Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary serves as the gateway to a world of natural wonders. While the city itself offers a vibrant urban experience, adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers will find themselves spoilt for choice with the countless day trip opportunities just a stone’s throw away. From majestic mountains and serene lakes to historic towns and unique geological formations, Alberta’s surrounding areas provide a perfect escape for those seeking to immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty of the province. Here, we present a selection of day trips from Calgary that promise unforgettable experiences.
Banff National Park
No exploration of Calgary’s surroundings would be complete without a visit to Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just a scenic 90-minute drive from Calgary, this iconic park is renowned for its snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife. Start your journey in the charming town of Banff, where you can wander along Banff Avenue, explore the Banff Park Museum, or relax in the mineral-rich waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Take a gondola ride up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views of the Rockies, and don’t miss the famous Lake Louise, a postcard-perfect alpine lake surrounded by majestic glaciers.
Drumheller and the Badlands
For a unique geological adventure, head east from Calgary to the town of Drumheller, situated in the heart of the Badlands. This prehistoric wonderland is famous for its rich deposits of dinosaur fossils and stunning rock formations. Explore the Royal Tyrrell Museum, one of the world’s foremost dinosaur museums, and embark on a guided hike through the otherworldly landscapes of Horseshoe Canyon. Witness the awe-inspiring hoodoos, towering rock formations carved by wind and water over millions of years. A visit to the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site provides a glimpse into Alberta’s coal mining history, while the Hoodoo Trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding badlands.
Escape the crowds and discover the natural beauty of Kananaskis Country, located just southwest of Calgary. This vast wilderness area boasts rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the network of trails that cater to all skill levels, from leisurely strolls to challenging summit hikes. Marvel at the turquoise waters of Upper Kananaskis Lake, or relax by the shores of Barrier Lake. Fishing enthusiasts will find ample opportunities to cast their lines, while mountain bikers can tackle the thrilling singletrack trails. In winter, Kananaskis transforms into a winter wonderland, offering excellent cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling options.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous history of Alberta with a visit to the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Located approximately two hours south of Calgary, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an archaeological wonder. Learn about the ancient hunting techniques of the indigenous peoples as you explore the interpretive center and stroll along the trails that lead to the cliff where buffalo herds were driven off to provide sustenance for the tribes. Engage with knowledgeable interpreters who bring the history and culture of the Plains Indians to life. The site offers a unique opportunity to gain insights into the traditions and lifestyle of the First Nations people.
Calgary’s proximity to a diverse range of natural wonders makes it an ideal base for day trips that showcase the best of Alberta’s landscapes and cultural heritage. Whether you choose to venture into the majestic Banff National Park, uncover the secrets of the Badlands in Drumheller, explore the untamed wilderness of Kananaskis Country, or delve into indigenous history at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, each journey promises unforgettable experiences and awe-inspiring vistas. So pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on an adventure that will leave you with lasting memories of Alberta’s surrounding wonders.