By Stephanie Swensrude
It’s almost the time of year I start planning road trips for my summer. Alberta is home to dozens of fun summer activities. This summer, I hope to remember why I am so proud to call this province my home.
Day 1: Drumheller
Start off your trip with the dinosaur capital of Canada. Just three hours southeast of Edmonton, you’ll find Drumheller and its world-renowned Royal Tyrell Museum. In addition to its vast collection of fossils, you can also take a hike through the dusty badlands. Then, make your way to Dinosaur Provincial Park, about two hours southeast, to camp for the night.
Day 2: Dinosaur Provincial Park
This is one of Alberta’s hidden gems. With a wide variety of hiking paths, you will be amazed at the geological formations called hoodoos. You can also enjoy a picnic on the bank of the Red Deer River.
Day 3: Brooks & Calgary
If you’re a dork for small museums in the middle of nowhere like me, you can head to the Brooks and District Museum to get a look at the heritage of Southern Alberta; from the first Black cowboy to a one-room schoolhouse. Then, it’s down to Calgary.
Alberta’s largest city boasts tons of fun attractions for all ages. If you’re tired from hikes and camping, spend an afternoon sunbathing in St. Patrick’s Island Park. It is located across the river from the Calgary Zoo and it is just as fun. There’s also an area for wading and some trails. Calgary has an incredible selection of restaurants to check out for dinner.
Day 4: Calgary
In the heart of Cow-town’s downtown sits Glenbow Museum. There’s something for everyone here: pop culture fans, history buffs and art lovers. Spend the morning here, then meet up with your Calgary Greeter for a walking tour through downtown. Greeters are local volunteers with a passion for Calgary. You can meet with a Greeter who has expertise in local culture, architecture, art and more!
Day 5: Canmore
Just over an hour west of Calgary, you’ll find Canmore. Smaller than its big sister Banff, you may find that Canmore has a less crowded, more local vibe. Check out the Carter-Ryan Gallery for bright paintings and soapstone sculptures by Indigenous artist Jason Carter. The gallery also hosts live musical theatre performances all summer long.
While you stroll the streets of Canmore, you’ll enjoy people watching, window-shopping, and taking in the gorgeous mountain scenery. There are also tons of hikes for all levels in the surrounding area.
Day 6: Banff
No Alberta road trip is complete without hitting up these next few spots. Banff is known around the world as a beautiful mountain paradise, and for good reason. However, this can make it hard to go anywhere that isn’t crawling with tourists. I recommend timing your trip so that you hit Banff and Jasper during a weekday, or during a time where children are in school. Also, while in the National Parks, make sure you have a valid park pass!
An easy and quick hike starts just 15 minutes away from the Town of Banff. Tunnel Mountain is a great choice to see views of the town and of Rundle Mountain.
If you’ve chosen a quieter time to visit, take the Johnston Canyon route to the Ink Pots. One of the busiest hikes in Banff, you can walk between a canyon wall and a roaring river on safe catwalks. Once you reach the peculiar Ink Pots, you can sit for a picnic amidst the milky-green or vibrant blue mineral springs.
Day 7: Jasper
Finish off with what is, in my humble opinion, the best of Alberta’s famous mountain towns – Jasper. If you want to relax after the scenic four-hour drive from Banff, duck into The Whistle Stop Pub for some awesome drinks and food.
Jasper is one of Canada’s only Dark Sky Preserves, which means there are actual laws in place to help cut down on light pollution. Jasper Planetarium offers many packages to help you explore the cosmos. If you’re on a budget, I recommend driving up to Pyramid Lake to stargaze.
Day 8: Jasper
Rise and shine! Head to Coco’s Cafe for breakfast. They have espresso beverages and delicious bites for all diets – gluten-free, veggie, meat-eater, and more! Local art and posters adorn the walls. The bathroom actually features a giant mural of Pyramid Mountain! The mismatched chairs are covered with poofy cushions and throw pillows. It’s a great local cafe to start your day.
There are hundreds of hiking trails around Jasper National Park for all ability levels. However, if you have limited time in Jasper, you don’t want to spend two hours driving to a trail. Luckily, there are a handful of trails that start and end within the town of Jasper. Minimal driving required! Make sure you bring along a snack.