Are you planning a trip to Alberta but stuck on what to add to your itinerary? Or are you a Calgarian who just needs to shake things up a little and escape the city for a day? We’ve compiled an epic list of 18 day trips you can take to explore the various cultures, history, and landscapes that comprise southern Alberta.
Your day trip from Calgary could lead to a magnificent hiking trail in the Rocky Mountains or an iconic candy store in the Prairies. Within a driving distance of a few hours, you could land at a UNESCO World Heritage Site or to a town that houses a replica of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Head into cowboy country or fully immerse in nature. Visit wild animal rehabilitation centres and pet a wolfdog.
Options abound in every direction. So get up early and head to one of these epic destinations for an unforgettable day trip. We promise they’ll be worth the drive!
Nordic Spa in Kananaskis Country
Peyto Lake on Icefields Parkway
The Badlands – Drumheller
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Yamnuska Wolf Sanctuary
Birds of Prey Foundation
Drive Highway 40
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Lundbreck Falls and Lundbreck
Castle Provincial Park
Waterton Lakes National Park
If a trip to Canada is on your list of travel dreams, you’ve probably heard of Banff. This charming mountain town often graces magazine covers and has been listed as one of Canada’s top places to visit. Luckily for Calgarians, or tourists flying into Calgary Airport, Banff is only 78.9mi away. You can escape the bustle of Calgary and be in this outdoor paradise within a couple of hours. And staying in Banff doesn’t only mean you’re at the heart of outdoor recreation potential—Banff proper boasts a downtown core chock-full of gear shops and top-notch restaurants making for an adventurous and luxurious day trip wrapped into one.
You’ll have a tough time choosing what to do when you head to Banff for a day trip—so many choices! No matter what you do, you will need to purchase a Parks Pass since Banff is within Banff National Park. Explorers will want to find a suitable hike in Banff, and we recommend arriving early to ensure you get a parking spot. In town, you can take the Banff Gondola to reach unparalleled views, then treat yourself to some gourmet fare in the evening. Both winter and summer are bustling in this charming mountain town, so plan your itinerary before you go to avoid waiting in lines or attempting an activity that sells out quickly.
How to Get to Banff from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 30 minutes
The best way to reach Banff from Calgary is by car. For great deals on rentals, check rentalcars.com and book something before you arrive. The drive will take about an hour and a half, leading west of Calgary on Highway 1 and into the Rocky Mountains. You’ll spend most of the drive gazing out the window in awe.
If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can take a shuttle from Calgary to Banff, like the Banff Express, the Brewster Express, or the Banff Airporter. Fares range from $40 to $70, with discounts offered for roundtrip fares or certain booking dates.
Often referred to as Banff’s little sister, or the other Banff, Canmore is lesser-known but equally awesome (and in this writer’s humble opinion, Canmore has more charm). Being outside Banff National Park’s border, you don’t need a Parks Pass to visit Canmore, but you’ll still be at the doorstep of some epic outdoor adventures year-round. Honestly, the dining options in Canmore alone are worth the trip.
Trails abound in the Canmore area, so heading for a day hike may pique your interest. When you return from your outdoor adventure, you’ll probably be hungry. Some of our favourite local haunts include Rocky Mountain Flatbread, Communitea Café, Graze Food & Drink, which can all be accompanied by a delectable pint from Canmore Brewing Company. Canmore also boasts some excellent thrift stores and gear shops for those needing new threads or needing something to do while waiting for your take-out.
How to Get to Canmore from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 10 minutes
Canmore makes for a super easy day trip from Calgary as it’s only an hour and 10 minutes away by car on Highway 1. Head west on Highway 1 and take one of the three exits directing to Canmore. Many shuttle services, like the Banff Express, make stops in Canmore on their way to Banff or Lake Louise, often for a much more reasonable price, around $35.
The Nordic Spa in Kananaskis Country
At 10Adventures, we’re proponents of human-powered, thrilling, epic day trips, but we also don’t mind a day of total relaxation. At the Nordic Spa in Kananaskis, you can have ultimate relaxation in a pristine mountain landscape—kind of the best of both worlds. Imagine soaking in mineral pools and hot tubs with mist rising off the surface and a backdrop of snow-capped peaks and dense forest. And, it’s only an hour and 15 minutes from Calgary.
During your juicy day at the spa, you can book a massage with their licensed staff or visit the oil-infused steam rooms to cleanse your lungs. Have a hydrotherapy session, soaking in the five outdoor pools among the alpine, or just relax in the hammocks and saunas. Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Nordic Spa is currently offering limited services. See their website for the details and check before you go.
How to Get to the Nordic Spa from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 15 minutes
From Calgary, head west on Highway 1 for 38.5mi and take exit 118 for Kananaskis Trail/AB-40. Head south for 14.4mi and turn right on Mt Allan Drive. Make a quick left onto Centennial Drive and continue for 1.7mi to reach the Nordic Spa parking lot.
Peyto Lake on Icefields Parkway
For an epic day trip filled with magic and wonder, a visit to Peyto Lake is a must. This alpine lake, renowned for its shimmering, almost too-blue-to-be-true colour, is worth the drive from Calgary. Getting to Peyto Lake includes driving along one of the most beautiful stretches of highway extending from Highway 1 to Jasper, known as the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North). This road extends alongside glaciers, imposing peaks, stunning lakes, and has several campsites, and connects to numerous trails.
How to Get to Peyto Lake from Calgary
Drive west on Highway 1 from Calgary, then exit just after Lake Louise for Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) towards Jasper. Continue along the Icefields Parkway (an epic journey itself!) for about 30 minutes, then make a left at the sign for Bow Pass (“Bow Summit”) and Peyto Lake Viewpoint.
The Badlands – Drumheller
You may not think there’s much east of Calgary except prairies, prairies, and more prairies. But if you head northeast for about an hour and 30 minutes, you’ll suddenly descend into the Badlands of Alberta, comprising a series of canyons and river beds around the Red Deer River with desert vegetation and an ethereal vibe. Dinosaurs once roamed this area! Drumheller makes a great day trip combining hiking among unique canyons and savouring some tasty brews and eats in town.
Adventurers come here for the opportunities to explore the phenomenal nooks and crannies of these cool canyons that are starkly different from the prairies and farmlands surrounding them. Before reaching Drumheller, you’ll see a sign for Horseshoe Canyon, which has a small parking lot and nice trails. Or you can drive into Drumheller and head to the Tyrell Museum to learn about the area’s history. When you’re done exploring the canyons and learning about dinosaurs, head to Valley Brewing for some top-notch craft beer.
How to Get to Drumheller from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 30 mins
To reach Drumheller, you’ll head north out of the city on Deerfoot Trail/AB-2. Take exit 275 and keep right at the fork to merge onto TWP 262 E and continue for 13.9mi. Turn left onto AB-9 for 15.4mi, and stay right to stay on this road and continue towards Drumheller for 37.3mi.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is not to be confused with Drumheller—in fact, it’s about two hours away. Both have cretaceous history, but this area of interest is a protected park. Without a doubt, a day trip to this park will be best for families, as all the hikes available in Dinosaur Provincial Park are short with minimal elevation gain. Arrive early or stay late to catch a glimpse of the changing colours at sunrise and sunset.
When you get to Dinosaur Provincial Park, you’ll have no trouble navigating. Signs mark all the worthy spots and trails, and you’ll easily find the Visitor Centre and the Cretaceous Café. Most of the routes have interpretive signs, enhancing your experience in the park by teaching you about its history. Meander through various ecosystems like the Badlands and the riparian environment around the Red Deer River.
How to Get to Dinosaur Provincial Park from Calgary
By car: 2 hours 20 minutes
From Calgary, you’ll head east on Highway 1 for 103.1mi, then make a left on AB-36 when you see signs for Hanna. Turn right onto AB-544 and continue for 13.3mi. Make a left for a few kilometres, then turn right onto Township Road 204. Keep left at the junction and continue on Range Road 125 for 1.9mi. Make a right onto Township Road 210A and follow signs for Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Are you an animal lover but can’t have a pet in your Calgary apartment? Or do you have a fascination with wolfdogs? An excellent day trip from Calgary can lead you straight to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. The non-profit company offers wolfdog education through various tours for the public. See their website for more information.
The sanctuary provides enormous outdoor spaces for their wolfdogs with the Rocky Mountains all around. You can walk through the sanctuary on the tours, have a guided tour, or participate in an interactive tour where you’ll get up close with the wolfdogs. Learn extensively about their behaviours, and why it’s important to protect these majestic beasts. You’ll leave feeling humbled by the efforts of the staff to care for these incredible animals.
How to Get to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary from Calgary
By car: 45 minutes
The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is just west of Cochrane, so it’s an easy drive from Calgary. Heading northwest on Crowchild Trail/AB-1A, you’ll drive for about 26.1mi. Turn right onto Range Road 53 and right again to enter the Wolfdog Sanctuary parking lot.
Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation
If you have even a slight interest in birdlife, you will love visiting the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation. Here, you can partake in an interactive experience, do a hawk walk, watch flying demonstrations, and meander through the sanctuary that has been running since 1982. The company’s missions serve to protect and conserve endangered birds of prey species, rehabilitate and release injured birds of prey, and study birds of prey populations.
Located on a 70-acre wetland south of Calgary, your visit will open you to a world of birds of prey all in one place! They house owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles and offer guided tours to teach you all about these wild animals. Check their website for business hours or to book your tour.
How to Get to the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation from Calgary
By car: 2 hours 25 minutes
To reach this fascinating bird sanctuary, you’ll head south out of Calgary on Highway AB-2 for about 87.0mi, following signs for Lethbridge. Turn left onto AB-519 for 19.9mi, then keep right to continue on AB-23 S. You’ll connect to the Crowsnest Highway/AB-3 and head east past Lethbridge. Take a left onto AB-845 and another left onto 16 Avenue to arrive at the Birds of Prey Foundation.
Drive Highway 40
For those who love a good road trip but don’t want to drive too far, we highly recommend cruising down Highway 40/Kananaskis Trail. It rivals the Icefields Parkway as one of the most beautiful stretches of highway near Calgary, possibly in Canada. It’s a winding road that carves through the edge of the Rocky Mountains, revealing an ever more beautiful view around each bend.
You can stop at several places along Highway 40 to stretch your legs, including Barrier Lake, Troll Falls, and Pocaterra Ridge (a wonderful larch hike in early fall). You can hit this highway year-round for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking day trips. Drive safe, and respect the speed limit at 55.9mi per hour—but you won’t mind because there’s so much beauty to admire, it’s best to take your time.
How to Get to Highway 40 from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 30 minutes
Leave Calgary heading west on Highway 1 for about 18.6mi, then take exit 118 to Kananaskis Country. Turn left onto AB-40/Kananaskis Trail, and choose where you want to have a picnic, a hike, or just keep cruising. Note that from December 1 to June 14, a section of AB-40 is closed between Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Highwood House Junction.
When you conjure an image of Alberta, you’re probably thinking of Sundre. It’s a cowboy area with wild horses, mighty rivers, and the Rocky Mountains visible in the distance. Here, you can channel your inner cowboy and relish the authentic country activities that contribute to the homegrown Albertan identity. You’ll find something to do in Sundre, and it’s only one hour and 30 minutes from Calgary.
Leave the city behind and head to Sundre to revive your sense of culture, recreation, and adventure. You’re in cowboy country up here, where many popular activities involve horses. You may even see some wild horses roaming. On a hot day, you can head out of sweltering Calgary and go rafting or kayaking on the Red Deer River. Get a taste of the wild west, and visit Sundre for hunting, fishing, and ATV paths. And Sundre is no stranger to hosting rodeos, so check their website for the events calendar.
How to Get to Sundre from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 30 minutes
Head northwest out of the city and connect with Crowchild Trail/AB-1A. Take a right onto Lochend Road/AB-766 for 6.8mi, then turn left onto Big Hill Springs Road/AB-567 and continue for 6.2mi. Soon, you’ll see signs for Sundre, where you’ll turn right on AB-22 (the Cowboy Trail) for 36.4mi. Finally, turn left on AB-27 for 6.2mi, and you’re there.
A great summer day trip will lead straight to the shores of central Alberta’s best beaches at Sylvan Lake. Since Calgarians can’t reach the ocean in a day trip, Sylvan Lake is one of the next best options. Aside from water activities during summer, day-trippers can stroll the adorable downtown core comprised of heritage buildings and pedestrian-only streets.
During your day in Sylvan Lake, make sure to walk along the waterfront boardwalk, replete with a lighthouse and a soft sandy beach. Then, you can rent equipment from a local business and go seadooing or paddling on the blue-green waters. Of course, you can relax at the beach with some tasty snacks from the local shops. Stick around for sunset, too, and admire the magical colours washing over this beautiful scenery.
How to Get to Sylvan Lake from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 45 minutes
Drive north on Deerfoot Trail/AB-2 for 68.4mi, then take exit 365 for AB-54 W. Continue on AB-54 for 10.8mi, then turn right onto AB-781 N for 13.5mi. Follow signs for Sylvan Lake and head to your preferred spot in the town.
For a day trip from Calgary filled with charm, head to Nanton. This town of 2000 people is not far from the city and offers a lovely escape into a world of antiques, art, and museums detailing the history of agriculture in the area. Not to mention, if you head there mid-August, you can visit a vast field of sunflowers—picture-perfect, fragrant, and serene—at Paradise Hill Farm. Your itinerary for the day will be delightful and offer a local experience that will make you forget about Calgary altogether.
Start with some antiquing and boutique browsing in the downtown shops, and stop at the famous Candy Store to refuel. Then, head to the Miniature Museum to learn about farming and logging through tiny figurines, and then the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre for a true glimpse into rural Alberta. If you’re an aviation buff, check out the Bomber Command Museum, which houses one of the few Lancaster bombers in the world that still has a functioning engine. Cap off the day with a comfort meal at Sweet Queen Family Restaurant (their donairs come highly recommended), then drive back to Calgary full of rural knowledge and good eats.
How to Get to Nanton from Calgary
By car: 55 minutes
Getting to Nanton from Calgary is straightforward since the town is on Highway 2, which cuts through the city north to south. Connect to Deerfoot Trail/AB-2, and head south for about 54.1mi until you reach Nanton.
The name of this town might ring a bell if you’ve ever watched Star Trek. Since March 2010, Vulcan has been recognized as the Official Star Trek Capital of Canada. With that title came several attractions that pique the interest of Trekkies the world over. (That said, if you’re not really into Star Trek models and artifacts, we forgive you if you want to skip this one.)
A day in Vulcan will likely include a visit to the Star Trek-themed tourist centre, which houses a replica of the Starship Enterprise. The staff don the proper costumes, and photo opportunities abound—don’t forget to prove you’re a Trekkie by waving the Vulcan salute. During summer, you’ll encounter Spock Days, when proud Vulcans parade around town and offer fun events for all ages. Live long and prosper!
How to Get to Vulcan from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 25 minutes
To reach Vulcan, you’ll drive south from Calgary on Deerfoot Trail/AB-2 and continue on AB-2 for about 40.4mi heading to High River. Take exit 194A to join with AB-23 E, and continue for about 26.7mi. Follow signs for Lethbridge/Vulcan, and turn right to stay on AB-23 for about 11.2mi to reach the Star Trek Capital of Canada.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
For a fascinating day trip to learn about over 6000 years of Plains Buffalo and Blackfoot confederacy culture, you can drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site south of Calgary near Fort MacLeod. This destination offers an impressive interpretive centre displaying the history and offering education and insight into the traditional ways of life once used by the Blackfoot and their Bands.
To give a very brief overview, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a cliff where the Blackfoot would steer herds of buffalo to jump off as a means of hunting efficiently. An ingenious and effective trap that provided them with food, warmth, and everything else they could create using all parts of the buffalo. The journey from Calgary is well worth it, and you can stop in Nanton for some dinner on the way home.
How to Get to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump from Calgary
By car: 1 hour 50 minutes
Drive south from Calgary by connecting to Deerfoot Trail/AB-2, and head south for 107.5mi until you reach Fort MacLeod, then turn right onto AB-785 W, following signs for Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
A glimpse of Canadian Hollywood in rural Alberta? That’s what you’ll find in High River. The classic Canadian TV show Heartland was filmed in High River, and you’ll see why when you visit. The downtown buildings have a western charm, and the town exudes rural Canadian vibes. Beautiful natural areas lie just outside the town centre, a perfect place to stroll.
The creative minds don’t just stop at television production. High River has a small music community, too. When COVID gets under control, you’ll most certainly encounter live music at Carlson’s on Macleod. For pie aficionados, you must stop at Art and Soul Art Gallery on Sunday for the best darn slice in southern Alberta. To work off your pie, you can walk around the Frank Lake Conservation Area and Sheppard Family Park—look out for reminders of the big flood of 2013. Stop for a beer at the local microbrewery to taste some of High River’s finest.
How to get to High River from Calgary
By car: 50 minutes
High River is an easy day trip as the drive is less than an hour each way. Leave south from Calgary on Deerfoot Trail/AB-2 and take exit 209 following signs for AB-2A S. Continue for about 8.7mi to reach High River.
Now we head into the last day trips that are a little farther away but still possible with a total drive time of around 5 hours. Lundbreck Falls is a stunning set of cascading waterfalls in southern Alberta that rush over the landscape, making a perfect spot for a selfie. The mighty Crowsnest River plunges 39ft into a deep pool in the limestone canyon below. There’s an observation deck to admire this liquid beauty—keep your eyes peeled for rainbows! For lunch and a beverage, stop in the nearby hamlet of Lundbreck and visit Oldman River Brewing.
How to Get to Lundbreck Falls from Calgary
By car: 2 hours 5 minutes
The fastest way to Lundbreck Falls includes some backroads through rural Alberta, but it’s mainly highway driving. Head south out of Calgary on Deerfoot Trail/AB-2 towards Nanton for about 49.7mi. Before reaching Nanton, you’ll take a right onto 722 Ave/Range Road 285, then a quick left onto 104 Street E/Range Road 290. Continue for 4.0mi, then turn right onto AB-533. Turn left after a few kilometres to stay on AB-533, and once you hit Cowboy Trail/AB-22, make another left. You’ll follow the Cowboy Trail for about 44.1mi, then turn right onto Crowsnest Highway/AB-3, and turn left when you see signs for Lundbreck Falls.
Castle Provincial Park
Castle Provincial Park is a gem among Alberta parks, which was established in 2017. It’s an essential wildlife corridor and conservation area that welcomes respectful visitors for wilderness recreation.
The drive is a bit longer from Calgary, but if you leave early in the morning, you’ll have enough time to explore the park on one of the magnificent hikes. The hikes in Castle Provincial Park are on the challenging side, so make sure you’re comfortable with scrambling some technical terrain before heading there.
How to Get to Castle Provincial Park from Calgary
By car: 2 hours 30 minutes
Follow the directions to Lundbreck Falls listed above, but continue on Crowsnest Highway/AB-3 W, then turn left onto AB-507 S. This turns into AB-774 W, where you’ll start to see signs for Castle Mountain. Park at whichever trailhead you decide to explore, and enjoy this protected wildland area that feels super far from any city.
Waterton Lakes National Park
This day trip is the farthest drive out of all our epic suggestions, but it is absolutely worth it to escape the city and enter into a majestic world of wildlife, sparkling lakes, and imposing mountains. Much of the landscape was damaged due to the Kenow fire in 2017, but Parks Canada has worked hard to maintain its beauty for visitors.
You’ll want to take a day trip to Waterton Lakes National Park if you’re an avid hiker. Options abound here for beginners to seasoned hikers. You’ll find magnificent hikes in Waterton that navigate the flourishing landscapes and some challenging scrambles to get your heart pumping and reward you with unparalleled views. Escape from Calgary to immerse in nature for the day, and head south to Waterton Lakes National Park—you will not be disappointed.
How to Get to Waterton Lakes National Park from Calgary
By car: 2 hours 45 minutes
There are two ways to reach Waterton Lakes National Park that take about the same amount of time. You can either go through Lundbreck or Fort MacLeod after splitting off from Nanton. From Lundbreck, you’ll take AB-3 E, then turn right onto AB-6 S that leads you right to the park. Or, you can come via Fort MacLeod, taking AB-810 S, turning left onto AB-505 W, and right on AB-800 S. At Mountain View, you’ll head west on AB-5 until you reach the park.
Ready to go?
In a few hours by car, you can escape the city and be in a completely different place geographically and culturally. Alberta encompasses several landscapes, ecosystems, cultures, and history—not to mention, the various gastronomic treats and microbreweries all over the place. When you can’t take a vacation, why not add one of these epic day trips to your bucket list and experience Alberta. With our busy schedules, sometimes a day is all we can muster. Time to hit the road!