Located in Western Canada, the best day trips from Calgary, Alberta include a wide array of sites, landscapes, and adventures suitable for every interest and situation.
How do I know this?
Because not only have I lived in the province of Alberta, but I grew up in adjacent Saskatchewan and have traveled across western Canada more times than I can count.
With all this first-hand knowledge under my belt, I can say with absolute certainty that the best day trips from Calgary include a smattering of mountainous escapes, badland adventures, prairie views, and peaceful getaways alike.
Ready to explore the 15 best day trips from Calgary, Alberta?
Table of Contents
- 15 Best Day Trips from Calgary, Alberta
- Banff National Park & Lake Louise
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
- Waterton Lakes National Park
- Yoho National Park
- Kootenay National Park
- Red Deer
- Medicine Hat
- Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park & Lethbridge
- Jasper National Park
- Crowsnest Pass
- Kananaskis & Canmore
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15 Best Day Trips from Calgary, Alberta
Banff National Park & Lake Louise
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 127km / 78.9 miles (1 hour 30 minutes driving) | 👉 Banff sightseeing tour
Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, a national historic site, and one of the most popular day trips from Calgary (not to mention one of the world’s premier destinations).
Famous for its proximity to glaciers, the Rocky Mountains, and gorgeous turquoise lakes (including Lake Louise), Banff National Park is a world heritage site that features endless outdoor adventures including hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, scuba diving, snowshoeing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The park is best known for being home to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Sulphur Mountain, Banff Upper Hot Springs, Johnston Canyon, and so much more.
Meanwhile, Banff Town, the park’s signature townsite, is home to restaurants, luxe hotels, galleries, and boutique shops.
The best things to do in Banff National Park:
- Banff Town: Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, Banff Upper Hot Springs, Cave and Basin National Historic Site
- Lake Louise: A turquoise, glacier-fed lake that is noted for its ski resort gondola, hiking, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
- Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive: A 24-km drive, the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive begins in the Town of Banff and will take you past Lake Minnewanka, the Cascade Ponds, Two Jack Lake, and Johnson Lake.
- Sunshine Meadows: Straddling the continental divide, Sunshine Meadows is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park as it will take you right into the heart of the alpine Rockies. To get here, take the bus or Banff Gondola to Sunshine Ski Village.
- Vermillion Lakes: Located at the foot of Mount Norquay, Vermillion Lakes are a series of lakes and marshlands that are iconic to Banff.
- Bow Valley Parkway: Running parallel to the Trans Canada Highway, the Bow Valley Parkway connects Banff and Lake Louise for hikers and cyclers. Popular stops along the way include Muleshoe, Castle Lookout, Sulphur Mountain views, and Rockbound Lake.
- Moraine Lake: Glacier-fed, Moraine Lake is located 8.7km south of Lake Louise, and features one of the most popular and scenic views in all of Banff National Park.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Photo by David Wirzba
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 184km / 114 miles (1 hour 52 minutes driving)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a destination that will fill you in on over 6,000 years of Indigenous history and plains culture. The site is located about 15 minutes north of the town of Fort Macleod on Highway #785 and is easily accessible.
The site was once quite literally used as a Buffalo Jump — a steep cliff to which early indigenous people would herd Buffalo so that they would fall over it, perishing in the process.
Today, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the best-preserved Buffalo Jumps in the world, and you’ll find sandstone cliffs, an interpretive center, excellent hiking trails, and scenic views of the surrounding area.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 135km / 84 miles (1 hour 30 minutes driving) | 👉 Guided Drumheller tour from Calgary
Located northeast of Calgary in the dusty Canadian badlands, Drumheller, Alberta is the Dinosaur Capital of the World, is full of dinosaur-related activities, is a national historic site, and is one of my personal favorite day trips from Calgary.
In particular, Drumheller is home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum (a museum that features plenty of real dinosaur bones and skeletons), the world’s largest dinosaur, the Dinosaur Trail, hoodoos, abandoned coal mines, hiking trails, and ghost towns.
Honestly, I’ve visited Drumheller both as a kid as an adult, and I have to say I’ve never left feeling like it wasn’t for me. This town is great for all ages and for all interests!
I spill the beans on how best to experience the town in my 10 best things to do in Drumheller article.
Waterton Lakes National Park
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 259 km / 161 miles (2 hours 39 minutes driving) | 👉 Waterton Lakes National Park Tour From Calgary
Known as where the prairies meet the Canadian Rockies, Waterton Lakes National Park is located in Southern Alberta and is home to pristine lakes, thundering waterfalls, and incredible mountain vistas.
Notably understated in tourist numbers when stacked up against other Alberta parks like Banff and Jasper, Waterton Lakes holds its own when it comes to adventure, beauty, and peaceful relaxation and is one of the top Calgary day trips. In fact, it’s the only park in the world that has a triple designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserve.
While here, cozy up in the town of Waterton (or one of the other small towns in the area), hike the trails, explore the wide variety of wildflowers, grab a canoe or kayak, have a spa day, go golfing, or just relax.
Yoho National Park
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 208km / 129 miles (2 hours 18 minutes driving)
Located in the Western banks of the Canadian Rockies, Yoho National Park in beautiful British Columbia may be less popular than other Rocky Mountain parks, but it still packs a punch when it comes to activities, beauty, and sightseeing.
Easily accessed via the iconic Icefields Parkway (a road consistently rated as one of the world’s best drives), Yoho is a wild oasis known for being the home of mountainous scenery, one of the highest waterfalls in the country, excellent hiking trails, and so much more.
In particular, some of the best sites in Yoho National Park include Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Lake O’Hara, the Iceline Trail, Kicking Horse Pass, and Wapta Falls.
Kootenay National Park
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 167 km / 103.7 miles (1 hour 50 minutes driving)
Established in 1920, Kootenay National Park features 1406 square kilometers of incredible scenery and was originally designated as part of a government agreement to build a road across the Rocky Mountains.
Since its inception, people have flocked to the “Kootenays” to experience the hot springs, mountain scenery, waterfalls, and deep canyons.
Taking its name for the Kutenai First Nations people of the area, some of the best things to do in Kootenay are to hike the Healy Pass trail, explore Egypt, Boom, and Floe Lakes, check out the Stanley Glacier, soak in the hot springs, take a scenic drive or road trip, hike through Sinclair Canyon, wander to Numa Falls, and hike through the Paint Pots.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 147 km / 91 miles (1 hour 31 minutes driving)
Alberta’s third-largest city, Red Deer is located smack dab between the bustling cities of Edmonton and Calgary and is the perfect prairie city to explore via day trips from either city.
Featuring a strong ranching culture, Red Deer is home to Heritage Ranch (definitely stop in if you’d like to go horseback riding), the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, Canyon Ski Resort, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, Discovery Canyon Waterpark, and Ellis Bird Farm preserve.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 294km / 183 miles (2 hours 55 minutes driving)
Home to roughly 63 000 people, Medicine Hat Alberta makes for one of the best day trips from Calgary if you’re interested in indigenous history, scenic coulees, and quaint charm. Fun fact, Medicine Hat is known for being one of the sunniest cities in all of Canada and is a hub on the Canadian badlands.
Some of the best things to do in Medicine Hat include catching a movie at the Monarch Theatre, attending the Medicine Hat Stampede, visiting the Medicine Hat Teepee, and checking out the Medalta museum.
Another fun fact? I lived in Medicine Hat for an entire year! I found that it was an awesome place from which to base a ton of day trips, and it’s how I was able to explore so many of the destinations in this article.
Check out my list of the 16 most unique things to do in Medicine Hat, Alberta for more inspiration!
Dinosaur Provincial Park
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 219 km / 136 miles (2 hours 14 minutes driving)
Dinosaur Provincial Park is one of my favorite destinations in the Canadian badlands as it’s truly filled with some of the best hoodoo-filled landscapes I’ve seen so far.
At the park, you’ll find a ton of pre-historic educational opportunities, a beautiful canyon, an interpretive centre, dinosaur fossils, and awesome photo opportunities.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, most of the dinosaur fossils found here come from the late Cretaceous Period (75 million years ago), and cover over 49 different species.
To spend your time at Dinosaur Provincial Park as best as possible, I recommend hiking a few of the trails (Badlands Trail, Coulee Viewpoint are both great) and taking a ton of photos of the hoodoos.
For more inspiration, check out my Ultimate Guide to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.
Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park & Lethbridge
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 337 km / 209 miles (3 hours 32 minutes driving)
A nature preserve, national historic site, sacred area, and hoodoo-filled wonderland, Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park makes for one of the best day trips from Calgary (even given its slightly longer distance away).
Located near the town of Milk River, Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park is an excellent destination for hiking, camping, photo-taking, and stargazing. While not the most accessible destination on this list (most of the trails are rocky and uneven), you’ll find learning about local indigenous history and exploring the hoodoos to be absolutely magical. In particular, I recommend hiking the Hoodoo trail, the Battle scene Trail, and visiting the interpretive centre.
Then, when you’ve cased Writing-On-Stone, I recommend you head back the way you came and stop in at the town of Lethbridge.
Home to about 93 000 people, Lethbridge is known for its whiskey-trading history, its gorgeous urban parks system, and the High Level Bridge — one of the longest and tallest railway systems of its type.
For more inspiration, check out my travel guide to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park.
Jasper National Park
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 306 km / 190 miles (3 hours 27 minutes driving) | 👉 Athabasca Falls White Water Rafting tour
Located in the majestic Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park is a wilderness area home to glaciers, subalpine forests, mountains, wildlife (including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and bears), and turquoise lakes.
Covering over 11 000 square kilometers, Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and is a perfect day trip from Calgary for outdoorsy types.
In particular, take a tour onto the Athabasca Glacier (or view it from the Columbia Icefield Skywalk), drive a section of the Icefields Parkway, explore Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon, go skiing in the Marmot Basin, view the cascading Sunwapta Falls, hike Mount Edith Cavell, and take the Jasper SkyTram.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 229 km / 142 miles (2 hours 40 minutes driving)
Located in the south Canadian Rockies, Crowsnest Pass is named as such for a continental divide pass that resembles a crow’s nest.
Featuring five towns — Blairmore, Belleview, Coleman, Hillcrest, and Frank — Crowsnest Pass and the surrounding area have a rich history of ranching, coal mining, and (unfortunately ) natural and man-made disasters. One of the most unique Calgary day trips, there is a ton to explore in this area from beautiful nature to museums and eclectic sites.
While in Crowsnest pass, I recommend visiting the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (it tells the story of the national historic site of Canada’s deadliest rockslide), take a tour of the Bellevue Mine, hike to the Noth York Creek Plane Crash (the trail is a 12-km loop), or hike through the more mountainous parts of the region.
Kananaskis & Canmore
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 105 km / 65 miles (1 hour 11 minutes driving)
One of the easiest day trips from Calgary, Kananaskis Country is located in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and features a ton of outdoorsy activities and opportunities for relaxing.
Technically comprised of 51 different parks, some of the best things to do in Kananaskis Country include driving the Dorrien/Spray Trail, going to see Elbow Falls, Hiking the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, hiking the Highwood Pass, and exploring Grotto Creek Canyon.
Then, when you’ve gotten your fill of the Kananaskis nature, I recommend making your way to nearby Canmore.
Home to spas, museums, and a ton of activities for all ages, Canmore is known as being the gateway to Banff National Park. In particular, check out the Canmore Museum, visit Elevation Place, hike to Ha Ling Peak, book yourself in for a spa treatment, view art at the Avens Gallery, and hike around Grassi Lakes.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 288km / 179 miles (3 hours 11 minutes)
Located in the East Kootenay Region of BC, Fernie makes for a great standalone day trip from Calgary or as an addition to your trip to the Kootenays or Crowsnest Pass.
The largest community in the Elk Valley, Fernie is known for being one of the world’s best destinations for ski and snowboarders, its historic (and scenic) downtown area, having scenic forest trails, and all-around being an adventure-based destination.
In particular, hit the slopes at the Fernie Alpine Resort, hike to Fairy Creek Falls, grab a beer at Fernie Brewing Company, and relax at Maiden Lake.
🚗 Distance from Calgary: 36.5km / 22.7 miles (30 minutes driving)
Located just outside of Calgary, the town of Cochrane is home to roughly 35 000 people and holds firm to its ranching roots.
Featuring one of the cutest downtown areas in the region, this is one of the best Calgary day trips for those who want to explore nature, go shopping, or simply just relax.
While here, tour the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, lean into your outdoorsy side in Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, go hiking or mountain biking in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, learn about local history at Historic Cochrane Ranche Site, and go shopping in the downtown area.
Day Trips from Calgary FAQ
Where should I go near Calgary?
Some of the best places to go near Calgary include Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Drumheller, Red Deer, Cochrane, and Canmore.
What time of year should I take an Alberta road trip?
The best time of year to road trip through Alberta is in the summer. To take an Alberta road trip, rent a car in Calgary and hit the highway.
How do I get from Calgary to Banff?
To get from Calgary to Banff, drive west on the Trans Canada Highway for 1 hour and 27 minutes.
What is Calgary famous for?
Calgary is famous for the Calgary Stampede, the Calgary Flames NHL team, being the headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics.
That’s it for my 15 best day trips from Calgary, Alberta!
I hope this gave you a ton of inspiration for things to do in both Alberta and British Columbia, Canada — two provinces near and dear to my heart.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section and have fun on your day trip from Calgary!