Summer is road trip season, and there is truly nothing we love more. There’s no better way to explore Alberta than by road trip because there are just so many fantastic stops along the way. Truly, it would be a shame to hop on a plane and fly over all of these hot spots. If you are heading west from Calgary, you are in for a serious treat. You hardly even have to leave the city to start seeing the gorgeous Rocky Mountains presenting themselves in front of you. The further you drive, the closer you are to being fully immersed in the grandeur of the rugged Rockies. We’re not going to let you cruise on by these four places without making a stop, so here are four bucket-list stops for your Bow Valley road trip.
You’ll start by hitting Kananaskis. Kananaskis Village is a tiny little community that is a destination in its own right. You’ll find the beautiful Kananaskis Nordic Spa, along with endless trails and opportunities for outdoor activities. While the Village is an incredible place to visit, Kananaskis Country itself tends to bring in all of the visitors. The area has over 4,000 square kilometres of parks, lakes, valleys, and foothills. It is a top destination for hiking, sightseeing, biking, canoeing, camping, and much more. Some of the most incredible things to do include a hike of Tent or Windtower Ridge, a Bike on Highwood Pass, checkin gout the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, either right up close or from above, a walk across the Blackshale Suspension Bridge, paddling on Barrier Lake, and the list goes on.
Kananaskis Country stretches across a vast portion of the area in and around Calgary and Canmore, so there are countless things to do and see. Do your research to pick the best adventure based on your level, experience, and how much time you have. Always check the weather and look for warnings and advisories. You need to check out this area.
Canmore is a beautiful town that is about an hour and a half away from Calgary. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a sightseer, a lover of art and culture, or a food and beverage fanatic, you’ll love Canmore. The town is charming and welcoming, with a gorgeous trail system around the Bow River, green space, and tons of amazing hikes that begin just a short way from the town center. Canmore is known for incredible mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, and hiking. If you want to get outside and explore, this is the perfect base camp.
You're also in luck if you’re looking for a more low-intensity visit. Canmore’s Main Street is bustling with art galleries, local shops, and tons of great restaurants, cafes, and bars to check out. During the summer, a portion of Main Street is closed off to traffic, so it feels like a little summer festival every single day. You will fall in love with the scenery, incredible community, and all of the adventure that this place has to offer.
Now, we’re heading just a little bit further west and landing in Banff. No matter where you’re travelling from, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard of Banff. Just like Canmore and Kananaskis, Banff is a town that is absolutely surrounded by amazing mountain adventures. From hiking trails to lakes and waterfalls, you could pack your days full of unforgettable adventures 365 days a year. In fact, many people do! When in Banff, you can visit the Iconic Banff Springs Hotel, take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, take a gondola ride up Sulpher Mountain and enjoy the awe-inspiring views from the top, or just spend your days in town.
Banff’s townsite is bursting with incredible food, beverage, and entertainment. You’ll find locally-brewed beer, locally-distilled spirits, great shopping, a very diverse array of incredible restaurants, and a ton of super fun options for bars and pubs. People visit Banff from around the globe, and there’s no question why they feel inclined to make the journey. This palace is enchanting for so many reasons. You need to check it out for yourself.
You can’t do Banff without Lake Louise! Lake Louise itself is a gorgeous, vibrant, bright-turquoise lake that you won’t believe is real. Truly, it might just leave your jaw on the floor. Right on the shore of the lake, you’ll find the iconic Chateau Lake Louise hotel, where you can grab a cocktail while you take in the mind-blowing views. Right from the lake, you can take one of the countless hiking trails to get a whole different perspective from above. Alternatively, you can rock climb, canoe on those vibrant waters, or simply stroll around and take in the sights. Lake Louise is a tiny town with a sprawling natural playground on all sides. If you love a beautiful view and an unforgettable adventure in nature, you’re going to fall in love with this place.
Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the 2023 Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.