12 Best Road Trips From Calgary, Canada

road trips from calgary
Antonia
Antonia 
Updated

Located in western Canada, Calgary is the nation’s third-largest city behind Toronto and Montreal and a place which offers plenty to the visitor. Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, becoming the first venue in the country to do so and, if you have a love for winter sports, it is certainly a destination you’ll find to your liking. More than that, though, this is a metropolitan area with plenty of attractions for the holidaymaker. When in Calgary, you can find a place to stay in the best hotels and Airbnb vacation rentals in town. This excellent city also makes for a perfect base to head off on a road trip to explore the Alberta region. Below, you can find out more about the best road trips from Calgary, Canada, and find out what makes these locations special to the people who visit them.

1. Highwood Pass

Kananaskis Park…Highwood Pass Gap Mountain
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Murray Foubister used under CC BY 2.5

What is a road trip, really, without scenic views in distance? The journey is just as important as the destination. One of the best drives from Calgary is Highwood Pass in Kananaskis Country. This mountain pass is about 87 miles (141 km) from Calgary and takes about 1.5 hours to reach. Highwood Pass lies on Mount Rae and Mount Arethusa of Misty Range and is the highest paved pass in the country. It is an ultimate road trip experience, for sure. Imagine being surrounded by breathtaking mountains as you blast some tunes on your radio. That’s the essence of road trips right there!

2. Smith Dorrien Trail

Smith Dorrien Spray Trail
Source: Photo by Flickr user simpf used under CC BY-SA 2.0

In a place like Canada, it’s not difficult to find scenic drives. Its vast mountains are the primary reason why road trips are popular in the country. From Calgary, one of the best places to drive to is Smith Dorrien Trail. The distance is 82 miles (133 km) which will take around 2 hours. Also known as Highway 742, this gravel road in Kananaskis is along the beautiful Smith-Dorrien Valley and belongs to the list of the highest mountain roads in Canada. The trail itself is 38 miles (62 km) long and is an easy drive.

3. Cowboy Trail

HWY 22 N of Sundre
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Qyd used under CC BY 2.5

Officially named Cowboy Trail, Alberta Highway 22 is a 363-mile (584 km) highway in the province. It only takes approximately 35 minutes to reach the highway from Calgary. Completing Cowboy Trail is a testament to the old adage that the road trip is about the journey just as much as it is the destination. There’s nothing to do along Highway 22 but drive, snap photos, and play tunes on your radio. Make a few stops once in a while and get a feel for how far you’ve come since you started.

4. Fallentimber Meadery


Fallentimber Meadery is an amazing choice for those looking for a unique experience in Alberta. You can take a tour of the entire establishment and learn more about the operations of the facility, which also provides the opportunity to taste the incredible beverages the Meadery produces. The taste is exquisite and the overall day trip is absolutely worth your time, not least for the intrigue – a meadery is, after all, something of a rarity – as is the incredible scenery you’ll have the chance to see.

5. Lake Louise


Lake Louise - or Lake of the Little Fishes - is a stunning glacial lake in Alberta. The lake is surrounded by an incredible landscape and features crystal blue water that is breathtaking in its beauty. Those who decide to visit can choose from a variety of activities – there are numerous hiking trails that make the most of the area, as well as horseback riding and biking options. In the summer, the lake itself provides the chance to kayak or canoe and, in winter, ice skating is a popular choice. The drive from Calgary to Lake Louise takes about 2 hours with a distance of 113 miles (183 km).

6. Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park, BC
Source: Photo by Flickr user Kamal Hamid used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Kootenay National Park, one of the best Calgary road trip ideas, is a gorgeous Canadian National Park that offers the ultimate outdoor experiences to visitors, including the opportunity to take a dip in Radium Hot Springs, as well as enjoy activities such as hiking, cycling, trails, and winter sports options, like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

What’s more, the park is absolutely breathtaking and includes the Kootenay mountain range, the Canadian Rockies, and the Vermilion River, amongst other geological wonders, so whatever activity you decide to try, you can be sure you’ll enjoy an incredible landscape as you do so.

7. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site


The unusually named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site found at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Buffalo jumps were used by Aboriginal people - in this case, the Blackfoot people - to kill buffalo by driving them off this 11-metre (33-foot) cliff. The site is now also home to an interpretative centre and a fascinating museum and makes for a wonderful day out for those looking to learn more about the region and its deep history.

8. Johnston Canyon

road trips from calgary | johnston canyon
Source: jtaylor2511 on Instagram

Found in Banff National Park, Johnston Canyon is an amazing site of natural beauty. Johnston Creek flows through the canyon, creating a number of incredible waterfalls that are a sight to behold. In the winter, braver visitors can even climb to the Upper Falls (the Lower Falls do not freeze).

There are also hiking trails around the canyon, all of which provide incredible views. A particular highlight is the Ink Pots, seven green mineral springs that are located in an open meadow. They are around 1.9 miles (3 km) from the Upper Falls, but are well worth the long hike.

9. Dinosaur Provincial Park

road trips from calgary | dinosaur provincial park
Source: bradleys.eye on Instagram

Dinosaur Provincial Park is so named due to the number of dinosaur remains that have been found in the area – the fossils of 58 different species have been found here, in total. If you decide to visit, you’ll be able to explore the trails and enjoy the fantastic rugged scenery, learn more about the park at the Visitor Centre, and visit the cabin of John Ware – a cowboy who played an important role in the history of the region.

10. Banff

The landscape of Banff National Park
Source: Pixabay

Banff is a town in Canada that has built a strong reputation for providing a wealth of different experiences to those who decide to visit. The town is located within stunning Banff National Park, which is eternally popular with visitors seeking to try outdoor sports, such as skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. The region is also home to some hot springs, where the water temperatures reach around 38°C (100°F).

11. Drumheller


The connection between a quiet Canadian town and dinosaur fossils may not immediately seem obvious, but with Drumheller, that’s exactly what you’ll get. The town is home to a huge number of dinosaur fossils, to the point where it has been nicknamed the “Dinosaur Capital of the World” – a title helped by the presence of a huge model of a T-Rex dinosaur, which stands 86 feet (25 metres) in height and can be climbed, thanks to the 106 internal steps.

12. Waterton Lakes National Park


As one might expect given the name, Waterton Lakes National Park is home to a number of stunning lakes, all of which are breathtaking in their beauty. The park is particularly well-known for its incredible trails, all of which offer scenic beauty and the chance to see the best of the landscape. Bertha Lake and Falls and the Crypt Lake Trail are both especially renowned for the wonderful views they provide, from start to finish.

Calgary is wonderful - but get on the road and explore these fabulous spots, too

During your time in Calgary, you’ll get to see plenty of the city and see just how much there is to enjoy here, so Calgary is, in and of itself, a worthwhile place to visit. However, if you get in your car and drive in any direction from the city limits, you’ll find there’s plenty in the region worth discovering. Beautiful national parks, historic locations, and more make this Alberta city the ideal starting point for a great Canadian road trip.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Antonia Kelly is a freelance writer based in Leicester, UK and she enjoys European travel as well as road trips closer to home. Her favourite domestic destinations include Snowdonia and the Brecon...Read more

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