One of western Canada’s most well-known (and largest) provinces, Alberta, encompasses dramatic mountain landscapes, vast rolling prairies, and countless hidden treasures and roadside attractions. Jasper and Banff National Parks are world-renowned for their breathtaking lakes and spectacular camping opportunities, and you could spend days cruising the high-alpine scenic drives.
The mountain vistas are unforgettable, yet only the beginning. Journey elsewhere in Alberta and discover a variety of wonders far off the beaten path: bison roaming open plains, dinosaur fossils in otherworldly badlands, vast swaths of remote wilderness, and even large-scale quirky roadside attractions.
Best Time of Year for an Alberta Road Trip
When you’re trying to decide on the best time of year to take an Alberta road trip, the most important consideration is what type of trip you envision. If you want to enjoy hiking and sparkling alpine lakes, you should take your trip in the summer. Of course, this is also the busiest season, so take that into consideration.
On the other hand, colorful fall foliage and blankets of fresh snow provide jaw-droppingly scenic landscapes. Fall and winter also offer the opportunity to explore with fewer visitors, but the trade-off is that many hiking trails and some scenic roads are not accessible.
Itinerary Locations for Your Alberta Road Trip
Here are some can’t-miss destinations for an epic Alberta road trip.
An ideal starting point for an Alberta road trip, the province’s largest city is a hub for everything from arts and culture to restaurants and nightlife. Known for its ranching heritage, there’s more to Calgary than honky-tonk; vibrant festivals, stylish bars, and a globally-influenced dining scene beckon visitors to stay awhile.
Alberta’s only Cruise America rental location is also in Calgary, just minutes from the airport.
Banff National Park
Stunning Banff National Park is just 1.5 hours from Calgary and deserves all the superlatives for its scenery. The views are truly breathtaking! Accessible year-round, Banff has activities and camping in every season, from summertime swimming to Nordic skiing in winter and an all-season sightseeing gondola.
Banff (resort town)
To avoid park traffic, you can also explore the eponymously-named resort town. Soak in natural hot springs or drive the less frequented Bow Valley Parkway, stopping at picnic areas and embarking on hikes en route. Summit Loder Peak for a challenge, or take in the majestic views along Many Springs Trail with a leisurely stroll. There are extensive RV campsites in this area, including the Bow Valley Campground.
Continue your Alberta road trip down the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise, the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies. Canoe through the bright blue glacial waters, relax on the lakeshore or take advantage of the fantastic hiking opportunities.
Popular trails include Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. After exploring Lake Louise, head to Lake Moraine, another gorgeous destination in the area. Check out Lake Louise Campground for year-round camping nearby.
If visiting in the wintertime, note that most hiking trails will be closed, apart from shorter snowshoe excursions. However, you can hit the slopes at the Lake Louise ski resort.
Jasper National Park
The drive northwest to Jasper National Park continues with impressive vistas, with rugged peaks seeming to rise up right next to the highway. Once you’re in the heart of this section of the Rockies, unplug for a more raw and untamed, less touristy, experience than Banff.
This national park features an extensive trail system, allowing backcountry treks into its dramatic wilderness from one night to several weeks. There are many options for camping in Jasper, but spaces are more limited (i.e., competitive) than in Banff, so make sure to book well in advance.
This stunning lake offers boat tours, canoeing, and a distinctly more tranquil environment than its Banff-area cousins — ideal for relaxing. For incredible views and amazing photo ops of the area, head up Bald Lake Trail.
Miette Hot Springs
At the northern entrance to Jasper National Park, the family-friendly Miette Hot Springs is set in a dramatic valley, providing a beautiful backdrop for a soak with fewer crowds (or if you’re lucky, none).
Other Alberta Road Trip Stops
Once you get beyond the Rockies, distances between interesting Alberta road trip stops increase substantially. It’s still well worth exploring — after all, discovering seldom-visited hidden gems along the way is part of the magic of road trips — but prepare for long stretches in your vehicle.
Royal Tyrrel Museum & Dinosaur Provincial Park
These attractions, less than two hours apart, showcase the incredible dinosaur fossil sites in Alberta. The Royal Tyrrel Museum of Palaeontology has a much more impressive fossil collection, while Dinosaur Provincial Park has a wilder, larger badlands environment. Both sites offer educational paleontology tours, some even allowing visitors to identify and/or dig for fossils. Notably, Dinosaur Provincial Park also has a great campground.
Wood Buffalo National Park
In far north Alberta, right along the border with the Northwest Territories, you’ll find Canada’s largest national park and the world’s second-largest: Wood Buffalo. It’s a preserve primarily for Northern Bison, but you’ll likely also spot lynx, caribou, a variety of birds, and countless other wildlife. Spotting bison here is easy; they often roam right next to roadways (drive carefully!).
This remote section of Canada is also a prime location for stargazing, as well as potentially spotting the elusive Northern Lights.
Choose Cruise America for the Ideal Alberta Road Trip
To make your Alberta road trip even better and more comfortable, get a Cruise America RV rental. Choose from various RV models to accommodate your group and simply hit the road, exploring the banks of Moraine Lake or the remote northern wilderness. Happy exploring!