When the snow falls and the temperature drops, many Albertans decide that the warmth of their home is the best place to be. What you may not know is that Alberta, with its glorious mountain range and northern forests, has some of the most beautiful winter destinations. For those who are brave enough to venture out into the chilly weather, Alberta offers plenty of unique experiences. If you’re curious about what magical places Alberta has, pack up your vehicle, bundle up your family, and visit these five locations for a memorable winter adventure!
Elk Island National Park
If you’re looking to stay close to Edmonton, Elk Island National Park offers beautiful scenery throughout the winter. During the summer, the weather may be warm enough to host a family picnic, but the winter makes it easier to spot the wildlife that call the park home. Each trail has been set up to accommodate snowshoes and cross-country skis, so bring your snowshoes (or rent them at the park!) for a more enjoyable experience.
Jasper National Park
Located four hours east on Highway 16, Jasper National Park is home to some of Alberta’s most picturesque locations. Like one might expect in a visit to a town nestled in the Rockies, Jasper provides easy access to Marmot Basin, the local ski “hill”. Since Jasper is located further away from any of Alberta’s major cities, Marmot is generally less crowded than Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, or any other major ski resort in Alberta. Jasper also offers some beautiful trails to hike during the winter and a visit to Athabasca Falls will leave you in wonder.
For many, Banff has become a go-to destination when visiting Alberta, but locals will happily tell you that Canmore is just as stunning and far less busy. Located 24 minutes from Banff, Canmore is a photographer’s dream. In Canmore, you can take stunning photographs of the Three Sisters (a trio of mountain peaks) reflecting in the Bow River or walk the trails to find wildlife foraging for food. The most popular event of the winter season is the Winter Carnival, an annual event taking place every February. At the carnival, you can celebrate the season by watching the Kid N Mutt races, where children are able to pilot sleds pulled by trained sled dogs! Of course, nothing says “winter in Canada” more than a classic hockey game, which is a favourite for everyone at the carnival.
Lake Louise is just as gorgeous in the winter as it is in the summer. Only two hours east of Calgary, you’ll recognize Lake Louise as the place where the luxurious Fairmont Chateau is located. While you can ski the trails and have fun doing so, there’s nothing more magical than skating on a frozen lake with the Victoria Glacier as your backdrop. If you find yourself with some spare time and want to try something a little different, stop by the Chateau and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise. Don’t worry about getting cold, as you’ll be nestled comfortably under a pile of blankets. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
Waterton Lakes National Park
Further south and bordering the United States, you’ll find Waterton Lakes National Park. Locals often say it’s “where mountains meet the prairies” and we happen to agree. Waterton Lakes National Park is home to the deepest lake in the Rockies and, like Jasper, is quite wild in comparison to Banff. With gorgeous trails lining Waterton Lake and a quiet, serene atmosphere, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. If you’ve already seen (and loved!) Fairmont Chateau, you should stop by the Prince of Wales Hotel, where you’ll have an unparalleled view of the lake below.
If you thought road trips were only for the summer, we hope we proved you wrong! While driving in the snow can be quite daunting, if you look after your vehicle and drive carefully, a winter road trip can be that perfect vacation you desperately need. Sure, Alberta is beautiful in the summer, but in the winter, it turns into a stunning winter wonderland. Gather up your friends and family, pile them into your vehicle, and hit the road to these wonderful winter destinations!