayaking, paddle boarding and boating on
the lakes and hiking, biking and horse riding along
various trails. Visitors might be lucky enough to spot
wildlife including bears, moose, bison, elk, bighorn
sheep and perhaps even wolves or cougars.
It was Banff’s natural hot springs that drew people there 100 years ago and people still soak in them, breathing in the pine-scented air. A more modern take is the Nordic Spa in Kananaskis, with its hot pools, saunas and heated hammocks admidst alpine forest. Luxury resorts like the Fairmont Lake Louise and the Rimrock in Banff also offer pampering packages.
And another thing...
Don’t forget these lesser-known mountain destinations in Alberta…
Waterton Lakes National Park
The smallest of the Rockies national parks, Waterton is no less epic. Come here to relax around the lake or take a canoe tour, hike the peaks and gaze at waterfalls and the Red Rock Canyon. It’s also home to the famously picturesque Prince of Wales hotel, located on a lonely lakeside bluff.
Canmore and Kananaskis
Canmore is a charming mountain town with a surprisingly top-notch food scene and it is the jumping off point for the Kananaskis Valley, a haven for hiking, biking and cross country skiing.
This is a feature from Issue 5 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.