Alberta Road Trip

Searching for the ultimate road trip itinerary in southern Alberta? Perhaps you’ve already explored Banff and Jasper and are seeking the next fantastic stop or a more off-the-beaten-path adventure. Or maybe you’re eager to delve deeper into Alberta’s culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes.

Well, you’ve come to the right place! I recently embarked on a week-long road trip starting from Calgary, exploring some of the remarkable Provincial and National Parks that southern Alberta has to offer. I’ve crafted this itinerary to guide you to all the must-visit places, along with my top recommendations on what to see and do, as well as where to stay during your journey!

Banff and Jasper are also two popular destinations for road trips in Alberta. In fact, the route from Calgary to Jasper is one of the best road trips in Canada.

From the desolate dinosaur fossils and hoodoos to the captivating traces of Alberta’s proud Indigenous culture, and onward to the tales of Canada’s early frontier history – there’s a wealth of history worth exploring. The journey begins and ends in Calgary – a vibrant city with plenty to keep you busy. Then, head south to the parks of southern Alberta to explore a range of breathtaking landscapes.


Calgary, often referred to as the gateway to Alberta’s breathtaking landscapes, stands as the quintessential starting point for an unforgettable road trip through this Canadian province. With its international airport a mere 17 kilometers from the city center, travelers can seamlessly transition from arrival to adventure.

Calgary itself is a compelling destination worthy of exploration. Nestled along the expansive and tranquil Bow River, the city enjoys a picturesque setting adorned with trees, parks, and scenic bike paths. Its commitment to green spaces is so profound that it occasionally blurs the lines between urban and natural environments, allowing one to momentarily forget they are in a bustling metropolis.

As you wander through Calgary, you’ll encounter a vibrant tapestry of neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. The trendy Inglewood district and the boutique shops that line 17th Avenue beckon stylish exploration. The cityscape itself serves as a canvas for cool street art that adorns walls and buildings, providing a dynamic and ever-evolving outdoor gallery.

One of Calgary’s architectural gems is the Central Public Library in the East Village, a testament to the city’s commitment to modern design. Furthermore, the city offers a wealth of intriguing museums, each offering a unique perspective on art, culture, and history.

In Calgary, the spirit of discovery is ever-present, ensuring that visitors will always find something fun and fascinating to explore. Whether you’re drawn to the natural beauty of the Bow River, the artistic expressions adorning the city streets, or the architectural marvels that define its skyline, Calgary invites you to embark on a captivating journey of exploration and adventure.

I stayed at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary. It’s a stunning historical building filled with grandeur and luxury. After a busy Alberta road trip or a few days of adventure in the national parks, this place is the perfect retreat to unwind!

Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum

Embarking on a road trip through the southern expanse of Alberta is akin to stepping back in time, delving deep into the province’s rich historical tapestry that dates back to prehistoric eras. The badlands of Alberta, with their rugged landscapes, hold the secrets of eons past, and my second stop on this journey, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, serves as the gateway to this ancient world.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a veritable treasure trove for anyone even remotely intrigued by dinosaurs. It stands as the epicenter of paleontological discovery, showcasing an extensive and unparalleled collection of fossils. These fossils, both original and meticulously crafted replicas, bear witness to the remarkable prehistoric life that once roamed the lands of Alberta.

Drumheller, where the museum is located, lies a mere one and a half-hour drive from Calgary, rendering it an ideal inaugural stop on an Alberta road trip. As you approach the town, you’ll be greeted by the unmistakable silhouette of the world’s largest T-Rex, an iconic landmark that sets the tone for the adventure ahead. Nestled within the embrace of the surrounding badlands, Drumheller is a prime destination for hiking enthusiasts and outdoor aficionados.

The badlands themselves are a geological wonder, shaped over countless centuries by the forces of wind and water. Twisting canyons, towering hoodoos, and layered sandstone formations create an otherworldly landscape that beckons exploration. Whether you’re standing in the shadow of the T-Rex, tracing the footsteps of ancient creatures, or gazing upon the striking vistas of the badlands, Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum invite you to embark on an unforgettable journey through time and natural wonder.

Provincial Dinosaur Park

Alberta’s enduring fascination with dinosaurs can be traced back to 1884 when Joseph Tyrrell made a momentous discovery—the skull fossil of an Albertosaurus. This pivotal find ignited a fossil-hunting fervor akin to the feverish gold rushes of the time. The Canadian Dinosaur Rush, spanning from 1910 to 1917, led to the collection of thousands of fossils, many of which found their way to museums and collectors worldwide.

In the ensuing century, the Provincial Dinosaur Park has yielded an astonishing bounty, with more than 150 complete dinosaur skeletons unearthed, representing over 50 distinct species. Even today, new fossils continue to be unearthed, and the park remains a hub of ongoing excavations. As you explore the park, you may come across smaller fossils, such as bones and teeth, scattered across the ground. These artifacts are deliberately left in situ for park guides to showcase to curious visitors.

Given the park’s immense significance, certain areas are not open for free exploration. Instead, you have the opportunity to partake in guided bus or hiking tours led by knowledgeable guides. During my visit, I opted for the Explorer Bus Tour, which proved to be a rewarding experience, with an adult ticket priced at 20 CAD.

The Provincial Dinosaur Park also offers a fantastic campground situated alongside a picturesque river. The campground is well-appointed with amenities that cater to various needs, including a playground, showers, and a convenient snack bar. Beyond the guided services within the park, the surrounding area provides ample hiking opportunities, or you can embark on an immersive river exploration adventure through kayaking, soaking in the natural beauty that Alberta has to offer.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Cypress Hills Provincial Park is conveniently located just a few hours’ drive from the captivating badlands, yet upon arrival, it feels as if you’ve been transported to an entirely different realm. Here, you’re greeted by the picturesque sight of rolling green hills, dense pine forests, and valleys brimming with colorful, blooming flowers.

This natural paradise proves to be an ideal destination for avid hikers, nature enthusiasts, and those who revel in outdoor adventures. Whether you’re drawn to water sports on the serene lakes or eager to explore the numerous captivating hiking and biking trails, Cypress Hills offers an abundance of activities to occupy your time.

Some of the standout moments of my visit included exploring the enchanting Horseshoe Canyon and taking in the breathtaking vistas from mountaintop viewpoints. These destinations offer an array of experiences suitable for all, whether you prefer a leisurely drive or an outdoor adventure.

Horseshoe Canyon and the mountaintop viewpoints are both easily accessible by car, ensuring that visitors of all backgrounds can appreciate their natural beauty. However, for those seeking a more immersive outdoor experience, the park boasts fantastic hiking trails that lead to these scenic spots. Whether you choose to hike or drive, the views are nothing short of spectacular.

One of the most captivating aspects of Cypress Hills Provincial Park is its abundant wildlife. During my visit, I had the pleasure of encountering numerous deer, peacefully lounging by the roadside, and witnessing a few raptors gracefully soaring overhead. The park’s diverse ecosystem offers ample opportunities for wildlife sightings. With a bit of luck and a watchful eye, you may also be fortunate enough to observe elk, moose, and on rare occasions, even cougars, adding an extra layer of excitement and wonder to your Cypress Hills experience.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, aptly named, offers a landscape on your Alberta road trip that stands in stark contrast to what you’ve encountered before. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the sight of a meandering river, gracefully winding its way through a vast, grassy valley, with the distant Sweetgrass Hills of neighboring Montana serving as a striking backdrop. Within this valley, you’ll discover a peculiar natural playground, one that appears to be sculpted by otherworldly forces over centuries of wind and rain, resulting in twisted rock formations that defy conventional imagination.

However, the park earned its distinctive name, “Writing-on-Stone,” from the red sandstone cliffs that adorn the valley walls. These cliffs bear the indelible marks of thousands of years of Blackfoot history. Canada’s Plains Indigenous people have called this area home for over 3,000 years, and their presence is unmistakably etched into the landscape.

Throughout the valley, you’ll encounter 50 sites, each adorned with thousands of petroglyphs etched directly into the rock walls. These petroglyphs depict both people and animals, offering invaluable insights into the history, traditions, and way of life of the Blackfoot people. To enhance your experience, I highly recommend booking a guided tour, as it provides you with a deeper understanding of the park’s background and rich history.

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