If outdoor adventure is your ‘thing’, then you’ll most likely get excited at the prospect of an Alberta road trip, particularly one where spontaneity rules! In our world, spontaneity + road trip can only mean one thing … an RV road trip adventure!
While Alberta is technically a prairie province, it’s the Canadian Rockies that are the big drawcard for most visitors, forming nearly half of the 1500km border with British Columbia to the west. So, what are the not-to-be-missed things to do and see on an Alberta road trip?
Pick up an RV rental in Calgary and start your Alberta road trip by heading west on the Trans Canada Highway to the town of Banff.
Banff National Park was the first to be established in Canada after natural hot springs were discovered on what is now the site of Cave & Basin National Historic Site. Sorry, you can no longer bathe in the hot springs there, but you’ll be welcomed year-round at the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a short distance away.
The Banff Tunnel Mountain Campground is most popular with RVers but be aware that reservations for camping at all national park campgrounds in the area are essential during peak season.
Cascade Ponds, Banff | Lake Louise
From Banff, head north – destination Jasper – but first, be sure to include stunning Lake Louise on your itinerary. Paid parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis in the lakeshore parking lots but it’s popular and often fills up by 5.30am. The best way to guarantee seeing the lake is to reserve a spot on one of the Lake Louise shuttles, particularly if you also plan to visit Moraine Lake in the same day. Reservations for the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake shuttles open in early May.
Travel the Icefields Parkway
Highway 93, more commonly known as the Icefields Parkway, is the most iconic of Alberta’s scenic drives. Beginning just north of Lake Louise, this 232km stretch of highway winds along the Continental Divide through sweeping valleys embraced by towering Rocky Mountain peaks. Take your time as you soak in the magnificent grandeur of the scenery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains – a full day, or even more, will give you time to visit the many places of interest and perhaps stop to take in a hike.
Peyto Lake, Icefields Parkway | Weeping Wall, Icefields Parkway
Highlights include Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Saskatchewan River Crossing, the Weeping Wall, Big Bend, Parker Ridge, the Columbia Icefield, Glacier Skywalk, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. Smaller National Park campgrounds are dotted along the Icefields Parkway, giving you an opportunity to camp, stay longer and explore more.
The Icefields Parkway is shared by two national parks, Banff National Park merging into Jasper National Park just south of the Columbia Icefields.
Jasper National Park covers an area of 11,000 square kilometres and the town of Jasper is at its core. It’s not as busy as it’s cousin to the south yet it’s full of amazing experiences – enough to warrant a stay of a few days or more. Hike in the Edith Cavell Meadows, visit Maligne Lake and Canyon, take a flight on the Jasper Skytram, learn about the constellations at the Jasper Planetarium or simply enjoy the restaurants and shopping that make Jasper unique.
Two National Park campgrounds serve the town and advance reservations are essential during peak season. Private campgrounds can be found to the east, near the town of Hinton, around a 40 minute drive from Jasper.
Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Alberta | Canoeing on Maligne Lake
Alberta has much more to offer visitors than mountains. A southern change in direction from Calgary will have you following the Canadian Badlands Trail to explore the Southern Alberta’s rich history, inhabited long before Western settlement by dinosaurs. Prairie land gives way to valleys dotted with moon-like rock formations to form the Alberta Badlands.
First Nations stories are etched into the rocks in Writing on Stone Provincial Park, most of the images having been created around 1050 BCE. Áísínai’pi was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
Writing on Stone Provincial Park
1.5 hours to the east of Calgary, in the small town of Drumheller, you’ll find Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of paleontology. Housing one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur skeletons, the Royal Tyrell Museum is just one reason to add Drumheller to your Alberta road trip itinerary.
The Badlands Amphitheatre hosts numerous shows at its natural 2500 seat venue, formed by the massive Badlands coulees. The most famous is the Badlands Passion Play, held in July. The widely acclaimed Rosebud Theatre nearby attracts thousands of visitors each year to its Opera House performances.
Coal mining was once big in Drumheller and the Atlas Coal Mine historic site has guided tours from May to October, giving you an insight into life as a miner.
Travel the North Dinosaur Trail and stop in at the Little Church, seating only 6 people at a time.
Rock Formations, Drumheller | The Little Church, Drumheller - Seating 10,000 people, 6 at a time
Medicine Hat and Lethbridge
Further east, in the city of Medicine Hat, you’ll find the World’s tallest teepee and, to the south, the city of Lethbridge. Lethbridge is the third-largest city in Alberta and home to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, symbolizing friendship between Canada and Japan.
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes | Overlooking Waterton Lakes Township
Waterton Lakes National Park and the Cowboy Trail
Travel south-west of Lethbridge to Waterton Park and you’ll stumble upon an area combining prairie and mountain vistas, numerous lakes, historic buildings, wildlife viewing and great hiking. Ravaged by fire in 2017, new life has now taken hold and the park’s animals are thriving in the rich new undergrowth. Roads to popular attractions will be open during summer months and it’s a great time to plan a RV road trip to this corner of Alberta.
Return to Calgary on Highway 22 - the Cowboy Trail - perhaps stopping in Turner Valley at the Chuckwagon for some prime AA Alberta beef.
Chuckwagon Cafe, Cowboy Trail | Enjoying the serenity of Elbow Falls
Edmonton is the first city that comes to mind when you think of Northern Alberta. It’s the province’s capital and the gateway to the far North. While most visitors don’t travel too far past Edmonton, those who do will appreciate the unspoiled landscapes and wide-open spaces which are part of an RV vacation into those less popular areas.
Many will travel through Northern Alberta en route to the Northwest Territories or the Yukon, and it would be a mistake to just drive on without checking out the outdoor experiences on offer. Fishing, hiking, golfing, mountain biking, ATVing and spectacular northern lights displays are but a few of the reasons to venture past Edmonton – all in a more wilderness-like setting.
Cooling off in Edmonton | Grain Elevator, Meeting Creek, Alberta
Our Deh Cho Connection itinerary takes you north from Edmonton through Grand Prairie and Manning. Manning is known as the “Land of the Mighty Moose” for its exceptional moose and elk.
Stop to fish at Norikewin Provincial Park before continuing on to High Level – mid point between Edmonton and Yellowknife. The name “High Level” describes the height of the land that separates the Peace River and the Hay River. Hunters will find good opportunities here for bagging moose and deer. A license is required.
The 60th parallel marks the dividing line between Northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Here your road trip through Alberta officially ends and becomes one encompassing the Far North. Continue travelling the Deh Cho route and you’ll eventually find your way back to Edmonton.
Alberta’s northeast is sparsely populated with few main roads. The main city is Fort McMurray, the service centre for the Alberta oil sands industry.
Chilling out in the Campground | Spectacular Northern Lights
Interesting Facts about Alberta
The province of Alberta covers an area of 661,848 kilometres and is the 4th most populous province in Canada.
- Alberta is one of 3 Canadian provinces and territories bordered by a single U.S. state and one of just 2 landlocked provinces
- Alberta is home to Canada's oldest mosque in Edmonton and the largest mosque in Calgary.
- Alberta is the second largest exporter of natural gas in the world and the world's 4th largest producer
- Alberta produces about 50% of all Canadian beef with over 3 million head of cattle.
- Alberta is the leading beekeeping province in the country.
- Edmonton is home to the largest mall in North America. The West Edmonton Wall spans 48 city blocks and it was the world's largest until 2004.
Roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies with travel photographer Maxime Meunier
Let us help you with your own Alberta road trip itinerary.
If you’re planning to do some road tripping, an RV will provide you with the ultimate freedom to travel at your own pace. If you don’t own an RV, an RV rental might be a cost effective way to explore your own corner of Alberta. Contact CanaDream for a quote or use our handy online booking engine to book your Alberta road trip.