Edmonton has a fun-filled summer of festivals and events, but if you want to escape for a day there are many options to choose from. Spend time in the great outdoors wildlife watching and learn about some of the amazing animals living not too far from home. Go on adventures to see the Rocky Mountains from new heights or find a calm and peaceful environment away from your busy routines. Learn about the histories of different cities and check out exhibits for different eras. From free options to those who have room to splurge, there is a day trip for everyone.
Beaver Boardwalk (Hinton, 3 hour drive)
Get close to animals like beavers and learn about nature at the same time. Beaver Boardwalk is a wooden bridge with beavers swimming in the waters under it. This is a great experience for nature lovers because you’ll see animals like owls, bats, red foxes and wolves but you’ll also see amphibians like frogs and toads. There’s a different number of beavers at the boardwalk every year–the website reported up to 12 on lucky days! The boardwalk also has signs sharing information about the plants, animals and six species of trees so people can learn how to protect them.
Moose Lake Loop (Jasper, 4 hour drive)
Moose Lake Loop is a great trail for hiking beginners or anyone seeking a short hike. This Jasper trail begins at Maligne Lake. It’s 3.5 km long and will take about 1-2 hours to complete. You will walk through the forest with a scenic view of Moose Lake and the mountains. Moose Lake Loop is one of the dog-friendly trails in Jasper, but dogs must remain on their leashes at all times. Nearly 150 moose live in Jasper and spend the summer near lakes to find plants to eat. Moose are a shy species, so if you’re lucky, you might spot one.
Elk Island National Park ($8.50 for adult admission, 35 minute drive)
Escape the everyday stress at the sanctuary in Fort Saskatchewan. Elk Island National Park is just over half an hour away from Edmonton and it’s open all year round. The park has 11 hiking trails, kayaking, canoeing, sailboating and more. Elk Island is also home to many animals, making it great for the animal lovers. Beaver Pond Trail has an aspen forest and sedge meadows on a 3.6 kilometre loop. Shoreline Trail has a mixed forest with good views of the islands and the Beaver Bay picnic area on the peninsula has a good view of the lake. If you’re looking for a longer stay, there are three campgrounds where campers will have a great view of aurora borealis lighting the sky. Camping options include the hike-in tenting-only site at the Oster Lake Backcountry Campground and oTENTik, a mix between a cabin and a tent.
Banff Upper Hot Springs ($16.50 for adults, 4 hour drive)
Try something new by swimming in an outdoor pool on the side of a mountain. Banff Upper Hot Springs is an outdoor swimming pool near the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff. The water in the Hot Springs flows from the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Vault inside the mountain. The temperature of the water changes as the seasons change. Visitors have a great view of the valley, Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. The unique location also provides visitors rare sightings of wildlife like bighorn sheep. A few benefits of the hot spring’s mineral-rich water are stress reduction and better sleep. The hot springs also have shower facilities, towel rentals, a picnic area and a cafe.
Calgary Heritage Park ($29.95 for adults, 3 hour drive)
Step back in time to discover the history of Western Canada from the 1860s through the 1950s at Calgary’s Heritage Park. A real steam train or a horse-drawn wagon will take you on a tour of the park in the south of Downtown Calgary. Plus there’s a car museum called the Gasoline Alley Museum with antique cars as old as 1905. If you’ve ever wondered what the amusement park rides were like so many years ago, visit the midway to go on restored rides like a carousel or the big ferris wheel at the Conklin Lakeview Amusement Park. Try ball tossing or milk bottle toss at the Games of Amusement.
Jasper Raft Tours ($65-$89 adults)
Grab your friends to experience Jasper from the water. You’ll learn about Jasper’s history and travel along the Athabasca river, following one of the routes used by fur traders many years ago. If you like animals, there’s a chance to see some of Jasper’s wildlife, like bears, elk, deer and more. Plus you don’t have to leave your dog at home; they can tag along for another $15. If you don’t have experience rowing, no worries. Guides will do all the rowing for you.
Horseback riding – Spray River Ride ($94 for adults)
This is a great reason to get out of the city; ride horses through scenic Banff, including crossing through the waters of Spray River. The ride also passes by the edge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf course, one of the most famous golf courses in Canada. This is an experience anyone can try. You don’t need to have horseback riding experience as guides are there to help you learn. Experience the beauty of Alberta and live the cowboy life for an hour.
Columbia Icefield Skywalk Adventure ($85-$105 for adults)
For adventure seekers, the Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a glass-floored walkway on the cliffs of Sunwapta Valley in Jasper National Park. Experience the scenery of being on a helicopter at a fraction of the price. Expect incredible views of fossils, waterfalls and glacier landscapes from 280 metres above the ground. You can go to the Skywalk as a smaller adventure for about $30. If you seek a bigger adventure and don’t mind splurging, then check out the Columbia Icefield Adventure. You’ll get to ride in an all-terrain vehicle and walk and explore a 10,000 year old glacier. They even let you drink from it! And if you’re like me, and the thought of standing on the glass is terrifying, don’t worry. There’s still spots in the Skywalk where you can take in the view from the safety of solid ground.
Cover photo via Banff Adventures