If you make your way to Alberta in Western Canada you will find a city that is like no other. The bright and dynamic city of Calgary is the perfect combination of cowboy and cosmopolitan, as well as the sunniest major city in all of Canada. It is a multicultural town that is complimented by a beautiful natural landscape, thanks to its location at the base of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, allowing the locals to enjoy both towering mountain peaks as well as rolling hills on the other side.
With the best museums in Calgary at your fingertips, along with shopping and dining sure to please, this picturesque city is a place to add to your must-see list. As a sustainable city, many companies and establishments in Calgary have taken the initiative to be greener and participate in environmentally conscious practices.
If you feel that the beautiful Canadian Rockies are calling to you during your visit then it might be time for a day trip. After leaving your bags with Bounce luggage storage in Calgary, there are many wonderful places to visit if you just venture a little bit further outside of the city. We will introduce you to some of the best ones!
How to get out of Calgary
As the headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway, exploring Calgary itself should be a breeze and there are several different methods that the locals use to get around. If the weather is nice you can use a scooter or bike to move around using the extensive network of pathways that they have available. It is also easy to walk around the downtown core of the city, and there are buses that commute around the area as well.
Since the city is well planned out and easy to understand, some people choose to rent a car while they are visiting. This will come in handy when you want to go on day trips from Calgary, although the public transport systems can be used as well. Some of the buses travel outside of the city limits, and there is also the CTrain that can get you where you need to go comfortably and efficiently.
From Calgary to Banff National Park
You've probably heard of Banff before; as Canada's oldest national park it has made quite a name for itself. Inside the park, there is a town surrounded by a picture-perfect natural landscape that offers so many attractions and activities that you will never get to experience it all in one day. You will have to choose what you want to do on your day trip, but you should begin your journey in Banff Village first. Here, you will get to explore boutiques and shops selling souvenirs and dine at restaurants offering delicious meals. Check out the Fairmont Banff Springs for a fantastic foodie experience!
Once you are ready to explore the Banff National Park we suggest beginning with a trip to the Bow Falls and river. This beautiful waterway has a fantastic turquoise shade and you can admire it while you adventure down the hiking trails. You will also want to check out the breathtaking Moraine Lake or go swimming in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, and you can learn all about the national parks of Canada at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Before you head back to Calgary you absolutely have to visit the Johnston Canyon near Johnson Lake to admire rock formations and waterfalls, and make the journey up Sulphur Mountain either by hiking or taking a ride on the Banff Gondola.
How to get to Banff National Park
There is so much to do at Banff National Park, with activities like horseback riding, cross country skiing and hiking available in every season. You will definitely want to stop here for a day trip and it is not that far away from Calgary. You will need to use a car but overall the drive should only take you between an hour and an hour and a half.
From Calgary to Drumheller
Known as the Dinosaur Capital, Drumheller is a paradise for lovers of the prehistoric ages. This town is home to some of the best fossil beds, and 20 different kinds of fossils have been found in the area. People travel here from all over Alberta to check out the various dinosaur themed attractions, and you will be right by it when you are in Calgary! Your first stop on your day trip should be the Royal Tyrell Museum which is one of the world's best dinosaur museums. Inside you will find one of the biggest dinosaur fossil collections on the globe!
Afterward, a trip to Horseshoe Canyon and Red Deer River is well worth it. It is a beautiful spot with gorgeous hiking trails, impressive geological formations and breathtaking viewpoints. Even downtown Drumheller has about 30 statues of dinosaurs hidden around the area so even those who aren't avid hikers can join in on the fun. If you enjoyed this day trip you might want to visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Canadian Badlands as well; it is located under two hours from Drumheller. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an archeological hotspot with nearly 50 species of dinosaur being found here. It is a fun place for the whole family!
How to get to Drumheller
When you are heading to Drumheller from Calgary you will need to take a car. The drive is straightforward and will take about an hour and a half each way.
From Calgary to Crowsnest Pass
If you head onto Alberta's Cowboy Trail you will find yourself at Crowsnest Pass. Although today you can enjoy hiking, golfing, and historic areas, the nearby coal mining town Frank has quite a tragic story to it. The tale of the Frank Slide took place in 1903 when a rockslide hit the town and nearly 100 people ended up being killed, making it Canada's deadliest rockslide. You can learn more about it if you visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre which is located on the same site where it happened. Many of the boulders from the event were left untouched and remain today.
There is a trail that goes through the rocks and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, plus other places for trekking in the nearby landscape. The Lundbrek Falls is also a beautiful spot to check out, as well as the Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site. If you are up for a challenge you can hike to the peak of Turtle Mountain!
How to get to Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass is a bit of a distance from Calgary so you should prepare to leave early in the morning if you want to make the most of your day. Overall the drive will take a bit under three hours from Calgary.
From Calgary to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Located near Fort MacLeod you will find one of the oldest and best preserved buffalo jumps in the world. It is estimated that Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was used for about 6,000 years! The Blackfoot Bands used to use the area to hunt buffalo by scaring them off of the jump. If you sign up for a guided tour you can get the opportunity to reenact the hunting practice yourself.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the buffalo jump also features an interpretive center that can teach you more about the practice, including a video that shows how it worked. You can easily make your way through the interpretive center in one day, and afterward, take the time to admire the beauty of the Canadian prairies.
How to get to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
The drive to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump takes about two hours by car. It is a simple drive; just head south and enjoy the incredible scenery as you pass by!
From Calgary to Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes is one of the further Calgary day trips but still definitely worth the journey. This gorgeous space is home to pristine lakes and mountain ranges that eventually lead to vast prairies. There is plenty to do here and it will be one of the most fun day trips for people who like to be active. Get ready for a day of mountain biking, climbing and sightseeing at Waterton Lakes! Some of the places that we suggest you check out include the Red Rock Canyon, Cameron Lake and the Crypt Lake Trail.
If you feel ready for an adventure, head out on the Bear Humps Trail. Following the whole 2 kilometer climb, you will find yourself at the mountain town of Waterton Village. This small town nestled in the mountains is upbeat and bright with only about 100 permanent residences but plenty to do. From here you can spend the afternoon exploring art galleries, going shopping in the gift stores or dining at one of the steakhouses.
How to get to Waterton Lakes National Park
The drive to Waterton Lakes will take a while, so keep the travel time in mind when you are planning your day trip. Overall the drive will take a bit under three hours but it is very manageable from Calgary.
From Calgary to Lake Louise
Although it is only located a couple of hours away from Calgary, Lake Louise will make you feel as though you have been transported to another place entirely. It is a delight for nature lovers with turquoise lakes and snow capped mountains. It is also quite a romantic spot making it the optimal day trip for couples, especially if you treat yourself to a stay in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Here, you will be pampered with incredible views of the landscape while you sip on traditional afternoon tea in the chateau.
Lake Louise offers plenty to do both during the winter and summer. If the weather is cold enough you can go ice skating on the frozen lake or take a magical horse-drawn carriage ride. There is even a fun family festival called the Magic Festival where grownups can sip on cocktails and kids can watch ice carving demos! There are also plenty of trails where you can go skiing, or you can take to the water and go canoeing in the summertime.
How to get to Lake Louise
You can get to Lake Louise using public transport, although it will take about three hours and you will need to use a combination of buses. If you decide to drive yourself the journey will take two hours, and if you want to extend your trip to another gorgeous waterway you can also visit Moraine Lake which is just a 20 minute drive away from Lake Louise.
From Calgary to Yoho National Park
Although sometimes overlooked, Yoho National Park is a wonderful place to keep in mind for your Calgary day trips. It is one of the smaller national parks but still has so much to offer, like the stunning Emerald Lake where you can go ride on a canoe, hike along the shore, or just take in the outstanding color of the water.
On your trip, you will also want to visit the Natural Bridge and the Spiral Tunnels. You will need to drive yourself around to the different areas unless you sign up for a guided tour. Some of the companies that you can choose from also include Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on the same tour since they are all located in the same general area.
How to get to Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is situated just past Lake Louise and is easily reached by car. It takes two hours to get here and we suggest combining both day trips to create the ultimate outdoor road trip adventure.
Exploring Outside of Calgary in a Day
Calgary is a naturally beautiful city and it is surrounded by many national parks. If you travel just a couple hours north or south you can find yourself in a completely new place and there are even more spots to go hiking, climbing or even whitewater rafting around southern Alberta.
When it comes to places like the Kootenay National Park, Jasper National Park or Castle Provincial Park, distance isn't an issue since Calgary is situated right in the center of them. Rich with life and animals, you might even spot wild horses and other wildlife as you make your way to your fantastic day trip destination.