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All work and no play is no way to live. Calgary is at the heart of a world-famous recreational region, attracting visitors from around the globe. Most of what’s on offer is a relatively short drive away. If you live here, you owe it to yourself and your family to get out and appreciate what’s on offer. If you’re planning a visit, you’ll love the variety of adventures a short drive away. While there’s too much to cover in one article, we highlight some of the best day trips from Calgary right here.
Just an hour West of the city, Canmore is the first town you’ll find when you enter the mountains. It’s also a great place to start your hikes and walks. Canmore has a small town feel with enough to offer around the place that it’s worth the trip. Waterfalls, mountain scrambles, and tons of wildlife to spot, Canmore is an outdoorsman’s dream. It truly is incredible that a place like Canmore is just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It certainly doesn’t feel like it.
How could you not go to Banff? It’s practically the staging ground for all of Canada’s promotional materials that overseas visitors see? This is certainly worth more than one day, but it’s close enough that you set up base in the city. From Calgary, it’s just 90 minutes to the town of Banff, a lovely mountain village with picturesque views and stunning scenery around it. Shop the quaint stores, take a dip in the Hot Springs, explore the Cave and Basin, visit the Banff Springs Hotel, or take a trip to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You can do it all in a day and still make it back to Calgary for dinner. Watch out for elk. They are everywhere in the town.
While the world knows Banff, it’s the Albertans that know Kananaskis Country. Just south of Banff is a lesser-known national park. It’s just as beautiful, rugged, and expansive as Banff, but way less crowded. True outdoor enthusiasts prefer the Kananaskis for its unspoiled hikes, its marvellous landscapes, and its extremely easy accessibility. The road to the Kananaskis closes from December - June to plan accordingly to not miss out. There are thousands of hikes and walks, ranging from extreme to the absolute beginner. The rewarding views are just as good on any hike though.
Located northeast of Calgary, you’ll find the town of Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park. The trip to Drumheller alone is amazing as you drive through flat plains and all of a sudden descend into the valley of Drumheller. This is one of the world’s best sites for fossils and archaeological digs. This is the graveyard of dinosaurs, plenty of opportunities to explore the history from millions of years ago. The Royal Tyrell Museum is a must-see, a temple to the discoveries made here with full-size skeletons on display for visitors to marvel at. The landscape is almost alien with natural hoodoos surrounding the valley. You can even participate on your own dig, finding a fossil for yourself in the dust and sand.
This site located two hours’ drive from the city, is a world heritage site listed on the UNESCO website for its historical value. This is a well-preserved location of the First Nations people, a location where they would herd buffalo over the cliff’s edge and collect their bodies for food, clothing and more. Experience the natural beauty of southern Alberta as you explore the interactive museum and walk the grounds that were once used thousands of years ago by the first Canadians on this site.
One could argue that the Crowsnest Pass is worth a day trip in itself, but even more interesting than that is the former town of Frank. Former because in 1903, an entire side of Turtle mountain calved off and slid across the valley, covering the entire town. The site has been preserved and you can still see old signs of habitation poking up from the massive field of rocks that now cover the valley floor. The interpretive centre fully explains the former ming town’s reaction and just how fast the slide took over the whole city. Well worth the journey from Calgary.
Although now a bedroom community for Calgary, Cochrane was once the site of cowboys and horses. You can still find many residual effects of that old cattle history as you wander through this town just a few minutes outside of Calgary’s northern border. Cochrane was long considered the beginning of the Cowboy Trail, a famed passage for cattle ranchers and cowboys travelling north and south through the area. Cochrane is a quaint city that has plenty in store for those who want a taste of the past.
When you get tired of one location, there’s another day trip awaiting you tomorrow. Calgary’s surrounding sights are a treat and are incredibly varied and different. From peaks of mountains to plains that stretch to the horizon, this part of Southern Alberta deserves your attention and time. You won’t be disappointed.