Unique Alberta Road Trips from Calgary for Families

Alberta Road Trips

The summer months are the perfect time to get outta town. Pandemic notwithstanding, there’s so many options for road trips from Calgary you might not be missing international travel!

If you’re itching to hit the road, there’s also no need to travel terribly far. There are lots of incredible places right here in Alberta to visit with your family, and all of the ones in this list are less than three hours away from Calgary!

Whether you’re looking for a day trip or just need to escape the city for a while, we’ve got 18 unique Alberta road trips from Calgary to enjoy with your family.

Short Road Trips from Calgary

Bragg Creek

46 km from Calgary | visitbraggcreek.com

The biggest question you’ll be asking yourself when you arrive in Bragg Creek is, “What won’t I do while I’m here?” Fishing, hiking, biking, and horseback riding are just a few of the activities you can check out in Bragg Creek. Golf lovers can book a tee time at the Wintergreen Golf and Country Club or Redwood Meadows Golf and Country Club. If your family loves to hit the trails on their ATVs or dirtbikes, there are over 200 kilometers of trail waiting to be explored.

In town, there are plenty of cute shops and restaurants to visit as you stroll down Heritage Mile. You also won’t want to miss a visit to the many art studios and galleries in town. Bragg Creek is also very close to Elbow Falls, which is the next destination on our list!

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area

66 km from Calgary | albertaparks.ca

Elbow Falls is a popular spot for road trips from Calgary and once you arrive, it’s easy to see why. There’s an easy 0.8 kilometre hike that takes you alongside a gorgeous waterfall, which can be accessed year-round. Another great thing about this trail is that it is mostly paved or well-packed, making it stroller-friendly.

Further from the falls, there are many great spots along the river to sit and enjoy the scenery or have a picnic!

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

55 km from Calgary | travelalberta.com

For a scenic, family-friendly hike that’s close to town, Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is a great place to visit. With shallow creeks, a little waterfall, lots of trees and picnic tables to rest at, it’s a perfect, easy place to visit for a day trip (or even just an afternoon)!

Nanton, AB

80 km from Calgary | nanton.ca

Once your kids hear the words “The Candy Store in Nanton”, they won’t want to go anywhere else. The nostalgic store, filled with thousands of candies, delicious ice cream and antiques and collectables is sure to be a highlight, but it’s not the only thing that Nanton has to offer. The Grain Elevator Discovery Centre and The Bomber Command Museum and Visitor Information Centre are also fun to check out (don’t miss the World War II Lancaster Bomber, which is one of only a few left in the world).

Every weekend during the summer, Nanton hosts a Nite Rodeo which is only $5 per car or $2 per person (kids under 12 are free). There’s also the Nanton Lion’s Campground, located along Mosquito Creek.

Photo Credit: Danielle Jeanene

Grassi Lakes

110 km from Calgary | explorecanmore.ca

If you’re looking for an easy, breathtaking hike, Grassi Lakes is a must to add to your road trips from Calgary list. Located just outside of Canmore, this popular 4-kilometre hike is perfect for everyone in your family and offers stunning views and emerald waters at the top. Choose between the easy path, which is wide with a gentle incline, or the more challenging route, which will take you through the woods, around waterfalls and over bridges. This is also a popular spot for avid climbers, although there has been some construction on the climbing area between the upper lake and Whiteman’s Dam in summer 2021.

Troll Falls

Troll Falls

110 km from Calgary | alltrails.com

What could be cuter than a family-friendly hike with Troll Dolls hiding throughout the forest? Kids will love hunting for little friends along the way, and everyone in the family will enjoy dipping their toes into the pools at the bottom of the waterfall at the top. Parents with young kids have said that this is a perfect hike for families, and bringing a stroller on the hike to the lower falls is totally doable.

The Gopher Hole Museum

137 km from Calgary | gopherholemuseum.ca

Sure, you can see gophers in just about any part of Calgary with a little bit of open prairie, but are they wearing cowboy hats and driving covered wagons suits or playing trumpets? The Torrington Gopher Hole Museum is dedicated totally to silly dioramas of stuffed gophers doing all kinds of activities that people like to do. Admission is only $2.00 per person over 14 (anyone under 14 is $0.50) and the museum is open from 10 am – 5 pm every day between June 1 and September 30.

Little Bow Provincial Park

153 km from Calgary | albertaparks.ca

If you’re in the area of Nanton (which we talk about above), head out a little further and make a stop at Little Bow Provincial Park, where you can camp, swim, sail, or surf in the reservoir, or enjoy other activities on the water like canoeing, water skiing and fishing. There’s also a floating dock in the water that’s tons of fun to jump off of.

Discovery Canyon

162 km from Calgary | reddeer.ca

Discovery Canyon might just be the best spot in Alberta to beat the heat! If you’ve got a tube of your own, this attraction is completely free; if you don’t, all you’ll need is some photo ID and $6 to rent a tube so you can join in the fun of floating down the lazy river! There’s also an accessible beach and boardwalk, a wading pool, a natural-themed playground, a concession and accessible washrooms and showers.

The park is open daily from 11 am until 7 pm and seasonally from June until the September long weekend, which means there’s still time to get your float on!

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

172 km from Calgary | headsmashedin.ca

The United Nations have named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as a World Heritage Site due to its important cultural and historical significance as it preserves and interprets over 6.000 years of Plains Buffalo culture. Take part in one of the drop-in public programs throughout the day, where you can hear stories of how the Plains peoples used the drive lanes to hunt buffalo in the past. Don’t forget to visit the  five levels of indoor exhibits filled with information about buffalo hunting, archeology, the creation story, and more!

Admission for children under 6 is free, youth aged 7-17 are $10, adults are $15, and seniors are $13.

Rowley, AB

188 km from Calgary | facebook.com

If you’re visiting Drumheller (or even if you aren’t), make a stop in Rowley, Alberta, a self-proclaimed ghost town (although eight people currently live there). On the last Saturday of the month, the town hosts a pizza night with live music, and during the rest of the month, visitors are welcome to explore the old buildings and take free guided tours. It’s also the perfect place to get some unique family photos.

Frank Slide

196 km from Calgary | frankslide.ca

After visiting with my family a kid, I was totally mesmerized by the story of Frank Slide and the myth of the baby girl who survived Canada’s most deadly rockslide. As an adult, I’ve learned that over 90 of the 600 residents were killed by this terrible natural disaster (so there was definitely more than one survivor), but the history and visits to the site are still just as captivating. While you can stop to see the rubble covering what was once a large part of the town of Frank for free, there is also an Interpretive Centre that’s well worth a visit. The Interpretive Centre is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm and costs $9 for youth 7-17, $13 for adults 18-64, and $11 for seniors 65 and older. Kids under 6 are free.

Be sure to stop and visit the Leitch Collieries (the ruins of an early 1900s coal mining company) on the way!

Lundbreck Falls

200 km from Calgary | albertaparks.ca

Although our family has been through Crowsnest Pass plenty of times, we only recently stopped at Lundbreck Falls for the first time very recently. It’s a beautiful spot to stop for a picnic or a photoshoot, but if you’ve got time, there is also a campground with unserviced, powered and walk-in tenting sites along the Crowsnest River. There is an easy path down to the river and the falls from the free parking lot above, which also has a public restroom and picnic tables. The nearby town of Lundbreck has some tasty pit stops such as Oldman River Brewing for food and great beer, and the O’bies General Mercantile across the street where you can find 24 flavours of soft serve and everyone’s favourite fried treat – mini donuts.

1-2 Day Road Trips Near Calgary

Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area

68 km from Calgary | albertaparks.ca

Spending the day hanging out along the river at Waiparous is one of our family’s favourite things to do. We load up snacks, sunscreen, beach chairs and inner tubes and set up a spot to splash and float in the shallow parts of the river. There is lots of room to fish, hike, and explore, and if you want to set up a tent for the day or overnight, Waiparous is on crown land, which means you only have to pay $20 for a three day pass, or $30 for the year to camp.

It’s important to remember that there is now a $90 per year (or $15 per day) fee to enter Kananaskis, so you may want to consider that before heading out for your visit.

Photo Credit: David Vink

Aspen Crossing

92 km from Calgary | aspencrossing.com

If you’ve got train enthusiasts in your family, you’ve gotta check out Aspen Crossing. Located in the town of Mossleigh, Alberta, there are tons of experiences for locomotive lovers including caboose cabins for your perfect glamping experience and fun themed train excursions (like high tea, a twilight tour, a family fun trip and more). If you’d rather see the prairies from a horse not made of steel, you can book a trail ride through the Runnin’ the Race Ranch Retreat!

Photo credit: TravelDrumheller.com

Drumheller

153 km from Calgary | traveldrumheller.com

Since kids (and adults, if we’re being honest) tend to be fascinated by the prehistoric world of dinosaurs, exploring this incredibly popular dino museum is sure to be a hit with everyone in the family. Visit the skeleton of our very own Albertosaurus, in addition to tons of other incredible fossils from different species of dinosaurs. Take a hike to hunt for fossils and go on a dinosaur dig, cast your very own fossil, visit with scientists, explore the badlands and more! Admission for kids 6 and under is free; youth 7-17 are $10, adults are $19, and seniors are $14.

*If your family loves exploring Alberta’s historical sites, you might want to consider purchasing an Alberta History Annual Pass (alberta.ca). This gets you and your family into a variety of sites in Alberta including Frank Slide, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Leitch Collieries, Royal Tyrrell Museum and more. Prices for this pass are $50 for adults, $40 for seniors, $30 for youth, or $120 for a family pass.

Drumheller is also an excellent place to stay and camp so that you can take advantage of all of the other awesome things the town has to offer. To name a few, you can take a tour of the Atlas Coal Mine, hike Horesthief Canyon Trail , climb to the top of the World’s Largest Dinosaur, and grab a massive burger at Bernie and the Boys Bistro.

Sylvan Lake

160 km from Calgary | sylvanlake.ca

There is so much to see and do in the town of Sylvan Lake that there’s a good chance you’ll want to extend your day trip into a weekend. Our first stop in Sylvan Lake is always The Big Moo for a delicious ice cream treat. We love just hanging out on the beach, but if you want to explore the water a little further, boat, Seadoo and water sport rentals are also available through Sun Sport Rentals. There’s tons of fun to be had on land at Lakeside Go-Karts and Mini Golf! After a busy day in the sun, grab a pint and a snack at Snake Lake Brewery!

Blairmore

220 km from Calgary | charmedfamilyresorts.com

For the most magical road trip out there, head to Blairmore, Alberta and book a stay in one of the fairytale cottages at Charmed Family Resorts. Our family recently spent a night in Rapunzel’s cottage, and our kids were completely mesmerized from start to finish. The resort was created by a family from Lethbridge who builds fantasy playhouses for families, but saw an opportunity to create a fun vacation experience and started to build their village in the woods! There are currently four cottages available to rent, but plans are in the works to add more for next summer.

Each cabin comes with a barbecue, wood-fired hot tub, swing, and a fire pit as well as super-comfy beds and bedding, bathrooms, showers, and a fridge and freezer. The cottages are in fairly close proximity to each other, making it the perfect spot to book a getaway with a group of family or friends. Consider it glamping to the max!

Photo Credit: Angela House

Waterton Lakes National Park

260 km from Calgary | pc.gc.ca

If crystal clear lakes, sparkling waterfalls, and a gorgeous mountain backdrop are your cup of tea, then a trip to Waterton definitely needs to be added to your summer road trips from Calgary list. While you’re there, get a photo in one of the five sets of Adirondack Chairs located at five different scenic spots in the park, go for a hike on over 200 km of trails, check out the interpretive programs (including guided walks, street theatre, Blackfoot drumming and dancing, interactive yoga, fishing, Blackfoot storytelling, and more,) and set up camp to give yourself time to do it all!

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

327 km from Calgary | albertaparks.ca

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park was recently designated as Alberta’s 6th UNESCO World Heritage Site (and the 20th in Canada). This breathtaking park filled with hoodoos contains thousands of rock carvings and paintings made by Canada’s early Indigenous peoples. Each day, visitors can enjoy various one-hour, free shows which include storytelling, drumming, dancing, games, activities, and wildlife presentations. Visitors to the park can set up their own tent or RV or enjoy “Comfort Camping” in one of the park’s canvas wall tents (although reservations for these are almost full for this summer, consider booking for next year!)

Will you and your family attempt one of the road trips from Calgary on our list (or do you have one that’s already your favourite?) Do you have another road trip destination that should have made the list? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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