See the Best of Alberta in a One-Week Road Trip

Explore Alberta’s highlights, from its spectacular Rocky Mountain national parks to its two vibrant largest cities, in this one-week itinerary. Beginning and ending in Calgary, this road trip takes you on a 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) loop through this varied Canadian province.

white car driving along the Bow Valley Parkway
Driving the Bow Valley Parkway between Lake Louise and Banff. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller

Day 1

Get your Calgary day off to a delicious start in the East Village neighborhood, with delectable pastries at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and top-notch coffee at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Tour Studio Bell, which houses Canada’s new National Music Centre, then head downtown to take in the city views from the landmark Calgary Tower. Around the corner, check out the excellent Glenbow Museum, which traces Calgary’s history and culture, and journey back in time at the Heritage Park Historical Village. For dinner, try one of the cool restaurants on 17th Avenue.

feet on a glass floor at Calgary Tower
The glass floor of Calgary Tower. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 2

Drive east from Calgary toward the town of Drumheller, into the Canadian Badlands, a region known for its unusual hoodoo rock formations and extensive deposits of dinosaur fossils. Explore this geologic heritage at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and in the hoodoo-filled landscape of Midland Provincial Park. Then drive north to Edmonton, where you’ll spend the night.

striated mountains in the Canadian Badlands
Visit the unusual terrain of the Canadian Badlands. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 3

Check out Edmonton’s local food scene at the year-round Old Strathcona Farmers Market. See what’s on exhibit at the contemporary Art Gallery of Alberta, then wander through Muttart Conservatory, the city’s botanical garden, housed in four glass pyramids. Have lunch at the conservatory’s excellent café, Culina at the Muttart.

After you’ve eaten, learn more about the region’s history at Fort Edmonton Park or browse the West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping center. In the late afternoon, drive west to Jasper.

Day 4

Ride the Jasper Sky Tram for views across Jasper National Park, then stop at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum for an introduction to the area’s history. Pick up a picnic at Bear’s Paw Bakery and drive to Maligne Canyon to hike through the deep limestone gorge.

Your next stop is the impossibly scenic glacier-fed Maligne Lake; take a boat tour to tiny Spirit Island or rent a canoe and go for a paddle. Have an early supper back in town, then wrap up your day with a soothing soak in Miette Hot Springs.

the green waters of maligne lake
Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 5

Start early for today’s scenic drive: the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. Allow a full day; although the trip is less than 300 kilometers (186 miles), you’ll want to keep stopping along the way. Take a short stroll at Athabasca Falls, walk on the glacier at the Columbia Icefield, and if you have time, hike at least part of the eight-kilometer (five-mile) Wilcox Pass Trail for dramatic glacier views. Pause for photos at Peyto and Bow Lakes, and arrive in Lake Louise at sunset.

hikers overlooking Peyto Lake in Alberta
Stop for photos at the picturesque Peyto Lake. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 6

Go for an early morning canoe paddle along Moraine Lake, a strikingly scenic body of water 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from the town’s more famous lake. Then return to Lake Louise and hike into the hills for lunch at one of the historic mountain teahouses, Lake Agnes or the Plain of the Six Glaciers.

From Lake Louise, drive the Bow Valley Parkway south toward Banff, stopping to follow the trail through Johnston Canyon. When you arrive in Banff, see an evening concert, lecture, or other event at the modern Banff Centre.

canoe in moraine lake in Alberta
Go for an early morning canoe paddle along Moraine Lake. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 7

Stop for a pastry or frittata sandwich at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, before you hike to the top of Banff’s Tunnel Mountain or challenge yourself on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, an exciting guided climbing experience. Recover with a leisurely one-hour cruise along Lake Minnewanka.

Learn the story of Canada’s first national park at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, then ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for more scenic vistas. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, before returning to town for dinner. Stay the night in Banff or drive back to Calgary, just 90 minutes to the east.

Color map of Alberta, Canada

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