At a Glance
When to Go
Both Edmonton and Calgary have international airports, with daily flights arriving from just about everywhere. Because Alberta is so large, and its attractions so spread out, make sure to fly into the right airport. The Alberta Badlands, the Cowboy Trail, and Banff and Waterton national parks are closer to Calgary, while Jasper National Park is closest to Edmonton. Another scenic way to arrive in Alberta is by train. VIARail’s Canada Line runs between Toronto and Vancouver, via Jasper and Edmonton. Rocky Mountaineer runs from Seattle and Vancouver to Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary.
Alberta is massive, but regional flight services are limited. While airport shuttles to Jasper and Banff national parks are available from both Calgary and Edmonton, it’s often easiest to get around the province by car. For the most part, roads are paved and navigation is easy, but make sure to check your fuel gauge before leaving rural towns, as it can be several hundred kilometers between service stations. The bonus, however, is fuel prices that are typically the most inexpensive in Canada. Throughout the summer, many visitors opt to rent RVs and stay at campgrounds in the Canadian Rockies. In the winter, make sure to request an AWD rental car with winter tires to make the most of driving on snow-covered roads.
Food and Drink
Much of Alberta's culture is celebrated in the province’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks site protects the abundant wildlife of the Canadian Rockies, while the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, located in the southwest corner of the province, was formed to commemorate goodwill between the USA and Canada. At Dinosaur Provincial Park, 75 million years of fossilized history has been discovered in the dramatic landscapes of the Badlands. Wood Buffalo National Park is home to the world’s largest bison herd, and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump celebrates aboriginal culture by portraying how the Plains Indians hunted buffalo for thousands of years.
The Calgary Stampede is Alberta’s most famous annual event, drawing over 700,000 visitors to the province for 10 days each July. More than the just world’s richest rodeo, the event's live music performances and Stampede Midway draw crowds equal to the rodeo itself. After the Stampede, the province sees many summer music festivals, such as the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Calgary’s Sled Island Festival, and Hinton’s Wild Mountain Music Fest. The Banff Mountain Film Festival brings adventure filmmaking into the limelight each October, while Jasper in January is dubbed the Canadian Rockies' hottest winter festival.
What the Locals Know
Jeff Bartlett is an adventure photographer and writer based in Jasper National Park. He loves active travel. His memorable trips include cycling across Argentina, ski touring in Norway, and hiking around New Zealand. To keep track of Jeff’s adventures, follow @PhotoJBartlett on Instagram or subscribe to his blog.