For four months, I barely came home to Houston. I was staffed on a project in Calgary, Canada, traveling there every Monday through Thursday, and spent many weekends exploring the mountains of Alberta.
After my first trip over there in May, I was hooked on the power and beauty of this place. Holy cow, is it beautiful! I’d never in my life seen such stunning snow-covered mountains, lush evergreens, and vast teal glacial lakes in one place. I’m hoping to go back again this year (and for many years to come) to visit Alberta because it’s one of Canada’s most beautiful provinces.
1. It’s a year-round destination
I visited Alberta for the first time in the spring, when many of the smaller roads in the national parks started opening for the season. Snow still flurried down occasionally and the nights were chilly. I began working there in the summer, when the days stretched into the late hours of the clock and the landscapes were greener than ever. As I began my departure from Canada in the fall, the leaves were turning vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. Alberta was ablaze with the colors of nature.
Contrary to popular belief, Alberta is a place you can visit year-round. In the winter, there’s some intense skiing and snowshoeing. During the spring, there’s abundant wildlife and beautiful greenery. The summer brings campfires and beautiful weather. And the fall is full of colorful landscapes as far as the eye can see. Depending on what you want to do, you can book a trip to Alberta any time of year (as long as you can handle a little bit of cold weather…)
2. There are 5 national parks to explore
Alberta has five national parks: Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, and Wood Buffalo. On top of that, there are many more state parks to explore. In the few weekends I stayed in Alberta during my four months in Calgary, I only made it to three of its five national parks, and a few more of its state parks. Yeah – thats how vast and full of incredible sights those parks are. I’d go back and revisit all of the parks I visited because there’s just so much to do. Also, Alberta is home to some of the most famous outdoor destinations in the world, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Aside from the stunning national parks, the state parks are really special too. In Kananaskis, which is about an hour outside of Calgary, there is a lot of hiking around Canmore and in the surrounding state parks.
3. The sunrises and sunsets are stunning…
In Alberta, the weather changes constantly, which makes for some colorful and unique sunsets and sunrises, especially among the striking landscapes of the Rockies. Many of the glacial lakes are like mirrors in the stillness of the morning, and their reflections are like nothing I’ve ever seen. Even though Alberta is becoming more and more populated by tourists, it isn’t hard to find a quiet spot to watch the sun sit on the horizon for a little while. If you’re lucky, you may even catch some alpenglow!
4. …and the stargazing is incredible
While camping in the Rockies, I’d get up for sunrise, watch the sunset, and attempt to catch some views of the night sky too. I barely got any sleep while I was there! It was worth staying up for all of those nights, though, because on a cloudless night, Alberta has some incredible stargazing. Jasper National Park is even home to the annual Dark Sky Festival, so you know it’s one of the most amazing places to go stargazing in the whole world.
During the fall, winter, and spring months, you can even catch the Northern Lights from areas of Alberta. When I was there camping, I caught a tiny glimpse of the auroras over our campsite. I had no idea that’s what they were – I thought they were light pollution from the city!
5. Alberta has options for every budget
While living in Calgary, I stayed weekends in Alberta’s national parks for less than $50 USD per day. Of course, this involved sharing a car, camping, and eating in budget restaurants. However, it was worth those small sacrifices to experience the incredible landscapes in some of Alberta’s incredible national parks. You’re in luck, because this year, it’ll be even cheaper to visit Alberta, since the national parks are offering free entry!
Once you’re inside the parks, there are dozens of free things to do. You can go hiking, ride a bike, birdwatching, stargazing, or just while away the days in a hammock overlooking a beautiful spot.
6. During the spring and summer, wildlife is abundant
Alberta is home to some unique wildlife – elks, goats, wolves, and bears, to name a few. You can spot these critters grazing on the side of the road or high up on the sides of the mountains. They’re everywhere, and they are beautiful, but as visitors on their territory, we have to tread with caution.
Ever heard of bear spray? If you visit any of the parks in Alberta, you will. Bear spray is kind of like pepper spray for bears, and it’s a canister most hikers carry around to protect them from the bears in the park. It’s an emergency measure, only to be used when a bear is about to charge you, but nonetheless it’s good to carry it if you’re planning on taking on some of Alberta’s various hiking trails.
7. Alberta might inspire you to get outside
I was never a huge hiker or camper before I came to Alberta. I prided myself on being a city girl (ha!) and mostly stuck to doing organized tours or treks when something involved getting outdoors. Initially, I wished I’d been staffed in a bigger city, like Toronto, Canada.
When I started traveling to Calgary for work, that all changed. In order to experience the stunning nature and landscapes in this place, I took the leap and started going outside more and more. I spent my weekends sleeping in tents, chilling in hammocks, throwing myself over rocks, and documenting my adventures in photos. It was pure bliss.
Alberta made me fall in love with the mountains. I loved the feeling of driving into the Rockies, watching them appear out of nowhere all around me. Arguably home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, all I wanted to do while working in Calgary was to go outside. I’d look out the window of my office and see the faint outline of the Rockies, and I’d feel at home. Alberta helped me find my passion for beautiful places, and I’ll never forget the special summer I spent soaking in its beauty and splendor.