Alberta is Canada’s most beautiful province. I may be biased since I was born in Alberta and have returned countless times but it’s hard to compete with the Rocky Mountains, the badlands, and the glistening glacier lakes. So since we love visiting Alberta so much, we want to share the most beautiful places to visit in Alberta to let you be the judge. Home to the Canadian Rockies, Alberta boasts five national parks with some of the best scenery in Western Canada. If you are planning a trip to Alberta, don’t miss these beautiful places.
Best Places to Visit in Alberta
We have traveled a lot of Alberta during every season and can honestly say, it is an amazing year-round destination and one of the most beautiful places in the world! Whether you visit Alberta in winter, summer, spring, or fall, you are going to be stunned by its natural beauty.
The best way to get around Alberta is by car. You’ll want to be able to stop at the scenic views, hiking trails, and attractions throughout the province. You can pick up your car rental at the Calgary Airport and set off for the adventure of a lifetime. Check prices here.
There are so many iconic places to see in Alberta, it can be difficult knowing where to start, but we are here to help. These are the most beautiful places in Alberta that we have visited with pictures to prove it! Let’s get started.
Banff National Park
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park and has attracted visitors since 1885. Located in the middle of the Rocky Mountains there are incredible views, glacier lakes, and backcountry adventures to be had. When you set your eyes upon Lake Louise with Victoria Glacier regally reflecting into its turquoise waters you can’t help but gasp in awe at the scene of one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
Banff National Park is vast with towering mountain peaks of the Canadian Rockies, turquoise lakes (besides Lake Louise), and alpine meadows. The park is also home to numerous waterfalls, glaciers, and wildlife, making it a nature lover’s paradise. So, before we move away from Banff National Park, let’s take a look at all of the top attractions in the area, because they just so happen to be the best places to visit in Alberta as well.
Lake Louise is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Alberta. A true Canadian bucket list activity is to rent a canoe and head out onto the lake. You can stay in Lake Louise Village which has plenty of shops and restaurants or you can stay at the world-famous Chateau Lake Louise for pure luxury and decadence.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise:
Lake Louise in Winter
It is also one of the best places in Alberta to visit in Winter. Lake Louise Ski Resort is a world-class resort that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics. In the winter there are endless adventures to be had at Lake Louise Ski Resort and beyond the ski hill from cross-country skiing, dog sledding, skijoring, pond hockey, and snowshoeing.
In the winter Lake Louise freezes over making for the most beautiful outdoor skating rink settings on earth. Now is your chance to ice skate at one of Canada’s most iconic destinations.
Read more about what to see and do in Lake Louise:
In the summer, Lake Louise is astounding with hiking trails taking you out to Victoria Glacier and beyond. A popular hike is the Lake Agnes Tea House Trek, where you hike 3.5km (2.2 miles) to the historic tea house. Lake Agnes Tea House has been in operation since 1905 and has a charming rustic ambiance, with seating both inside and outside on the deck overlooking Lake Agnes.
This is one of the most popular hikes in the national park, so it’s recommended to arrive early to avoid crowds and ensure a spot at the tea house. After enjoying your tea and snacks at the tea house, you can either retrace your steps back to Lake Louise along this popular hike or continue on to the Little Beehive or Big Beehive trails for more stunning views of the area.
No visit to Lake Louise would be complete without hiking out to Moraine Lake. It unforgettable scene is featured on the back of our old Canadian $20 bill and has been attracting outdoor lovers for decades.
Moraine Lake is not far from Lake Louise and is just an hour’s drive from the town of Banff. The best time to visit Moraine Lake is definitely at sunrise. When the sun hits the Valley of the Ten Peaks and reflects off of the mirror-like lake you know why this is one of the most photographed locations in North America.
Note that there has been a change in rules for 2023 and accessing Moraine Lake for sunrise is no longer possible via the Parks Canada Shuttle. You will have to find a tour that has access to do this. If you ride a bike or take an organized tour you can still visit Lake Moraine for sunrise.
The Moraine Lake Shoreline hike gives you a shot of ten towering peaks side-by-side, including Mount Tuzo, Mount Bowlen, and Wenkchemna Peak. This is the famous “Twenty Dollar View.” Read more: 16 Best Banff Hikes To Discover
Banff Hot Springs
It was the Banff Hot Springs that first attracted tourists to the national park and when visiting Banff you must take a day to spend in these iconic waters. The hot springs were first discovered by workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883.
This is one of the most stunning locations of any hot spring surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. The water temperature ranges from 37°C to 40°C (98°F to 104°F), making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs is the most popular and accessible in Banff National Park making it an easy place to visit. The facility includes a large outdoor pool that is open year-round. In fact, the best time to visit is in winter when the mountains are covered with snow. There are indoor change rooms where you can rent an old-timers bathing suit if you don’t have your own, plus a café. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and other items.
Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park stretching over 21 kilometers (13 miles) in length and reaching depths of up to 142 meters (466 feet). Like so many of the lakes in the park, it is surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
The name “Minnewanka” comes from the Stoney Nakoda First Nations people, meaning “Water of the Spirits” and there are plenty of things to do in the area. Visitors can take a scenic drive along the Minnewanka Loop, which offers several viewpoints and stops for hiking trails and picnic areas.
We highly recommend taking one of its boat tours during the summer months. The guides are filled with knowledge and you’ll learn about the legend of the Mermen that lived in Lake Minnewanka. In the winter, the lake freezes over and becomes a popular spot for ice fishing and cross-country skiing. We have visited it in both winter and summer and each season is beautiful.
One of the most recognizable Massifs is Castle Mountain. Located between Banff Town and Lake Louise, its distinctive shape resembles a castle. (hence its name). The area offers opportunities for hiking and rock climbing. For those without alpine skills, the mountain can be viewed from the Trans Canada Highway at Castle Junction.
Where to stay in Banff:
The Icefields Parkway links Banff and Jasper national parks and is one of the most beautiful drives on earth. It truly is one of the greatest road trips in the world. There are so many things to see along Icefields parkway you’ll want to take a couple of days to explore it. Don’t miss stopping at the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields which is one of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world and take in the view of the surrounding mountains at the Icefields Skywalk.
You can read more at Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper Alberta but we are also going to highlight some of the top outdoor activities and viewpoints along this iconic route.
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
The Columbia Icefields Skywalk has quickly become the most epic viewpoint in Alberta. Just a short drive from the Columbia Icefield visitor center the Skywalk is a must-see attraction. The glass-bottomed walkway over the Columbia Icefields dangles 280m (918 feet) above the canyon surrounded by glaciers and mountains creating an awesome view!
The Columbia Icefield is a great stop about halfway between Banff and Jasper town and here you can go to the museum, grab some lunch (food is expensive though so be prepared), and take in the views of the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier. You can book tours here as well.
You can view the glacier from the visitor centre, but you can also book a tour to get out onto it. If you don’t want to book a tour, you can walk out on some trails for a closer view of the glacier. But don’t go off the trail and never venture out onto the glacier alone without a guide. It is dangerous and can be deadly, this is the scariest glacier we’ve ever been on with deep crevasses and we followed our guide’s instructions to a tea.
Book this Columbia Icefield Half Day Tour here from Jasper. It includes transportation from Jasper, photo stops at Athabasca Falls and Stutfield Glacier, Ice Cat tour of the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefield Skywalk with lunch!
There are countless pullovers and viewpoints on the Icefields Parkway to see iconic Alberta lakes such as Peyto Lake, and the stunning reflections of Bow Lake. Located at the foot of Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake has the most beautiful lake reflection in all of Alberta. You can hike around the lake or pause to stay at Num ti Jaw Lodge located directly on Bow Lake. It’s a great place to make a base.
There are so many lakes along the Icefields Parkway to stop and take in the views. From Two Jack Lake to Peyto Lake which we have decided to feature. Why? Because, Peyto Lake is a stunning glacier-fed lake that is is known for its vibrant blue-green color, which is caused by the rock flour (fine sediment) that is carried into the lake by melting glaciers.
It has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, there are several hiking trails with The Bow Summit Trail being a popular stop. Make sure to keep an eye out for elk, moose deer, and even bears. Peyto Lake is easily accessible from the nearby Icefields Parkway, making it one of the most popular tops for people traveling from Banff to Jasper National Park.
Where to Stay on the Icefields Parkway
Num Ti Jah Lodge is a historic Lodge located directly on Bow Lake. It is one of the most unique places to stay in Alberta and is located on the Glacier Parkway, it makes for a great place to make a base while exploring both Banff and Jasper National Parks if you don’t mind the drive.
Jasper National Park
After you’ve driven the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park is your next stop and is a place you cannot miss visiting in Alberta. It is as beautiful as Banff National Park if you can believe it! In fact, we like Jasper National Park better than banff because it is less crowded and more rustic.
There are so many places to see in Jasper National Park that you need to spend a few days up here. It has an abundance of wildlife from grizzly bears to mountain goats, you can see the aurora borealis and waterfalls. Plus, like so many other places in Alberta, there are hiking trails, turquoise lakes, and canyons. Read more: Amazing Things to do in Jasper, Alberta
Northern Lights at Lake Annette
You can see the northern lights all over Alberta but Jasper is known for its dark sky festival and it is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in Alberta. Winter is the best time to view the dark skies because the days or shorter and you have long dark nights to see the stars twinkle in the sky.
We made our way out to Lake Annette from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in the wee hours of the morning and saw the most extraordinary display of northern lights reflecting in the still waters. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is the best place to stay in Jasper with beautiful views of Lac Beauvert and options to stay in log cabins, huge lake houses, and main building hotel rooms.
Maligne Canyon is a gorgeous river canyon walk that plunges 50 meters (154 feet) into the earth. Maligne Canyon is located just 15 minutes from downtown Jasper along the 46 km (miles) Maligne Lake Drive. This stop is one of the most popular places to visit in Jasper and for good reason. It is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park and there are beautiful hiking trails along the canyon offering extraordinary views. Arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds!
In the summer it is a great place for a hike to see the waterfalls cascading down the canyon, but in the winter it turns into a wonderland with frozen waterfalls filling the scene. You can book ice walk tours to see the frozen waterfalls and ice caves.
Maligne Lake is one of the most visited places in Jasper National Park. There are hiking trails and scenic lookouts but the top thing to do here is to take a boat cruise to Spirit Island for a picture-perfect photo opportunity.
Also, this will give you enough time to drive out to Maligne Lake. It is the longest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Read more: 14 Best Hikes in Jasper National Park – Alberta Canada
Where to Stay in Jasper National Park
Other highlights of Jasper include taking a food tour of Jasper Town, a visit to Pyramid Lake at sunrise, a hike to Sunwapta Falls, and stopping to view the gorgeous Athabasca Falls. Check out: 14 Best Hikes in Jasper National Park – Alberta Canada
The Alberta Badlands are a stark contrast to the Rocky Mountains region. The lunar-like landscape is filled with unique places to see in Alberta. There is also some beautiful scenic lookouts like Horse Thief Canyon and Horseshoe Canyon. The Hoodoos of Drumheller are not to be missed. Read more: Things to do in Drumheller, Alberta
Hoodoos of Drumheller
These ancient hoodoo rock formations are a tiny cluster on the side of the road as you drive from Dinosaur Provincial Park to Drumheller. The hoodoos were formed over hundreds of years through erosion from freezing, frost, melt and wind.
Over time, the sandstone eroded into long chimney-like formations that remain standing because the hard rock “hat” keeps it from completely eroding away. They are one of the most unique places in Alberta. If you want to know more, check out our post at The Hoodoos of Drumheller
Where to stay in the Alberta Badlands
Royal Tyrrell Museum
Located in the town of Drumheller, The Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of the best dinosaur museums in the world. We could have spent hours enjoying its displays. In fact, it houses the largest and most diverse collection of fossils in the world, with over 160,000 specimens on display. Visitors can see everything from dinosaur skeletons and fossils to ancient marine creatures and prehistoric plants.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
While driving along the dinosaur trail, you cannot miss taking a tour of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Not only is is absolutely beautiful, but it is also one of the most fossil-rich destinations on the planet and you can see real fossils that have been dug from excavations.
The Centrosaurus Quarry Hike is the best way to see this huge concentration of dinosaur fossils. This was an actual excavation site, but scientists got all they needed from there and left the rest for us to see. It’s an interactive tour and the guide tests your knowledge as you try to remember everything you learned in school about dinosaurs. You can book tours at the park visitor center. Read more: A Visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park
Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park (also known as Waterton – Glacier International Peace Park) is an amazing place to visit in Alberta. It is located on the United States border and shares its land with Glacier National Park.
Together they are the only national parks in the world that are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserve rolled all in one. You can see a herd of wild buffalo, red rocks canyon, and the Prince Albert Hotel. Plan your visit: The Wonders of Waterton Lakes National Park
Where to Stay in Waterton Lakes National Park
Prince of Wales Hotel is a National Historic Site that stands in the center of Waterton National Park. It is one of the most recognizable scenes from the park and is the perfect luxury escape.
Pincher Creek – Southern Alberta
Pincher Creek is a small town in Southern Alberta that is a great jumping-off point for Waterton Lakes National Park which is about one hour away.
It is a place where the prairies meet the Rocky Mountains and it is an absolutely beautiful setting. Wind farms line the plains with stark mountains filling in the backdrop and cattle graze in the fields and giant bales of hay dot the landscape. It is the Quintessential Alberta travel destination. It’s a great place to make a base to explore Crowsnest Pass for a few days. Check out all the attractions at The Many Sights of Pincher Creek.
When I saw The Burmis Tree in photographs, I had to make sure I put it at the top of my list of places to visit in Alberta. Located at Crowsnest Pass (Another must-visit place in Alberta) the Burmis Tree is estimated to be 600 to 750 years old. It is an ominous sight,
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
Located just 15 minutes from Fort MacLeod is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. Dating back 6000 years, the early Aboriginal peoples would lure herds of buffalo over the edge of a cliff. Read: Famous Canada Landmarks to add to your bucket list
Calgary is Alberta’s largest city and no visit to Alberta would be complete without spending at least two days in the city. It is home to the annual Calgary Stampede but there is so much more to do than just watch chuck wagon races and bull riding. Calgary hosted the 1988 Olympics and just outside the city is Canada Olympic Park where you can enjoy countless outdoor activities in both winter and summer. Read more: Canada Olympic Park – Fun in Calgary Alberta
There are so many things to do in Calgary we recommend spending a couple of days. Located on the Bow River, Calgary has plenty of outdoor attractions, but it is also a chic urban destination with a fantastic food scene. Read more: 21 Best Things to do in Calgary, Alberta
As shown above, we have an entire article dedicated to all the things to do in Calgary, but we do need to touch on at least one of its top attractions. When you visit Calgary, the first place you should go is up the Calgary Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the city, and going up the tower is as much a part of the city as the CN Tower is to Toronto.
Upon completion in 1968, the Calgary Tower was the tallest building in Calgary. Although it was dethroned in 1984, the tower still offers visitors some of the best views in Calgary.
We have an entire article dedicated the Best Things to do in Calgary, Alberta
Where to stay in Calgary:
We can’t write about all the places to visit in Alberta without mentioning Canmore. This former coal mining town is now an outdoor lover’s playground. Located between Calgary and Banff, it has heaps of hiking, biking, and snowshoe trails as well as fantastic viewpoints of the Three Sisters. It’s a great spot for rock climbing in the summer and ice climbing in the winter.
The Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary is not to be missed and make sure to do some climbing to take in the birds-eye views. Read more: The Best Things to do in Canmore, Alberta
The scenic Johnston Canyon Icewalk is as beautiful (if not more) in the winter as it is in the summer. In the winter it is filled with frozen waterfalls. The sub-zero chill freezes the canyons, caves, and crevasses making for the bost beautiful scene. Ice climbers climb the glistening canyon walls while the rest of us can take the ice walk to explore ice caves and marvel at the frozen waterfalls. Read more: The Best Things to do in Banff, Alberta
Where to Stay in Canmore
People often overlook Kananaskis for Banff or Jasper but it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Alberta with just as stunning views. Located between Calgary and Banff, it is a great weekend getaway destination. Be sure to go to the spa at Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.
Edmonton is often overlooked when visiting Alberta, but it is a funky town that has one of the youngest populations in Canada making for a trendy and happening city to visit! If you love spending time outdoors admiring wildlife this is a great jumping-off point to visit Jasper National Park, but it also has a great food scene, and plenty of festivals, in fact, Edmonton hosts the second-largest Fringe Festival in the world.
In Edmonton, you’ll discover a vibrant, cosmopolitan city surrounded by wilderness. Check it out at: The Best Things to do in Edmonton, Alberta
West Edmonton Mall
The West Edmonton Mall is a top draw with everything inside you can imagine. It is the size of a small city and makes for a great year-round destination. I sometimes feel that people visit Edmonton simpy to see this mall.
West Edmonton Mall is one of the largest malls in the world, covering an area of approximately 5.3 million square feet. Besides shopping, it has an indoor amusement park, mini golf, ice skating, a bowling alley, a movie theatre, and an aquarium.
The mall even has two hotels including the Fantasyland Hotel, which features rooms with unique themes such as the Polynesian Room and the Hollywood Room, and the West Edmonton Mall Inn.
Southern Alberta is often overlooked with planning a trip to the province, but it should be high on your list. This is the Rocky Mountains meet the prairies. It is cowboy country is huge ranches and horses. It was where the buffalo roamed and the cattle graze-free. One of the best things to do here is to book a night at a ranch and go on a trail ride to explore the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.
The Cowboy Trail is an outstanding Alberta road trip from Calgary to the Rocky Mountains, into the prairies, and out of the Badlands. It was one of the best road trips we’ve ever taken and we want to give you your own itinerary to follow when you make your way to Canada’s most beautiful province. We have an entire itinerary for this loop and we will leave you here to read more about The Cowboy Trail – A Southern Alberta Road Trip
How to Get to Alberta, Canada
Alberta is located in Western Canada bordered by the provinces of British Columbia to the West, Saskatchewan to the East, and south of The Northwest Territories. It is located on the American Border at Montana.
The easiest way to get to Alberta is by air. The province has two international airports: Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and Calgary International Airport (YYC). Many major airlines offer direct flights to these airports from cities around the world. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a taxi, shuttle, or public transit to your destination. We highly recommend renting a car.
If you are traveling from within Canada or the United States, driving is another option. Alberta is accessible by several highways, including the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), which runs east-west through the province. You can enter the province from British Columbia to the west or Saskatchewan to the east.
By Bus: Greyhound Canada provides bus service to various cities in Alberta from other Canadian provinces and some American cities. Other bus companies also offer services within the province. Both Dave and I have taken the bus across Canada through Alberta and let me tell you, it is an adventure.
By Train: Via Rail provides train service to various cities in Alberta, including Edmonton and Jasper, from other Canadian provinces. We’ve taken the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff and it is a ver popular option. The scenic train ride through the Canadian Rockies that stops in Banff and Jasper.
Travel times and distances in Alberta can be significant so make sure to plan ahead and decide wheter the bus, train or car rental is right for you.
Alberta truly is a dream destination. With countless photo opportunities and adventures to be had, it’s one of the greatest places in Canada to visit. So get in your car and start that Alberta road trip today!
Read More Alberta Travel Planning: