When it comes to Alberta, it seems that the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, looks at us as a bunch of yeehaw's in cowboy hats. We're pretty much known as the Texas of Canada, which is honestly kind of comedic. While that is true when the Calgary Stampede comes around, we also happen to be much, much more than our Western stereotypes.
Not only are we home to the absolutely stunning Rocky Mountains, but we are also home to an abundance of beautiful lakes, national and provincial parks, canyons, glaciers, and much, much more. The province of Alberta has much more to see than just meets the eye, and there's no time like the present to check it out! Road trip, anyone?
If you're like me and have lived in Alberta for your whole life, you may be under the impression that you've seen all there is to see and done all there is to do. While you may have done a lot of it, I'm willing to bet there's some super lowkey, totally surreal places you have yet to check out. Perhaps you live in Southern Alberta, and have yet to make the trip up to the Columbia Icefield, or you live in Edmonton and haven't made your way down to Drumheller to climb to the top of the world's largest dinosaur.
Whether you're looking to chase after waterfalls, climb mountains, or hang out with dinosaurs, this list has it all. Luckily, all of these places just so happen to be beautiful all year round as well, so if you're too swamped with schoolwork to explore them now, they'll still be waiting for you to visit next summer! Here are some of the most surreal places you'll find in Alberta:
This wouldn't be a list of surreal places in Alberta if we didn't include the stunning Peyto Lake. Easily one of the most talked about spots in Alberta, Peyto Lake has the most crystal clear blue waters, and the view only gets better the higher you hike! Peyto Lake is located in Banff National Park and is definitely just the spot you need to snap a picture at to brighten up your Instagram feed.
If you don't know about the Jurassic Forest that exists right outside of Edmonton, you're definitely missing out. Jurassic Forest is home to a great collection of giant dinosaur sculptures - perfect for photographing! There's plenty of walking paths nearby for a quick hike, and the lush green forests will make you feel like you've really escaped any traces of mankind.
Can't decide between a trip to Banff or Jasper? The Columbia Icefield is located right in between the two, so you don't have to pick! Being the largest icefield found in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield is something that's worth visiting at least once in your life. Plenty of guided tours that offer unique experiences are available for your enjoyment, so you don't have to take on the icefield on your own. Be sure to dress warm, as it's quite cold out there, and of course, bring along your camera for some seriously incredible pictures.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful, and most visited spots in Alberta would have to be Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park. On any given day, you'll find the area packed with hundreds of tourists. Do I blame them? Absolutely not! If you don't mind the crowds, I highly recommend you pay a visit to the beauty that is Johnston Canyon. Compared to our neighbours in BC, Alberta really doesn't have much to offer in the way of waterfalls, but what we do have is seriously beautiful.
If you want to experience the closest possible thing to total peace and tranquility, a trip to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge should be added to your plans ASAP. This 3.75-acre garden is full of gorgeous scenery and will have you feeling totally relaxed and refreshed, especially after a stressful day at work, or when the upcoming midterm season hits. It's a great place to do some meditating, take a walk to clear your head, or hang out and catch up with old friends.
Looking to conquer your fear of heights? Paying a visit to the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park is one surefire way to do just that! This 1km trail allows observers to walk along a glass-bottomed skywalk, looking down on a 280 metre drop to the astounding views below. There's no denying that you'll get some gorgeous views while hiking through the Rocky Mountains, but taking a walk on the Glacier Skywalk is a whole different level of unreal.
We've got more than just mountains in Alberta - there's canyons too. The Red Rock Canyon in Waterton National Park is yet another super unique, picture perfect spot. The area is closed to motor vehicle traffic, but you can park nearby, hop out, and hike out to the infamous Coppermine Creek. The gorgeous red of the rocks stands out against the lush green forest, making for a seriously surreal view.
Located in Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon is one of those unique spots that has something beautiful to offer all year round. In the summer you can find gorgeous green trees and sparkling waterfalls, and in the winter you'll find giant ice formations. The canyon is known to get quite cold, so be sure to dress warmly when you pay your visit! If you're not comfortable exploring solo, you can always tag along on one of the many guided tours of Maligne Canyon that are offered.
If you ask me, Writing-on-Stone is easily one of the most underrated spots in Alberta. Located not too far from Lethbridge, this park is home to the largest collection of First Nation pictographs that you'll find in North America - and that's pretty cool. If hiking is your thing, and you're looking to try something outside of the usual Rocky Mountains, we recommend hiking the Hoodoo Trails you'll find around here! If horseback riding is your thing, Writing-on-Stone is also a prime location to saddle up and hit the trails.
The Highwood Pass has been dubbed one of the most scenic drives in not only Alberta, but all of Canada. It's the highest paved pass you'll find anywhere in the country, so we can guarantee that you're in for a totally unique experience. If you'd rather get out and hike than drive through, there's plenty of trails for you to explore, but with how cold it can get in the winter we wouldn't blame you for wanting to stay inside with your heated seats on. If you find yourself in Calgary, and are looking for a quick and memorable day trip to make, look no further than Highwood Pass!
Perhaps one of the most photographed spots in Alberta would have to be the infamous Sunshine Meadows. If you can handle the 90-minute hike that is required to reach the top, we promise you that the views will be worth it. If hiking isn't for you, you can pay a small fee and ride the Sunshine Village Ski Lift to the top to enjoy that surreal view. There's plenty of trails in the surrounding area just waiting to be explored, and we can guarantee that your IG followers will be totally envious when they see your amazing photos.
If you don't want to drive all the way north to hang out with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Forest, you can head down south to Drumheller to Dinosaur Provincial Park! Here you can hike through the hoodoos, dig for dinosaur bones, climb to the top of the world's largest dinosaur, or visit the Royal Tyrell Museum! There's plenty to do and see, and you're definitely never too old to go on a dinosaur hunt.
Another beautiful spot you'll find in Banff National Park is Lake Minnewanka. In the warmer months, this lake is the perfect spot to go swimming, boating, or fishing, but in the winter it still offers some incredible views for you to enjoy. If ghosts are your thing, there's a rumour that Lake Minnewanka is haunted - maybe you'll be lucky enough to feel the presence of a spirit during your visit? Regardless, you'll definitely have a memorable trip.
Like I said, we're a lot more than just cowboys and prairies here in Alberta. No matter where you choose to explore, you'll definitely be astounded by all the beauty that surrounds you!