The Best Road Trip In Alberta
Taking in the jaw-dropping beauty of the Canadian Rockies, traversing Canada’s most scenic highway, and connecting Alberta’s two booming cities is the ultimate western Canadian road trip. Just don’t forget to pack a camera, as this road trip goes from the provincial capital, through both Jasper and Banff National Parks via the Icefield Parkway. The road trip doesn’t stop there; as it traverses Alberta’s western edge of the Great Plains, surrounding Calgary.
10640 100 Avenue Northwest
The Matrix Hotel, located just off Jasper Avenue, is smack-dab in the middle of downtown Edmonton, and there is no better place to stay than its Onyx Suite. The design of the hotel—stylish and modern—suits any style of traveler and most rooms have wide balconies that overlook the city. But only the Onyx Suite has a sprawling walk-out terrace with built-in barbecue, fireplace, and seating for hosting an impromptu rooftop cocktail hour. It’s all within easy walking distance of the Edmonton City Centre mall and countless other shops, plus it’s close to the city’s best nightlife when the occasion calls for a night on the town. Rooms from $195. Contact 1-780-429-2861.
Maligne Lake, Improvement District No. 12, AB T0E, Canada
It takes patience and good fortune to create a unique image in a place considered Canada’s second-most-photographed landscape. The Through the Lens Cruise on Maligne Lake gives amateur and professional shutterbugs such an opportunity. While in the boat, the onboard instructor talks technique and composition with aspiring photographers and challenges seasoned veterans to try new perspectives. Once the group arrives at Spirit Island, everyone spends an hour framing the perfect shot. The cruise experience hasn’t changed much since Jasper National Park pioneers Curly Philips and Fred Brewster set up shop at Maligne Lake in the 1920s.
624 Connaught Dr, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 2005, the Jasper Brewing Company was the first brewpub within a Canadian national park. It is now a local’s staple hangout. Seven different beers—like the Rockhopper IPA and Honey Bear Ale—are brewed on location, so make sure to order a brewery tour along with a fresh pint. The food menu is pub fare with a special flare to help bring out the flavors of the beer. The brewpub, open daily from 11:30am to 1:00am, is child-friendly, too, as the venue is divided into two, with both a restaurant and pub. Beer from $5.50. Contact 1-780-852-4111.
AB-93, Alberta, Canada
The Icefield Parkway isn’t just a highway linking Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s a 230-km road trip through the Canadian Rockies, past a series of emerald-green alpine lakes fed by nearby glaciers. The entire route connects Jasper and Banff national parks and traverses the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Heading south from Jasper, the first must-see landmark is Athabasca Falls. After that, the sights come one after the other, like the Endless Chain, Sunwapta Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, Waterfowl Lake, and Bow Summit. That’s just the tip of the Icefield, though, as there are hundreds of breathtaking sights. The drive can take as little as three hours; however, it can also last for days. Throughout the summer there are a number of resorts along the route, along with a half-dozen campgrounds. The road is open throughout the winter, but there are no open services.
1 Sunshine access Road
Most people travel to Canada in the winter to ski the famous big resorts like Whistler and Lake Louise. But 20 minutes from downtown Banff is a little “hill"—as the Canadians like to call their mountains—called Sunshine Village. The resort, located on the continental divide of the Canadian Rockies, spans more than 3,300 acres and has three mountains to explore. I visited in mid-March (locals say March conditions are often best) and we had perfect powder. The resort stays open through late May for those looking to extend their ski season. The ski-in, ski-out Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a perfect base for those who want to get first chair in the morning. Rooms have great views of the surrounding mountains and loft-style rooms with Murphy beds are perfect for couples or families. I liked the lodge’s unique offerings such as hot tub bingo night and new yoga and ski retreats. The mountain has terrain for all levels. Serious skiers and riders will want to go off-piste and experience Delirium Dive. A check-in gate ensures skiers and riders are equipped with a beacon and safety gear before they tackle the Dive. On Lookout Mountain, you’re likely to find powder stashes on some of the steep tree runs such as Little Angel, and Horot’s Revenge. And don’t miss the frozen waterfall on the way down the Waterfall run off the Wawa chair.
Unnamed Road, Clearwater County, AB T0M, Canada
Horseshoe Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Alberta but it’s managed to stay off the beaten track due to it’s location on the David Thompson Highway. The stunning two-tier waterfall is just under one hour east of Saskatchewan River Crossing. An Alberta Provincial Parks sign marks the gravel road, which sits opposite the road’s only gas station. Upon arrival, the waterfalls are shockingly easy to access. They’re less than a 200 m walk from the car park!
Alberta 5, Waterton Park, AB T0K 2M0, Canada
Banff and Jasper are top of mind when it comes to Alberta‘s Great Outdoors. Travelers flock to Moraine Lake by the busload for postcard-perfect snaps and zip through the province’s northern parks on the trail of grizzlies, elk, and moose. Waterton Lakes manages to fly just far enough under the radar that it never feels crowded or bustling, even on a wild Canada Day long weekend, which makes it a wonderful alternative for the “been there, done that” crowd. For an iconic view of Waterton Village and Upper Waterton Lake, test your mettle against the Bear’s Hump, a mile-long trek that begins at the Waterton Visitor Resource Center. The trail opens to a grand rocky plateau atop what was once called Bear Mountain by the Blackfoot people. Begin your trek early in the morning or late in the afternoon to have the mountain to yourself, but be warned that the wind atop the Hump can be ferocious. Knock your hat off and dump you off the mountain ferocious. Still, the views of Waterton Valley and Mount Cleveland are worth the challenge. [Flash traveled to Alberta courtesy of Travel Alberta.]