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15 BEST Day Trips from Calgary for an Epic Adventure (2024!)

15 BEST Day Trips from Calgary for an Epic Adventure (2024!)

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Calgary is a young, fun, and cosmopolitan Canadian city, but it’s also right on the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains, which means that there are SO many fun day trips available while you’re staying here. 

Whether you want to walk on glaciers, discover dinosaur bones, or canoe on lakes that almost look too blue to be real, you can do it all from Calgary – as long as you know where to go! 

Bailey grew up in Edmonton, which is a few hours from Calgary, and we’ve both lived in the nearby town of Canmore, so we know the area very well. Plus, we spend as much time as we can exploring the Rockies every summer, so believe us when we say that we know where the top spots are. There are plenty of fantastic things to do in Calgary, but your trip won’t be complete without ticking off at least a few of the amazing day trips that we’ve rounded up below. 

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite day trips from Calgary include:

  1. Admire the breathtaking views at Lake Louise (and Moraine Lake) on this full-day trip
  2. Head to Banff, and take a ride on the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain
  3. Take this Icefields Parkway tour to enjoy all the best stops on this scenic drive
  4. Explore all the fantastic hiking trails in Canmore
  5. Join this e-bike tour to Johnston Canyon and cycle along the Bow Valley Parkway

The Absolute BEST Day Trips from Calgary

1. Lake Louise

Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise
Lake Louise is so beautiful!
Bailey on the edge of Lake Louise
A cold day in the fall!

Lake Louise is a must-visit destination in Alberta, so you can’t miss the chance to visit while you’re in Calgary. I mean, why would you skip the chance to enjoy a beautiful blue lake and an adorable alpine village nestled in the Canadian wilderness? It’s too good of an opportunity to pass up. 

There are a TON of things to do in Lake Louise. On my first visit, I’ll admit I just wandered around the lakefront and missed a lot of the top attractions, but I’ve been back multiple times since and discovered that there are so many great activities on offer here. 

One of the most refined activities around here is enjoying a historic high tea overlooking the lake at the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. Staying here is still on my bucket list, but the Afternoon Tea experience is open to anyone so day visitors to Lake Louise can experience a slice of this property’s majestic grandeur (and fancy tea from around the globe) for $85 CAD per person. 

If you’re visiting Lake Louise during the winter, the lake freezes over and the hotel clears snow from the surface so that you can go skating on it. It’s a magical experience and if you’ve got your own skates, it’s free to do! If not, you can rent a pair from Alpine Social Rentals for $23 CAD for 4 hours. 

Views out the window of the restaurant at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise
Views out the window of the restaurant at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise

Meanwhile, during summer, you can also rent a bike from Chateau Mountain Sports, which is inside the Fairmont Hotel, and spend a few hours exploring the scenic trails around. 

However, what we love even more is renting a canoe at the boathouse and getting out on the water itself. Rentals start at $145 CAD per hour for a boat that can fit up to three people, and you can paddle to the far end of the lake and back in that time. If you want to do this, then we recommend getting to the boathouse at 7 am. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line for quite a while, as this is (understandably) a very popular activity. 

Another excellent way to sightsee in Lake Louise is to enjoy a leisurely ride on the summer gondola, which takes you to the top of Mt. Whitehorn where you can soak in the views, spot bears, and explore some of the short hiking trails at the top. I like the Pika Trail, which is 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, and takes you through wildflower meadows to spot adorable pikas, which look like fluffy, oversized hamsters! 

Lake Agnes Teahouse near Lake Louise
Don’t forget to visit the Lake Agnes Teahouse!

And speaking of hiking in Lake Louise, our favorite route is undoubtedly the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail. It’s absolutely epic and gives you stunning views over Lake Louise, before leading you to the scenic Lake Agnes, where the calm water reflects the surrounding Rocky Mountain peaks. This hike is 7.3 km (4.5 miles) long and although it gives you a good workout, it’s easy to navigate and not a technical hike. 

Still, if you’re not a confident hiker then we recommend this hiking tour in Lake Louise. This way, you get to go with a knowledgeable guide who will not only ensure that you stay safe but also teach you about the history of Lake Louise and help you spot beautiful flora and fauna along the way. It costs between $125 CAD and $300 CAD per person, depending on the size of your group.

Getting to Lake Louise

Road with views of the mountains on the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is the scenic route to Lake Louise!

One way to get from Calgary to Lake Louise is to drive. It takes around 2 hours each way, but bear in mind that parking in Lake Louise is very limited, so if you want to drive, get here early – and we mean EARLY. As in, at 7 am. 

Also, note that parking costs $21 CAD per day at the lakeshore from May until October.

If getting up at 5 am isn’t your idea of fun, you can also drive from Calgary to Banff, which takes 1.5 hours, and then park for free at the train station and catch the 8X or 8S bus from the Roam Transit hub in town, which costs $25 CAD per person for a day pass. You’ll need to book this either in May when the initial tickets are released, or two days in advance at 8 am local time. 

Bailey relaxes on a rock at Lake Louise
Lake Louise!
Bailey looks down at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The tour visits Johnston Canyon.

If you’re thinking that all this sounds like quite a lot of hassle, well … you’re not wrong. To be honest, we think that the easiest way to take a day trip is to join a tour from Lake Louise to Calgary. Our recommendation is this small-group tour.

Not only do you get to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Lake Louise, you also get to go to Moraine Lake, which is notoriously tricky to access these days (and also where we got engaged!). You also get time to explore Banff town and visit the beautiful Surprise Corner viewpoint, and in the winter you get to do a guided ice walk on the Johnston Canyon, which we’ve done previously and loved! 

But aside from a jam-packed itinerary, what we love about this tour is how easy it makes it to reach Lake Louise from Calgary because you don’t have to stress out about early starts, parking, and booking a bus. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Plus, you’re in a small group, so there’s a fun and friendly feel, and your guides will be locals who can give you more of an insight into what it’s like to live here. 

And the icing on the cake is that at $155 CAD per person, we doubt you’d be able to do it much cheaper by yourself once you factor car rental, gas, parking costs, and bus tickets into the equation. So book your spot here!

Related Read: See which hotels at Lake Louise made our list of where to stay around Banff National Park.

2. Moraine Lake 

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo the the rockpile at Moraine Lake
I’ll never get sick of Moraine Lake!

Moraine Lake is a startlingly blue lake set against the backdrop of the Ten Peaks. So to say it’s scenic would be a bit of an understatement! 

The lake is 197 kilometers (122 miles) from Calgary, which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to drive. However, the parking lot is closed to the public as of 2023, so you’ll need to book the Parks Canada shuttle, a private bus, or take a tour from Calgary to Moraine Lake. We’ll expand more on this in our section below, but the easiest way to access the lake from Calgary is definitely via a tour, and you can combine it with a day trip to Lake Louise on this full-day tour that we mentioned above.  

Moraine Lake is one of those places that simply has to be seen to be believed, and there’s plenty of natural beauty here to enjoy on a day trip from Calgary. One of the best ways to get stunning views of the lake is to walk the 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) Lakeshore Trail, which gives you epic views of the bright blue water and the mountains behind it. 

Bailey canoes in Moraine Lake, Banff
What a place!
Two people canoe at Moraine Lake, Banff
Two people canoeing at Moraine Lake

Walking to the top of the Rockpile in front of the lake is also a must. It’s the best place to take epic photos, and it can be a super romantic spot in Banff – we actually got engaged right here!

We also love renting canoes at Moraine Lake, and it’s one of the most famous things to do in the Rockies. You can rent a canoe from the Moraine Lake Lodge for $140 CAD an hour (plus tax). Then, afterward, you can head to the Lodge’s Snowshoe Cafe to warm up with a coffee, since it gets chilly here even in the summer. 

Also, do note that you can only visit Moraine Lake between June and mid-October since the access road is closed for the rest of the year. It’s really beautiful in late September and early October when the larch trees turn yellow, and the lake always looks stunning at sunrise (you’ll need to catch the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle for that!) – plus, you get to beat the crowds that way. 

Getting to Moraine Lake

Since 2023, the Moraine Lake access road has been closed to private vehicles, so you can’t drive yourself all the way here. This is not a huge loss, because driving here has always been a real headache! We’ve always found that taking a shuttle, private bus, or tour makes things so much easier anyway. 

Parks Canada shuttle 

Parks Canada bus the Lake Connector
Parks Canada bus!

You can still drive from Calgary to the Lake Louise Ski Resort and catch the Parks Canada shuttle to Moraine Lake. This is a fairly cheap option but it does require some advance planning because shuttle tickets sell like hotcakes! 

The shuttles leave every 20 minutes from 6:30 am until 5:50 pm, and the last return journey is at 7:30 pm. The drive to the ski resort should take you about 2 hours, and then the shuttle ride will take a further 30 minutes. 

Tickets for the shuttle cost $8 CAD per person. They book up fast, so you can either reserve them in the spring when they first become available (typically in April) or get the “last minute” tickets two days beforehand.

These tickets are released at 8 am local time, so make sure that you’re on the website then because they sell out quickly. So, for example, if you want to visit Moraine Lake on Friday, be online at 8 am on Wednesday to get a space on the shuttle with “last minute” tickets. 

Tickets are for a 1-hour window, and you can show up any time during that window. Still, we recommend showing up early if you want to take a Parks Canada bus just to make sure you don’t miss your window. 

Private bus 

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo with the Moraine Lake shuttle
Moraine Lake Bus Company shuttle

Since the access road has closed to cars, private bus companies have started taking visitors to Moraine Lake. We recommend Moraine Lake Bus Company, who are very reputable and proved super popular in Summer 2023! 

This is definitely a bit easier than taking the Parks Canada shuttle, and the bonus is that you can go at 4 or 5 am and watch a spectacular sunrise at the lake by taking the sunrise shuttle. You will need to drive yourself to the meeting point in Lake Louise, though, so it would mean a very early start if you’re coming from Calgary. 

The early start is totally optional, of course, but going on a private bus is still more convenient than going with the Parks Canada shuttles. You can book your bus ticket online for a particular time so that you can just turn up and jump straight on the bus, rather than waiting around. 

Plus, when you book with Moraine Lake Bus Company, you can choose to add an hour-long stop at the Lake Louise lakefront during certain departure times so that you can check out another beautiful lake without having to organize a separate day trip from Calgary. 

The private bus leaves 1-2 times per hour from the Lake Louise Summer Gondola and the Samson Mall in Lake Louise, between 4 am and 4:55 pm. Tickets cost $35 CAD per person, but they book up fast, so make sure to secure them well in advance.

Guided tour

Canoes sit in the water at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park
So stunning!

The easiest way to take a day trip from Calgary to Moraine Lake is with a guided tour. This tour is the same one that takes you to Lake Louise and Banff, so you don’t need to worry about pre-booking bus tickets or driving yourself. It costs $155 CAD per person, and you’ll have about 45 minutes to explore Moraine Lake itself, which is plenty of time to visit the beautiful Rockpile for the very best views. 

Alternatively, if you really want to see a sunrise at Moraine Lake, you can book this sunrise tour. It leaves Banff Train Station at 4 am, so you would need to leave Calgary at around 2:30 am to make the drive. It’s admittedly a very early start, but sunrises at Moraine Lake are spectacular enough to make it worth it, and going at first light means that you don’t need to worry about clouds obscuring your views. Plus, you get plenty of time to explore the trails here, and your guides will help you take stunning photos of the lake as the sky changes.

The tour costs $288 CAD per person and includes complimentary hot drinks, as well as a visit to Lake Louise. You can book the tour online in advance here.

3. Banff

Bailey poses for a photo on Banff Ave walking street
Welcome to Banff!

Banff is one of the most epic places to visit in all of Canada – and with over 4 million visitors every year, it’s one of the most popular, too! With all the hype, you might be wondering, is Banff worth visiting? Well, my answer is YES – it’s popular for good reason!

The town itself is a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, so it’s ideally situated for a day trip, although with so much to do here, it might leave you yearning for a longer visit. However, it’s totally possible to tick off several of the best activities in a day, starting with the famous Banff Gondola

The Lake Louise Gondola and the Banff Gondola are the two most popular gondolas in the area for good reason! We’ve already discussed the Lake Louise Gondola above, but the Banff one takes you up Sulphur Mountain, where you can enjoy epic views of the town and six (yes, six!) different mountain ranges from the boardwalk, and enjoy a delicious meal with a serious view at the Sky Bistro

You should definitely also visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs for a relaxing soak overlooking the mountains. It’s a pretty affordable thing to do at $17.50 CAD per person, and they’re open all year round.

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Bow Falls in Banff
Bow Falls in Banff

And if you drive yourself to Banff, it’s worth heading out on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway to check out some of the beautiful stops along the way, such as Silverton Falls, Morant’s Curve, and Johnston Canyon. The drive can be done in an hour, but I would recommend leaving plenty of extra time to explore and snap photos. You’ll need to buy a Park Pass to access this road for $11 CAD per adult, and you can do this online or in person at the entrance. 

The town of Banff itself is also really cute, and there are tons of cool places to check out. We always stop at Banff Ave Brewing Co. when we’re in town for a pint (or three!). Going for a walk down the pedestrian-only Bear Street is nice too, and there are a ton of great restaurants along here if you’re hungry. 

And of course, we can’t talk about Banff without mentioning its wildlife. You can spot bears, coyotes, elk, and wolves on this canoeing adventure along the Bow River or this small group wildlife tour, which takes you to all of the hotspots. 

Getting to Banff 

Bailey at Surprise Corner viewpoint in Banff, Canada
I could sit here all day!

Banff is 127 kilometers (79 miles) from Calgary, so you can drive here in 1.5 hours. If you haven’t got a rental car, it’s also possible to book a shuttle. We wrote a full guide on the top 5 shuttles from Calgary to Banff if this is the route you want to take!

However, if you’re going to spend money on shuttle tickets, then you may as well spend a little extra and book this epic small group tour for $177 CAD. Not only does it include hotel pickup and drop-off in Calgary, but it also takes you on a guided tour of many of the best attractions in Banff National Park, such as Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka

The tour drops you off at Banff Avenue, the town’s buzzing main street, and gives you plenty of time to explore, as well as taking you to Moraine Lake during the summer, and for a short hike at Lake Louise if everyone in your group is keen on the idea! 

There’s a maximum of 12 travelers per group so the tour feels close-knit and friendly, and the price for this tour includes National Park fees and ice cleats for your shoes during the winter since it runs year-round. It’s a fantastic way to experience the top spots in the Canadian Rockies in a day from Calgary without any planning or stress involved. 

Related Read: If you’re deciding between two epic places, read our guide on Banff vs Lake Louise for all the pros and cons of each!

4. Icefields Parkway

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway!

The Icefields Parkway is an incredibly beautiful road that connects Lake Louise and Jasper, which means that it spans two of Canada’s best national parks. And this 230-kilometer (143-mile) stretch of road makes for a fantastic day trip from Calgary! 

Lake Louise is a 2-hour drive from Calgary, so if you’re driving yourself, it’s best to start there and explore the scenic stops until you get to the Athabasca Glacier, and then it will take you about 3.5 hours to drive back again. It’s quite a long day, but we promise it’s totally worth it. 

Along the way, you can stop at viewpoints for the Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and Waterfowl Lake, which is my personal favorite! These are all just quick, 10-minute stops, and you can also stop for a bit longer and stretch your legs at the Peyto Lake Upper viewpoint, which takes 30 minutes from the parking lot and back. Peyto Lake is famous for being shaped like a dog’s head, so it’s an amazing photo opportunity! 

You can also do a short out-and-back hike at Mistaya Canyon for beautiful views, although this is best done in the summer as the trail can be slippery during the winter and spring. 

Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Peyto Lake!
Mistaya-Canyon-on-the-Icefields-Parkway-in-summer
Mistaya Canyon!

But of course, the main event along the Icefields Parkway is the magnificent Athabasca Glacier. With this glacier tour, you can ride on the Ice Explorer vehicle, set foot on the glacier’s surface, and take a stroll along the glass-bottomed Skywalk, which hangs over the beautiful Sunwapta Valley. We absolutely loved this experience and think it’s the best way to fully soak in the beauty of the glacier. It costs $115 CAD per person and takes about 3 hours. If you don’t want to drive, check out our guide to the best tours to the Columbia Icefield from Calgary!

To save time and/or money, you can also just book entry to the Skywalk for $46 CAD. Or, for a really exciting experience, you can go on a 4-hour glacier hike to see ice formations and glacier streams up close, and you can even be lowered into one of the crevasses! The tour costs $184 CAD per person, including all of your ice hiking gear, and it’s such a fun and unique experience. 

Getting to the Icefields Parkway

Bailey steps onto a rock at Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefields Parkway
Waterfowl Lakes!
Daniel on one of the large Ice Explorers on the Athabasca Glacier on a tour
It’s cold on the glacier!

If you’ve got your own vehicle, then you can drive onto the Icefield Parkway by going through Lake Louise. You’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to drive on this road, which costs $11 CAD per adult for a day pass, or you can get an annual Discovery Pass for $75.25 CAD. 

However, if you don’t have your own vehicle, you can also book this full-day Icefields Parkway tour from Calgary. You’ll explore all of the best stops along the way, such as the Crowfoot Glacier and Peyto Lake, and get to enjoy the Ice Explorer experience at the Athabasca Glacier – just make sure to select the “with admission” option. It’s super convenient and way less tiring than driving yourself, so we think it’s definitely worth the $305 CAD. It’s only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May to mid-October.

And if you want the freedom to do some short hikes of your choosing along the Icefields Parkway, then this tour might be a better fit for you. You get to travel in an open-air jeep for maximum views, stopping to hike from Bow Lake to Bow Falls, and to a viewpoint along the edge of the Athabasca Glacier. Plus, since this is a private tour, you can choose some other spots to explore, such as the gorgeous Emerald Lake, Herbert Lake, or Takakkaw Falls. 

This tour runs from Monday to Friday year-round, and the guide, Jerzy, is a seasoned local who really knows his stuff and has a fantastic sense of humor. He’ll also take amazing photos of you along the way and tailor the tour to your interests. The experience costs $375 CAD per group with a maximum group size of 3, and it’s even cheaper Tuesday through Thursday at $325 CAD per group. We think it’s an amazing way to explore the Icefields Parkway. 

5. Canmore 

Scenic view of the Bow River passing through Canmore, Alberta
Bow River and Three Sisters!

Canmore is one of the easiest day trips that you can take from Calgary because it’s only 104 kilometers (64 miles) away. In fact, the journey only takes an hour and 15 minutes on the Trans-Canada highway. Plus, although Canmore is a mountain town with plenty to keep you occupied, it’s not inside a national park, so you don’t need any passes or permits to visit. 

We love Canmore so much that we’ve actually spent a lot of time living here! It’s not quite as famous as Banff, which means it’s cheaper and feels less flashy, but there are just as many outdoor activities and fantastic hiking trails to enjoy. So if you’re looking for a more down-to-earth vibe, you’ll probably feel right at home in Canmore, just like we did.

The most popular hike here is Grassi Lakes, which is pretty easy and only takes 2 hours there and back, so you don’t need to be a pro to tackle this one. The lakes are just beautiful, and you can even take a dip here during the summer, so bring your bathing suit! You can also complete this trail in the winter if you’ve got crampons, although the bathing suit won’t be necessary then. 

Canmore Hoodoos in summer in Banff
It’s also just a cool place to enjoy the views!
Bailey at Grassi Lakes, Canmore on a spring day
Such a stunning spot!

You can walk the Bow River Loop Trail for epic mountain views and to see the historic Canmore Engine Bridge which was first built during the town’s coal mining era. It’s a 2-kilometer (1.3 mile) loop that takes you along the left of the Bow River, across the bridge, and then back along the other side. It’s an easy stroll that only takes around 40 minutes, but you can also join this 1.5-hour walking tour if you’d like to go with a guide who can enlighten you about Canmore’s history and take you to some secret wildlife spots.

We also love wandering down 8th Street, which is Canmore’s main street and has tons of cute shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants, as well as beautiful mountain views. I highly recommend stopping at Scoopin Moose for an ice cream! 

And if you’re looking for a really adventurous experience in Canmore, you can join this half-day caving tour, which takes you rappelling down into Rat’s Nest Cave to crawl through ancient chambers and passages and see prehistoric fossils and rock formations. You end up in a spot called The Grotto where there’s a beautiful pool of water and tons of amazing stalactites and stalagmites. It costs $149 CAD per person and is an awesome way to explore one of the longest caves in Canada! 

Getting to Canmore

Bailey cracks a beer along the Bow River in Canmore, Alberta
Canmore was our home for a long time!

The easiest way to get from Calgary to Canmore is to drive yourself, which takes 1.25 hours. There’s plenty of parking in town, and even a free lot.

If you don’t want to drive, there are also shuttles available from Calgary to Canmore every day of the week. The cheapest shuttle can be booked right here and starts at only $59 CAD!

During the summer, you can take the On It bus from Calgary to Canmore on weekends for as little as $10 CAD each way. There’s also the Banff Express, which picks you up from Calgary between 8 and 8:40 am and drops you at the Canmore Visitor Information Center at 9:40 am. Tickets cost $35 CAD each way but you’ll have to be pretty organized, as they sell out fast. 

Once you arrive, Canmore is very walkable, but to be honest it’s still more convenient to have your own car. 

6. Yoho National Park

Two people canoe at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Two people canoe at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is a stunning place to visit, especially since it’s home to Emerald Lake, which is renowned for its vibrant green hue. It’s 192 kilometers (119 miles) from Calgary, which takes just over 2 hours to drive, so it also makes for a pretty convenient day trip. 

You can walk the 5-kilometer (3.2-mile) Emerald Lake Loop around the water’s edge all year round for beautiful views. The green hue is at its brightest during July and August, but you can also snowshoe around it during the winter when it looks like a Christmas card brought to life! 

We also like the hike to Laughing Falls, which is named after the cheerful sound that the water makes as it runs over the rocks. The trail is intermediate, so if you want something a bit easier, you can walk to Takakkaw Falls instead, which is the second-highest waterfall in Canada! The hike is pretty flat and only a 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) return from the parking lot, so this is a quick and easy thing to do, and totally worth it because this waterfall is stunning. 

And although this blog is about day trips, it’s also worth considering staying overnight in Yoho National Park at the Emerald Lake Lodge. It’s a super cute lodge that’s on a peninsula overlooking the lake, so you really couldn’t ask for a more scenic place to stay. It can be pricey during the summer with rooms costing up to $719 CAD per night, but if you’re here during the winter the prices are significantly cheaper and you can score a room for as little as $169 CAD.

Getting to Yoho National Park

Bailey at Natural Bridge Lower Falls in Yoho National Park
What a place!
People canoe with mountain views at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
What a view while canoeing!

You can drive to Yoho National Park from Calgary in 2 hours and 10 minutes, but there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, parking at Emerald Lake gets pretty busy in the summer, so make a beeline for this first and try to arrive before 10 am so that you don’t have to wait around. 

Secondly, you’ll need a Parks Pass to visit Yoho National Park, which you can get online for $11 CAD per day for a single adult, or $22 CAD per day for a group of up to 7 adults in the same vehicle. You can also save money with an annual Discovery Pass, which is definitely worth doing if you’re going to be visiting a few national parks while you’re in Canada.

Or, to make things easier, you can book this full-day tour from Calgary, which takes you to Emerald Lake, the Spiral Tunnels, and the Natural Bridge, as well as visiting Lake Louise for a guided walk or a snowshoeing session during the winter! And if you book between June and October, you’ll also get to visit the beautiful Moraine Lake, which is a huge bonus if you ask us. 

The tour costs $160 CAD per person (with a higher price on Tuesdays), which includes national park fees for both Banff and Yoho National Parks and all activities. It runs on different days of the week depending on the season and departs from downtown Calgary at 8 am, lasting for 8 to 11 hours in total. 

A scenic road through Yoho National Park, Canada
A scenic road through Yoho National Park

If you’d prefer a private experience, then you can book this private Yoho National Park tour instead. As it’s a private tour, you get more time to explore the park in depth, so you also get time to hike to the amazing Takakkaw Falls. 

Then, after exploring Yoho National Park thoroughly, you’ll also visit Lake Louise. Moraine Lake is included during the summer. We also love the fact that you get about an hour of free time on the popular Banff Avenue, so you can do some souvenir shopping or pay a visit to one of our favorite Banff breweries

This tour is available daily, and the price varies by group size. You’re looking at $688 CAD each for a couple, $495 CAD each for a group of six, or $440 CAD per person for 10. It’s pricier than doing a shared tour, but worth it if you have the extra cash because you get a more relaxed and in-depth experience, especially since the guides are locals who know exactly how to avoid the crowds. You can book this tour on Viator here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. Johnston Canyon 

Bailey at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Upper falls!
Waterfall at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
This is the Middle Falls you hear nothing about!

Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular places to hike in Banff National Park – and for good reason! 

It’s an epic place to hike because the route is only a 5-kilometer (3-mile) round trip, but you get to pass through so much beautiful scenery as you go, from lush forests to a beautiful canyon and two big waterfalls! Who doesn’t love a huge payoff for relatively little effort?

Not only is this hike super accessible for travelers of all ages and abilities, it’s also pretty easy to get to from Calgary, either by driving yourself or with a tour – but more on that to follow.

There’s free parking at Johnston Canyon, as well as heated washrooms you can use before setting out. You’ll head through the forest first and then get to a series of boardwalks that crisscross over the canyons. After 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) of hiking, you’ll get to the Lower Falls, which you can see up close by crawling through a cave. Then, it’s a short but steeper hike to the Upper Falls, although you can always turn back after the Lower Falls if you’re not up for this! 

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park at sunet
It can be cold even in summer!

As well as the gorgeous views, hiking Johnston Canyon is a fantastic opportunity to spot wildlife. You can spot lots of birds and squirrels around, as well as elk, and even wolves if you’re lucky! Bears tend to stay away from the area due to the crowds, but it’s still worth keeping an eye out (and bringing a trusty can of bear spray).

Another great thing about this hike is that you can do it year-round. If you’re coming during the winter, you can book this magical ice walk, which includes hiking poles and ice cleats, an expert guide, and hot chocolate and maple cookies to warm you up. The waterfalls freeze during the winter which is just wonderful to see, and the route is a lot quieter. Just remember to dress very warmly because Canadian winters are no joke! 

Or if you love to cycle, you can always drive to Banff and join this e-bike tour to Johnston Canyon, which includes a guided hike. This is one for the summertime as it only runs from late May to early September, but it gives you the opportunity to cycle along the stunning Bow Valley Parkway as well as explore Johnston Canyon. It’s about 26 kilometers (16 miles) from Banff to the canyon, but you only cycle one way and then get a complimentary shuttle back. Plus, having an e-bike makes it a whole lot easier! 

Getting to Johnston Canyon

Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Lower Falls!
Daniel at the entrance to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
It’s completely free!

Johnston Canyon is 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Calgary, so it takes about two hours to drive here. You’ll need a Parks Pass, but there are also some seasonal road closures on the Bow Valley Parkway to bear in mind. These closures have been in place since 2022 and are part of a wildlife rehabilitation project, so we’re all for it, but it can make getting here from Calgary a little trickier. 

Basically, the eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and the Johnston Canyon closes 24/7 to vehicles from May 1 and June 25, and then again for the month of September. This is the road that you’ll travel along from Calgary to the canyon, but the good news is that there’s a fairly easy workaround if you’re visiting during this time. 

When you get to Banff, you can continue along Highway 1 until you reach Castle Junction (exit 50). There, you can turn onto the Bow Valley Parkway and backtrack for 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) until you get to the Johnston Canyon Parking lot. This route should only add about 15 minutes to your journey, so it’s not a huge deal. 

And if you’re visiting outside of May, June, and September, then great news: you don’t need to worry about this at all! 

Crowds of people line up to see the lower falls on Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Crowds of people line up to see the Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

If you’d rather not drive yourself, then you can also visit Banff and the Johnston Canyon on this full-day tour from Calgary. As well as hiking the Johnston Canyon (with crampons if you need them during the winter), you also get to explore Banff Avenue, with time to grab some lunch at one of the cool breweries and pubs around there – I personally love the food at the cozy St. James Gate pub

After that, you’ll also get to visit Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos, and the beautiful Bow Falls. Make sure to choose the option that includes admission to the Banff Gondola, too, as that’s our favorite thing to do in Banff! 

The tour runs on Mondays and Fridays during the winter, with the addition of Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer. It costs $345 CAD per person during the winter and $261 CAD per person during the summer including pickup in downtown Calgary and the gondola ride, and you won’t need to worry about arranging a Parks Pass, or any of those pesky road closures. 

Related Read: Get your caffeine fix after exploring Johnston Canyon at one of these awesome cafes in Banff.

8. Lake Minnewanka/Two Jack Lake

Bailey on a inflatable doughnut at Two Jack Lake, Canada
If you need me…
Lake Minnewanka with a beautiful mountain backdrop
Lake Minnewanka!

Lake Minnewanka is the biggest lake in Banff National Park, and it’s just under 2 hours away from Calgary, making it perfect for a day trip! It’s also right next to the smaller Two Jack Lake, which is one of our favorite hangout spots during the summer. 

Lake Minnewanka is said to be haunted, and there’s even a former tourist village submerged beneath it. It’s really beautiful and a perfect place to sharpen your photography skills, but the main draw here during the summertime is the lake cruise, which takes you across to Devil’s Gap. You can read our review of the boat ride here, but it’s well worth it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to spot wildlife around the lake, including big-horned sheep, bald eagles, and deer, as well as discover more about its significance for Indigenous people. We’ve even seen bears around the edge of the lake! 

We recommend booking this cruise for the morning and then heading over to the Two Jack Lake day-use area in the afternoon. As well as the emerald green water, you get fantastic views of Mt. Rundle, and we’ve seen wolves and bears around here too, so it’s a prime way to spot wildlife. 

A groupd of people relax in the water at Two Jack Lake, Canada
Two Jack is stunning!

I always enjoy walking the Two Jack Lake trail along the water’s edge, as it doesn’t get too crowded and only takes about an hour. Just bring some camping chairs, snacks, and maybe a water donut, and you’re set for a relaxing summer afternoon. 

You can also camp overnight at the Two Jack Lake campground between May and October. It’s a gorgeous spot with fantastic views and it’s right on the shore. However, it’s pretty small so you’ll need to book this in advance, which costs $30.50 CAD per night for an unserviced lakeside site, or the more comfortable oTENTik tent-slash-cabins for $133.25 CAD per night. 

Getting to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka

Sailing along the lake on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff National Park

It’s 132 kilometers (82 miles) from Calgary to the Lake Minnewanka parking lot, which is where the cruise departs from. This should take you between 1.5 and 2 hours, and then it’s only a 5-minute drive from there to Two Jack Lake, so it’s really easy to visit both in one day! 

It’s best to arrive at Lake Minnewanka early, as parking gets really busy during the summer, but fortunately, it’s less difficult at Two Jack Lake, which is why we recommend saving it for the afternoon. And since both lakes are inside Banff National Park, you’ll need a Parks Pass. 

Alternatively, you can book this small group tour, which takes you to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, as well as giving you some free time to explore Banff town. In the summer, you also get to visit Moraine Lake, or in the winter this is replaced with snowshoeing on Lake Louise. Gordon, the guide, is super enthusiastic, and, as locals, your guides really help you gain a deeper appreciation for all of the places that you see, as well as giving some fantastic lunch recommendations around Banff!

The tour runs from Friday to Monday all year round, as well as on Tuesdays during the summer months. It costs $177 CAD per person including pickup in Calgary and your Parks Pass. You also get complimentary bottled water and ice cleats to use when necessary during the winter. 

9. Kananaskis Village

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis Nordic Spa!
Bailey at a sauna at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa 
Taking a break from the sauna!

Kananaskis Village is a fantastic place to get out of the city and enjoy the great outdoors. The village is at the heart of the wider Kananaskis region, also known as Alberta’s mountain playground, which should give you an idea of just how much there is to do here! 

As big outdoor enthusiasts, we visited Kananaskis a lot when we were living in Canmore, and it’s also easy to access from Calgary as it’s just an hour’s drive away. The village itself is a small collection of hotels and a convenience store, so it’s pretty tiny, but there are plenty of fun activities within easy reach. The entire Kananaskis area is huge and covers over 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) so it’s good to have somewhere to use as a base. 

Some great hiking trails start in the village, such as the Village Rim Trail. It’s only 1.4 kilometers (0.9) miles long, and it does a full loop of the village, taking you to the Village Vistage Viewpoint, where you get lovely views of the valley and surrounding mountain peaks.

For something a little more challenging, you can hike to Troll Falls, which are really pretty. If you’ve got snowshoes or crampons, you can even hike this trail in the winter when the falls are frozen! The trailhead is just a 5-minute drive outside of the village, and then from the parking lot, it’s a 4.7-kilometer (2.9-mile) return hike to the falls. 

A lady poses for a photo with Troll Falls
Troll Falls in winter!

For some relaxation, you’ll want to visit the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. Here, you’ll find different pools, saunas, and spa treatments with hydrotherapy sessions being the most popular. With a hydrotherapy session, you get to visit all of the different hot pools and enjoy the views of the mountains for hours on end! This type of luxury doesn’t come cheap, and prices start at $149 CAD per person for their basic hot pools (hydrotherapy) session, but we think it’s worth it. You can get in for slightly cheaper from Tuesday-Thursday.

You can also enjoy some exciting whitewater rafting about 30 minutes outside of Kananaskis Village. We found it to be the perfect blend between sightseeing in the calmer sections, and a heart-racing adventure at the more extreme rapids! 

Another fun way to soak up the mountain scenery in Kananaskis is to go horseback riding! You can head to Boundary Ranch, which is less than 10 minutes from the village, and enjoy an authentic Western ride through the gorgeous scenery. 

This 1-hour ride is perfect for first-timers and takes you along the Buffalo Loop to see, well, buffalos, plus marmot, deer, and elk. Or, for a longer ride, you can do the 2-hour Ridge Ride that we did, which takes you along the mountain ridge for breathtaking views of the valley. We loved our experience of horseback riding in the Banff area and would definitely do it again! 

Getting to the Kananaskis

Stunning view of the road through the Kananaskis in Alberta, Canada
The Kananaskis region is stunning!

The only way to get from Calgary to Kananaskis Village is to drive! Since there’s no public transport around, having your own car is the best way to explore because it gives you the freedom to get around and enjoy all of the activities we’ve outlined above – and more.

You will need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to enter the area. The easiest way to do this is to buy your pass online and register your license plate, although you can buy them in person at the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centers and Canmore Nordic Day Center Lodge

A pass costs $15.75 CAD per day for a personal vehicle, including tax. The pass expires at midnight, whether you purchase it on the day or in advance, but you can buy multi-day passes if necessary, and annual discounts are available. 

Related Read: If you’re looking for a romantic getaway in the mountains, we have an entire guide to planning a honeymoon in Banff and Lake Louise.

10. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake in Alberta Canada at sunset
The Upper Kananaskis Lake

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is located in the Kananaskis area, about a 40-minute drive from the main village, but there’s so much to do here that we felt it deserved its own spotlight. If you’re a true adventurer at heart, then you’ll probably love Peter Lougheed Provincial Park even more than the Kananaskis Village! 

The Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are in the heart of the park, and lots of the best hiking trails and campsites are centered around them. These crystal clear lakes are a fantastic place to come and kayak or paddleboard, but you’ll need to bring your own equipment with you from Calgary. You can even hike the 15.6-kilometer (9.7-mile) trail around the Upper Lake, but my favorite thing to do here is watch the sunset after a day of exploring the park. 

You can also hike a little way up the High Rockies Trail to find the Blackshale Creek Suspension Bridge, which is a real hidden gem. It’s one of the most spectacular suspension bridges we’ve ever walked across, with epic mountain and valley views. It’s a fantastic thing to do in the summer, although sadly it’s too dangerous to get up here during fall and winter.

Bailey and her dad at Rawson Lake in the Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada
Bailey and her dad at Rawson Lake in the Kananaskis!

The Ptarmigan Cirque Trail is another nice one to explore, as you’re likely to spot plenty of wildlife (including adorable marmots) as you walk through the forests and alpine meadows. It’s a 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mile) loop trail that should take you around 1.5 hours to complete, and the trailhead is easy to find at the Highwood Meadows Day Use Area

You can even camp in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park during the summer, as there are 13 different campgrounds in the park. Prices start at $12 CAD per night for the most basic sites. We’ve stayed at the Lower Lake Campground before and paid $31 CAD per night, but we did have to book in advance.

Getting to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

The only way to get to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park from Calgary is to drive! It’s a big park, so it’s best to have your own vehicle anyway, as this gives you freedom to drive to different trailheads, and to bring kayaks or SUP boards to use on the lakes! Since Peter Lougheed is in the Kananaskis, you’ll need a conversation pass for the area to go, which costs $15.75 CAD per vehicle, including tax, and can be done online.

11. Highwood Pass 

Views along Highwood Pass, Kananaskis, Alberta
It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime highways!

The Highwood Pass is a super scenic mountain pass in Alberta – in fact, it’s actually the country’s highest paved road! But it’s not only amazing views that make the Highwood Pass a hit with cyclists. The road is closed to cars from December 1 until June 14 every year, which means that cyclists have it all to themselves. The best time to go is in early June, when the snow has melted but the cars have yet to arrive.

If you want to cycle the Highwood Pass, you’ll need to load up the roof rack and drive to the Highwood Junction Recreational Area, where you can park. From there, you can get on your bike and start at the winter gate on the Longview side of the pass. Then, it’s a 37-kilometer (23-mile) cycle up to the Highwood Pass, but of course, you’ve got to come back down again, so it’s a 74-kilometer (46-mile) round trip. Only the most pro cyclists go down the other side of the pass. 

There’s a pretty gentle incline on the way up to the pass from Longview, save for the last 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) when it gets steep – isn’t that always the way? The real challenge is the wind, so make sure to dress accordingly and remember that the further up you go, the colder it gets. 

And if you’re not a cyclist, then no worries, because it’s easy to drive the Highwood Pass Loop when the road is open. It’s one of the best drives in Canada, and if you’re driving you can head towards the winter gate and go clockwise around the loop. It will take 4-5 hours of drive time, but it doesn’t feel like a chore because you’ll have incredible views the whole time. However, it would be a shame not to make a few scenic stops along the way!

With that in mind, the Highwood Meadows Interpretive Trail is a nice place to stop and stretch your legs. It’s at the Pass itself, and there are plenty of information boards along the 1.6-kilometer (1-mile) boardwalk loop where you can learn more about the area’s flora and fauna. This is a super easy one so it’s great if you’re traveling with kids, and it only takes half an hour to complete.

If you’re driving the Highwood Pass in late June, July, or August when there’s still plenty of daylight, you might also consider doing the 12-kilometer (7.5 mile) Picklejar Lakes hike, which is just south of the pass and takes you to four scenic lakes. It takes 4 to 5 hours out and back, but you can cut that time down by only hiking to the first lake, which shaves off about an hour. Be aware that the road to this hike closes between December 1 and June 14.

And whether you cycle, motorbike, or drive the Highwood Pass, you’re bound to see some wildlife along the way. Bighorn sheep are the most common, but you can also spot elk and maybe even some bears. Bear spray is always recommended for this one if you’re going to cycle! 

Getting to Highwood Pass

Whether you’re cycling or driving the Highwood Pass, you’ll need a car. Otherwise, it will take way too long to cycle to the winter gate from Calgary, since it’s 118 kilometers (73 miles) away, and you’ll be exhausted before you even truly get started! Fortunately, the drive there gets pretty scenic too, because you’re mostly passing through the countryside.

Since the Pass is in Kananaskis Country, you’ll also need a conservation pass, which you can arrange online for $15.75 CAD per vehicle including tax. 

12. Drumheller

A lady stands on the viewing platform at Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller
Horseshoe Canyon is so cool!

If you’re into all things prehistoric, then Drumheller should be high on your list of day trips from Calgary. This is Canada’s badlands area, where some of the world’s most important ancient fossils have been discovered, and it’s known for its arid canyons and impressive Hoodoos. 

Drumheller is also a pretty cheap place to take a day trip, as lots of the best things here to do are free or only cost a couple of dollars. You don’t need a Parks Pass to visit, either. Plus, it’s 138 kilometers (86 miles) from Calgary, so you can trade skyscrapers for dinosaur bones in just 1.5 hours! 

Drumheller is basically dinosaur central, so the best way to get acquainted with the place is to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is actually the most popular provincial museum in the whole of Alberta. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see a complete Woolly Mammoth skeleton, and there are plenty of fun activities for kids here, such as a T-Rex simulator, dinosaur racing, and a new outdoor play area. I also especially loved the fourth extinction exhibit – a viewing hall full of skeletons from dinosaurs you’ll recognize on sight like Triceratops and Velociraptors. 

You can also visit Tyra, a 65-ton T-Rex statue, in Drumheller, and climb the 106 steps to snap some fun photos as you look out of her mouth! This is an especially fun thing for families to do in Drumheller but really, who doesn’t love taking novelty photos?

Taking a picture with the "Drumheller" sign
It’s a pretty cool sign!

We also recommend visiting Horsethief Canyon, which has a drive-up viewpoint 16 kilometers (10 miles) outside of Drumheller. This is where outlaws hid stolen horses back in Canada’s Wild West days, and we found the views to be spectacular. You can also hike the Horsethief Canyon Trail if you’re feeling adventurous. The official route is a .8-kilometer (.5-mile) out-and-back trail, but hikers who know what they’re doing can go off-path to explore some more. 

Visiting the Hoodoos is also a must while you’re here, and it’s a pretty quick thing to do. You can park for $2 CAD and then spend around half an hour exploring the boardwalks, which take you right up close to these crazy rock columns. 

Getting to Drumheller

Bailey from Destinationless Travel poses with a hoodoos in Drumheller
The Hoodoos!

It takes just over 1.5 hours to drive yourself from Calgary to Drumheller, and this is a pretty easy place to visit independently. 

However, if you don’t have a car at your disposal or would just prefer to go with a guide, you can book this private Badlands tour, which takes you to the Hoodoos, Horsethief Canyon, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and the Atlas Coal Mine for a hands-on learning experience. The guides make the experience really fun and interesting, so you get to discover more of Drumheller’s history this way, and they’re happy to tailor the day to suit you. Prices range between $454 CAD and $302 CAD per person, depending on the size of your group. 

Meanwhile, this private tour works out even cheaper at $720 CAD per group, for up to five people, so you could pay as little as $144 CAD each for the entire day. Entrance fees to attractions aren’t included, but it still is a good deal. The itinerary covers all of Drumheller’s historic (and prehistoric) hotspots and is well-paced to ensure that you have plenty of time to enjoy the stark beauty of the badlands. 

Related Read: For even more things to do near Drumheller, check out the city of Lethbridge, Alberta.

13. Cochrane

view from Glenbow Provincial Park
Glenbow Provincial Park just outside of Cochrane is beautiful.

Cochrane is just a 35-minute drive from Calgary, so it makes for a super easy day trip, and there’s plenty here to delight history lovers. We think it’s also an ideal place to visit in the fall for a stroll to soak up the beautiful autumnal colors.

Cochrane has a deep-rooted cowboy history, which becomes very evident as you explore. Strolling through the historic town center takes you back to the Wild West days, and you can even visit the saloon-style Half Hitch Brewery, one of Cochrane’s best breweries, to taste some of Alberta’s best craft beer, such as their award-winning Papa Bear Prairie Ale. Happy hour is from 2-5 pm from Monday to Thursday, and they even have breakfast beer specials on weekends!  

The town also hosts a cute farmer’s market from 9 am until 2 pm on Saturdays, where you can discover lots of fresh produce, yummy food, and artisan goods from local, family-owned businesses. There’s also a fun mini-golf course to check out, or for a bit more of a workout, you can head down to the disc golf course in Riverfront Park

It’s worth paying a visit to the Historic Cochrane Ranche, a regional park that is home to three different walking trails, and a 300-year-old Grandfather Tree. It’s not unheard of to spot moose here, so keep your eyes peeled and exercise caution. 

You can also visit the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation Library and Archives in the park between 9 am and 3 pm from Tuesday to Friday, where you’ll find a huge collection of cattle industry and cowboy artifacts. 

There’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, too, which is a working ranch that’s just a 10-minute drive outside of town. You can explore the trails here on foot or by bike, and you’re likely to see tons of cattle and horses as you meander around. 

Riverfront Park in Cochrane, Alberta
Riverfront Park in Cochrane, Alberta

The Yodel Loop is a nice walking trail that takes you past the Lower Valley, the Bow River, and tons of pretty wildflowers, and since it’s only 3.9 kilometers (2.4 miles) long, it can be completed in just under an hour. Or, for something longer, the 10.5-kilometer (6.5-mile) Bow River Loop is a bit more challenging and gives you lots of scenic river views. 

Meanwhile, Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is just a 15-minute drive from town, and you can visit for free to check out the pretty waterfalls and springs here. It’s only a 0.7-kilometer (0.4-mile) walk from the entrance to the waterfalls but wear decent shoes as the trail can get quite muddy. 

Getting to Cochrane

Cochrane is just 36.4 kilometers (22.6 miles) from Calgary, so you can drive here in 35 minutes. No Parks Pass is required and there’s plenty of parking around. So really, driving here couldn’t be easier! 

However, if you don’t have your own car, you can also take the On-It bus from Calgary to Cochrane on weekdays. Buses leave downtown Calgary between 7-7:12 am and return at about 4:15 pm. 

14. Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park

Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park
Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park

For those who really love getting off the beaten path, Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park is a beautiful part of Alberta to explore. Despite being just over an hour away from Calgary, in Kananaskis Country, it feels a million miles away from the city – or any civilization at all. 

With mountain views, plenty of grasslands, and rugged terrain, this provincial park is undeniably beautiful and the fact that it’s so quiet means that it’s a fantastic place to spot wildlife, such as deer, bighorn sheep, and even the elusive moose! If you’ve come to Alberta for its wild beauty, then you’ll love this place.

There are plenty of trails in the park, and in fact, the best thing to do here is hike. The 9.3-kilometer (5.8-mile) out-and-back Mount Hoffman Trail is one of the most popular routes here – although that’s a relative term, because you may not see another soul on your journey! It offers beautiful views of the nearby mountain peaks, especially at the top. It will give you a decent workout but, despite a few steep sections, it’s not too difficult overall and you can even do it in winter, as long as you have crampons and poles.

Missinglink Mountain is another stunning trail. It’s shorter than the previous one at 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) out-and-back, but with 1,079 feet (328 meters) of elevation gain, it’s quite steep! It’s totally worth it for the epic views from the summit, though, and the chances are you’ll be the only one(s) up there. That’s usually the case when we hike here.

You don’t have to constantly be on the go, however. It’s also worth making the very short hike to the pretty Sheep River Falls. You only need to walk for about 10 minutes from the parking lot to get there, so it’s the perfect place to bring a picnic and enjoy lunch with a view.

You can actually camp in Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park overnight if you like – and it’s free! It’s all random backcountry camping, which means that there are no designated campsites or facilities. So if you want it, you bring it! It’s a really fun thing to do if you want a true back-to-nature experience, and the park is so quiet and peaceful. 

Getting to Blue Rock Provincial Park

Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park is 89 kilometers (55 miles) from Calgary, so it’s an easy, hour-long drive. The only problem is that you have to access it via Alberta Highway 546 which, as you may remember from our Highwood Pass section of this blog, closes between December 1 and June 14 every year. This means that you can only really access the park between June 15 and November 30, which is a bit of a bummer, but what can you do?

You’ll also need a Kananaskis conservation pass to drive here, which costs $15.75 CAD (with taxes included) per vehicle and can be easily arranged online. 

15. Red Deer 

Heritage Ranch Pond Loop, Alberta
Heritage Ranch Pond Loop, Alberta

Red Deer is actually the third-largest city in Alberta, and it’s conveniently located just a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary. 

Sadly, Red Deer is often just used as a stopping point on longer road trips. In fact, the area close to the highway is commonly known as “gasoline alley” because most visitors just fuel up and go. But with a historic town center, plenty of craft breweries, and scenic walking trails, there’s more to Red Deer than meets the eye. 

Red Deer is quite a spread-out city but the center is refreshingly walkable, so you can hop between craft breweries such as Troubled Monk, Red Hart Brewing, and Craft Beer Commonwealth, which is probably what you’d find us doing! There are also tons of cute coffee shops around, and we recommend grabbing an ice cream at Ross Street Ice Cream Co – but bring your appetite, because they’re huge.

But probably the best thing about taking a day trip from Calgary to Red Deer is the sheer amount of family-friendly activities there are here. There are so many fun places to visit just outside of the main town to entertain kids and adults alike, such as the Gaetz Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This is a huge park with lots of walking trails, plus a playground and interpretive center, and it’s pretty so the whole family can enjoy this place! 

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is a great place to go during the summer because there are costumed actors giving live demonstrations, which really brings it to life for kids. Plus, I think it’s fair to say that people of all ages love visiting farm animals, so this is a fun and wholesome thing to do with or without children in tow. 

Meanwhile, Discovery Canyon is home to a play pool, a sandy beach, and a newly added tubing run which children will love. You can rent tubes for $6 CAD, and adults can always go and relax in the picnic area while the kids blow off some steam by playing in the water. To be honest, though, I’d definitely take advantage of the opportunity to go tubing! 

You can also visit Heritage Ranch to go horseback riding or enjoy a magical sleigh ride during the winter, and grab a bite to eat at the on-site Westlake Grill afterward, which is one of Red Deer’s most popular restaurants. 

Getting to Red Deer

Red Deer is 148 kilometers (92 miles) from Calgary, which is about a 90-minute drive. It’s possible to take a bus there and back but to be honest, this isn’t very convenient because a lot of the best things to do in Red Deer are quite spread out, so you need to have your own vehicle to explore properly. 

Where to Stay in Calgary

the outside of the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
This hotel is huge! Photo Credit: Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire

Calgary is a pretty large city, so you can bet that there are a ton of options when it comes to places to stay! The downtown area is a great choice for a lot of visitors, but it depends on what your plans are. For example, visitors who want to spend more time exploring the Kananaskis, Banff, or Canmore regions should stay on the west side of Calgary.

Here are some of my top picks for accommodation in Calgary:

Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire – $$$

For a really luxurious stay, then you’ll want to check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire, which must have one of the most amazing views of the Bow River we’ve seen in Calgary! The hotel also has its own indoor pool (with a waterslide), a hot tub, a fitness center, a hair salon, and so much more. With a wide range of suites on offer, this is also a great option if you’re spending your honeymoon in Calgary.

You can book a room here at the Sheraton for as low as $246 CAD. However, rooms usually average $300-$400 CAD per night.

Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites – $$

If your budget is more mid-range, then I’d suggest taking a look at Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites, where all rooms come equipped with a full kitchen – great for homemade meals that can save a lot of money! With its very own on-site fitness center, this hotel is also located in the middle of downtown.

Rooms here start at $167 CAD per night, which we think is great value considering the location and that breakfast is included too. You can secure your reservation online here.

Wicked Hostels – $

Right in the center of the city is Wicked Hostels, which is a great choice for travelers on a budget. We’ve found this hostel to be super clean, comfortable, and located in a great area too (bonus points from us)! While there technically are cheaper places to stay in Calgary, the location and the reliability of clean dorms here put Wicked Hostels at the top of our budget category in Calgary.

Dorms here start from $90 CAD per night and can be booked online on Hostelworld or Booking.com.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie ith drinks on a rooftop bar in Banff, Canada
Thanks for reading!

We love going on day trips and exploring all the cool cities, beautiful lakes, and parks that surround Calgary. There are so many things to do all year round that we know you’ll enjoy your time here!

While you’re planning your trip, be sure to check out our 3-day Calgary itinerary or the rest of our blogs about Canada! We love sharing our travel tips to help you find the best restaurants, tours, and hidden gems that each area has to offer.

25 Absolute BEST Things to do in Calgary in Summer

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff

33 Absolute BEST Things to do in Jasper, Alberta

5 BEST Hot Springs in Alberta (and near the BC border)