Saturday, April 13, 2024
Home Road Trip The Ultimate Alberta Road Trip

The Ultimate Alberta Road Trip

by Staff

Looking for a cool way to vacation in Canada this summer? How about a road trip hitting all the highlights of Alberta, the big Western province where the prairie meets the Rocky Mountains.

Calgary, the province’s largest city, is well connected with the rest of Canada and many U.S. destinations by air. Alternatively, you can take the train from Vancouver or all the way from eastern Canada. Either way, Calgary offers plenty of rental car options for launching your road trip.

If self-drive is more your thing, the Trans-Canada Highway is the best route from elsewhere in Canada and there are several routes from south of the border including US 89/Canada 2 from Montana or US 95/Canada 3 from Spokane and northern Idaho.

Stampeding Through Calgary

Founded as a remote frontier fort in 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police (Mounties), Calgary first boomed as a railroad town and ranching hub before the discovery of oil in 1914 made it one of the richest cities in Canada (and by extension, the British Empire).

What’s the origin of its unusual name? The city is named after a tiny hamlet on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.

While the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo and horse show in August harkens back to the city’s frontier days, the forest of steel-and-glass skyscrapers reflected in the Bow River are very much a product of the 20th-century energy boom.

Downtown offers numerous overnight options including a new-style Marriott Residence Inn in the Beltline neighborhood, a place that feels and acts much more like an upscale urban boutique hotel than its older incarnation.

The Calgary Tower, National Music Centre at Studio Bell, the indoor botanical garden at +15 Skywalk, and the Glenbow Museum of art and history (largest of its kind in western Canada) are the prime downtown attractions. You can also hire a two-wheeler at Joe’s Garage or Bow Cycle E-Bikes and cruise the riverside bike paths on either side of Rainbow Bridge.

Yet the city’s biggest treat is the eclectic culinary scene, restaurants like the Monki Breakfast Club to get the day started; Asian-Mediterranean fusion dishes at Orchid or Una Pizza + Wine for lunch; and the sublime farm and forage to table cuisine of Rouge or Latin-flavored Fortuna’s Row for dinner.

Tourism CalgaryVisit Calgary | Tourism Calgary

High And Wild In Banff

It’s a straight shot on the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary to Banff. But don’t rush. There are several worthwhile detours including the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary and photogenic Canmore, a holy grail of global rock climbing.

Banff and its namesake national park are the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies, a vast expanse of wilderness to hike, bike, paddle or climb in summer or ski, skate, snowshoe or fat bike when it starts to snow.

Ride the Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for a bird’s-eye-view of the valley, a visit to the historic Cosmic Ray Station, and lunch at the Sky Bistro. Browse the excellent Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. And explore Downtown Banff and its entourage of one-off shops and restaurants.

As one of Canada’s premier resorts, there are plenty of accommodation choices. The most renowned is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a castle-like built 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The hotel’s warm and cozy 1888 Chop House is world renowned for steak (try the signature wagyu filet mignon). Or catch early morning over the Rockies at a window table in Juniper Bistro (the huevos rancheros is to die for). Tea lovers should make a beeline for Jolene’s and her wide selection of hand-blended organic teas, many of them made with local ingredients.

BanffVisiting

The Icefield Parkway to Jasper

West of Banff, the Trans-Canada Highway continues its journey through the Rockies to another historic railway hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (opened in 1890). Even if you’re not staying overnight, take a walk along the shore of the turquoise-colored lake or hike up to the Plain of Glaciers Tea House for a light snack and hot beverage.

From Lake Louise, slide onto the Icefield Parkway heading north through the heart of Banff National Park. Flanked by spectacular snow-capped peaks, the highway is considered one of the world’s most incredible drives.

There are numerous spots to stop along the way for short hikes, photo ops or wildlife sightings. All the iconic Rocky Mountains animals are present in the park — moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears. Plus more than 260 bird species.

Just after the parkway crosses into Jasper National Park, Athabasca Glacier appears on the left, a giant frozen tongue tumbling down from the Columbia Icefield. Custom-designed snow coaches take visitors onto the glacier. Or you can test your mettle on the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, a see-through bridge that hovers 918 feet (280 meters) above the valley.

Jasper Village is an ideal spot to spend the night or even a couple of days hiking the trails of Maligne Canyon, paddling one of the many lakes, soaking at Miette Hot Springs or chilling in one of the famous red chairs.

Jasper’s overnight choices range from log cabin and bungalow resorts to the upscale Forest Park Hotel and Jasper Park Lodge. The eating scene ranges from pub grub at the Jasper Brewing Company and yummy sandwiches and hot pot pies at Patricia Street Deli to the lakeside Orso Trattoria and Andaaz for Indian cuisine.

Tourism JasperJasper National Park | Official Guide | Tourism Jasper

Onward to Edmonton

It’s a four-hour drive along Canada Highway 16 from Jasper to Edmonton, a journey that makes a gradual transition from the Rockies back to the seemingly endless Alberta prairies.

Alberta’s provincial capital also traces its roots to Canada’s wild west frontier days, born as a Hudson Bay Company trading post in 1795 along a stretch of the North Saskatchewan River that had already been home to First Nations people for thousands of years.

Much like long-time rival Calgary, the energy industry stoked Edmonton’s 20th-century boom and a downtown area that glistens with modern high-rise office buildings and condo towers. But the city also has its bygone side.

Across the river from downtown is a Strathcona neighborhood renowned for its vintage buildings and the popular Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, where a mind-blowing variety of foods produced in the city’s hinterland take the stage every Saturday.

A great way to experience Strathcona on a Saturday is riding the historic High Level Bridge Streetcar back and forth from the north side of the river. Or if you’re hungry, join one of Vanessa De Oliveira’s culinary e-bike tours, a casual journey through the local food scene that also takes in many of the city’s top sights.

Edmonton dining scene runs a broad gamut from local culinary superstar RGE Road, which specializes in Alberta beef, bison, pork and fish dishes, to the quirky Fu’s Repair Shop, an Asian fusion restaurant with a dark speakeasy ambience and offbeat dishes like truffle dumplings, peachy shrimp, spicy duck tacos and white kimchi stew.

Another local specialty is craft beer, with the southside Ritchie district renowned for artisanal breweries like Biera (which also serves contemporary Canadian food) and Blind Enthusiasm Brewing at The Monolith (famous for its barrel fermented beers).

Edmonton’s equivalent of a grand railway abode is the majestic Hotel Macdonald, which overlooks the river. But there are plenty of modern options, including the swish JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District, opposite the Rogers Place arena home of the Edmonton Oilers ice hockey team.

Explore Edmonton | Alberta, CanadaExplore Edmonton | Alberta, Canada

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends