9 Unforgettable Day Trips from Calgary: Explore the Beauty Beyond the City (2024)
Calgary is the perfect base for those seeking a variety of day trips. Its beautiful natural surroundings and reachability to Alberta Badlands and Canadian Rockies offer some excellent day trip options beyond the city limits. Whether your idea of a day trip includes limited time to explore or it is just for a quick escape from the city, Calgary has multiple 1 to 2 hours driving options offering plenty of unique experiences. Not just Calgary but its bigger province Alberta is full of hidden gems, be it the picturesque farms, exciting wineries, breathtaking waterfalls, and scenic viewpoints, each of which is waiting to be discovered.
Some of the highlights for day trip ideas from Calgary include going towards the Emerald lakes, exploring the prairies, relaxing in the natural wonders, or adoring the jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies. You may prefer rugged outdoor adventures or cultural experiences and can find all of them here. And the best part about day trips from Calgary is the ease that comes with an extensive public transit system. There are multiple modes of transportation that take enthusiasts to all these destinations comfortably.
9 Unforgettable Day Trips from Calgary: Explore the Beauty Beyond the City
To help travelers with the best adventure and tourism experience, here is the list of top 9-day trip ideas from Calgary.
1. A Day-trip from Calgary to Banff
If you have to choose the most happening and rewarding day trip from Calgary, plan one to the town of Banff. This small Canadian town is nestled in Canadian Rockies’ hearts. It is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Explorers in Calgary who have limited time can take their car and drive 1.5 hours directly toward Banff. If not by car, travelers can also take a shuttle from Calgary to Banff for minimal fares ranging from $40 to $70. From Calgary, catch the On It Bus from Downtown or from the Crowfoot LRT Station and reach Banff. The service runs on weekends and holidays in summer. The On-It tickets here include free transfers to the Roam Bus.
Once in the town, either walk around or purchase a Parks Pass and explore Banff National Park. In Banff, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy within a day. The possibilities range from hiking, biking, canoeing, and rafting to skiing. However, what draws the maximum crowd here is the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain for unbeatable views. Or, take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs simply to refresh and rejuvenate. Visitors can also admire the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from across the river. The Banff downtown core also features gear shops and top-notch restaurants, some must-checkouts. Visitors who choose to stay back can get around Banff and Canmore via Roam Bus Banff Local routes.
2. A day trip from Calgary to Aspen Crossing
If you want to experience the beauty of the Canadian prairies, plan a day trip from Calgary to Aspen Crossing. This popular destination is just an hour and a half southeast of Calgary. It is ideal for families and nature lovers alike. The town boasts picturesque scenery featuring rolling hills, wheat fields, and tranquil waterways. At Aspen Crossing, day trip enthusiasts can indulge in a range of recreational activities, be it hiking, fishing, and bird watching. The town is also home to a historic railway station, which is converted and today operates as a charming gift shop and garden center. The station is open for public visits, and visitors can learn about the history of the railway in Western Canada.
When at Aspen Crossing, do not miss the Garden Railway. This public attraction features a miniature train that makes its way through a beautifully landscaped garden. It is particularly a delight for children and adults alike. The attraction offers a unique perspective on the natural beauty of the area. Overall, a day trip to Aspen Crossing is a great way to escape Calgary’s hustle and bustle right into the Canadian prairies.
3. A Day-trip from Calgary to Sundre
Another great plan is to escape Calgary and immerse yourself in the cowboy culture of Sundre. Located only one hour and 30 minutes from Calgary, Sundre is a cowboy area. It is where individuals reach to relish authentic country activities. When here, visitors can indulge in horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and ATV trails. Or, while getting into the recreational zone, you may also get to catch a glimpse of the wild horses that roam the area. If visiting Sundre during the summer, take a refreshing break from the heat and access the Red Deer River for rafting or kayaking. The town is also known for hosting rodeos; thus, check the events calendar before you go.
Once in Sundre, visitors can also go for a trail ride in the arid Panther Valley. Enjoy the mountain vistas while keeping an eye out for the wild horses. Individuals can also check out Big Horn Falls in Ya-Ha Tinda, a short 10-minute walk away. Before you conclude your day trip and head back to Calgary, do take a stop by the Pioneer Museum. It is an exciting place to get a glimpse of life in the early 1900s in the region.
4. A day trip from Calgary to Sylvan Lake
A day trip from Calgary to Sylvan Lake is ideal for those who want to explore Alberta’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. Sylvan Lake is just over two hours from Calgary and is a popular summer destination for families, couples, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. What surrounds the lake is the stunning mountain scenery. The lake is accessible to the public, and it is known for offering recreational opportunities like swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking. Or, when on a trip to Sylvan Lake, rent crafts like paddleboards, kayaks, or canoes to explore the lake. If not for adventure, people also visit here to simply relax on the sandy beach and soak up the sun.
The town of Sylvan Lake has plenty to offer as well. The charming boutiques, restaurants, and cafes make it an excellent town for shopping and dining. The town also hosts music concerts, sporting events, and a variety of events and festivals throughout the summer. Whether your idea of a day trip is adventure or relaxation, Sylvan Lake will offer you a combination of both.
5. A day trip from Calgary to Nanton
A day trip from Calgary to Nanton is another great option to consider. If you want to experience the rural charm and history of Alberta, never miss this change. Nanton is just an hour’s drive south of Calgary. This quaint town offers a unique shopping experience. Visiting here also allows individuals to learn about Canada’s contribution during World War II. When in Nanton, begin with exploring the historic downtown area and browsing the antique shops and boutiques. Do stop by the famous Candy Store and enjoy a sweet treat. Further, head to the Miniature Museum, where you will get a chance to learn about the agriculture and logging history of the region via tiny figurines. Visitors can also check out the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre and enjoy a glimpse into rural Alberta’s past.
The Bomber Command Museum of Canada is another major attraction to stop at. It is home to a collection of historic aircraft, artifacts, and exhibits. The centerpiece here is a functioning Lancaster bomber. Visitors here can explore the aircraft and learn about the pilots who flew them during World War II. During mid-August, the Paradise Hill Farm here allows people to enjoy the stunning sunflower fields. When in Nanton, do visit Sweet Queen Family Restaurant, known for its delicious donairs.
6. A day trip from Kananaskis
The Kananaskis region in Alberta is a recreational paradise somewhere west of Calgary. It is home to provincial parks, scenic trails, and towering mountain peaks and offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. For a perfect day trip, hike on one of the area’s scenic trails. Some of the hiking highlights here include the 5.5 km Ribbon Creek Trail which makes its way to a picturesque waterfall. Or the Sulphur Springs Trail for scenic foothill vistas. After working on your strength, head to the Kananaskis Valley for lunch. Visitors can stop and the Boundary Ranch, a historic property that now serves up burgers, pizza, and craft beer.
After the afternoon, visit Kananaskis Village and walk along the shores of Barrier Lake. This serene mountain lake is nestled at the base of Mt. McGregor and Mt. Elbow. Or, for a more rewarding experience, drive up Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail to the Kananaskis Lakes Lookout. Stand here and observe five shimmering mountain lakes surrounded by snow-capped peaks. On your way back to Calgary, stop by the Canmore Nordic Centre to see world-class athletes training on the cross-country ski trails and jumps. This close-to-home getaway showcases the best of the Canadian Rockies from Calgary.
7. A day trip from Calgary to Dinosaur Provincial Park
Take a step back in time and plan a day trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is just over two hours east of Calgary. It is, in fact, one of the richest deposits of dinosaur fossils in the world. The badlands surrounding the park with colorful hoodoos and formations creating a rugged prehistoric landscape are simply stunning. Visitors can start their day trip by visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum, one of the top paleontology museums in the world. Go through the beautifully preserved fossils, full dinosaur skeletons, and interactive exhibits. Further, explore the park itself and hike one of the fossil trails. You will get to see real dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock. The Fossil Loop Trail and Coulee Viewpoint Trail are ideal for spotting fossils along the trail sides.
Visitors to the park also choose to enjoy a picnic lunch with scenic views of the Red Deer River valley. During the afternoon hours, hike the network of trails to soak in the badlands scenery. Visitors can also join a guided bus tour and the natural and human history of the area. Dinosaur Provincial Park provides a glimpse into the world as it was millions of years ago. This unique landscape and wealth of fossils are a delight to explore.
8. A day trip from Calgary to Canmore
A day trip from Calgary to Canmore is a must-do for anyone, especially if your idea is to explore the stunning Rocky Mountains. This town in Alberta is just an hour west of Calgary. Hiking is undoubtedly the most popular activity here, all thanks to the plenty of trails to choose from. Some popular trails here include the Grassi Lakes Trail, known for its stunning views of the turquoise lakes and surrounding mountains. Or the Ha Ling Peak Trail that goes up to the summit of a towering mountain. For a more relaxed activity, individuals can choose to walk through downtown Canmore. The town is full of charming shops, cafes, and restaurants. It is, in fact, a great place to soak up the mountain atmosphere.
Canmore is also an ideal spot for an adrenaline rush, especially for the whitewater rafting on the Kananaskis River. It offers a range of rapids, including Class III and IV rapids, ideal for a challenging adventure. Overall, a day trip from Calgary to Canmore offers a range of activities and experiences,
9. A day trip from Calgary to Lake Louise
Last but not the least on our list is a day trip from Calgary to Lake Louise. The idea is to experience the fantastic beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Take a drive from Calgary to Lake Louise in approximately two hours and enjoy plenty of things before you arrive at your destination. And once you are at Lake Louise, enjoy hiking around the lake, one of the most popular activities. The Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail is an easy and scenic trail. It makes way through views stunning views of the turquoise water and surrounding mountains. Hikers who want to experience some more adventure can hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. It is ideal for enjoying the incredible views of the lake and surrounding area.
Another popular activity at Lake Louise is to take a canoe out on the lake. Canoe rentals are available from the boathouse. Canoeing is an excellent way to experience the peacefulness and beauty of the lake. People keen on wildlife viewing can visit the nearby Moraine Lake, which is known for its frequent wildlife sightings. Lucky ones will be able to spot bears, elk, or bighorn sheep during your visit. Finally, a trip to Lake Louise and do not miss the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If you are planning to stay back, there’s no other option than Fairmont. It, in fact, is also an idea for a meal or a drink.