Where to Embrace Nature in Alberta
· 9 min. read
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After a long, dark, frigid winter, Canadians love the few months of summer we get every year. Once the snow melts and the mud dries, we are out hiking, picnicking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and exploring this wonderful country of ours.
Of all the provinces to explore, Alberta ranks at the top of many adventurers’ list. From hoodoos to waterfalls, mountains to valleys, deserts to tundra and everything in-between, Alberta offers any outdoorsman the perfect place to embrace nature.
To stay a night & see a sight, here is help to live out your next #BucketlistAB adventure.
If you’re heading to Alberta to explore the great outdoors, you’ll want to stop by Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. I have stopped in Cypress Hills several times over the past few years and I find it more and more beautiful every time I visit. Cypress Hills is a geological miracle, sitting right across the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and not too far from the border into Montana. Having been saved by the roving ice sheets that once tore through the area, Cypress Hills towers over the nearby landscape. It offers a wide variety of places to hike, bike, stand up paddle board, canoe, kayak and camp.
If you visit Cypress Hills, be sure to take the short drive up from Elkwater Lake to Head of the Mountain. Here you can see the northern hills of Montana, over 100 kilometres away. I made this trip a few years ago and was amazed by how far I could see!
After a long day around Cypress Hills, you can either spend a night in their “screen free” cabins, or you can glamp in a charming rustic wood interior cabin, with electric fireplaces that go on with a flick of a switch. All you need to do is bring some food, a sleeping bag and a couple friends.
A few hours away from Cypress Hills is Lethbridge. This bustling city was formed around a nearby river and lake, which provides a wide variety of aquatic sports and games. If you prefer to stay dry, however, Lethbridge also has plenty of hiking and biking paths available.
Like Cypress Hills, the terrain around Lethbridge is ridged and hilly, providing plenty of places to take in the nature. Lethbridge is also home to the Lethbridge Viaduct, a towering bridge that crosses the city from above. This bridge is perfect for a photoshoot, a hike or to sightsee while in the area. At over a century old, this bridge is an iconic representation of the ingenuity and determination of early Western settlers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the nature of Lethbridge, you’ll want to visit the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. This is a wonderful place to visit to learn about local flora and fauna, and what to see around the area.
For nature enthusiasts. Crowsnest Pass is another sought after destination. Along this stretch of highway are communities sprinkled through the mountainous landscape. Decades ago, travelling to all of them in a single day would be daunting, but today it’s a common occurrence. Thanks to e-cycles that can be picked up throughout the area, visitors can jump on a bike and travel the 23-kilometres of pathways that connect the communities.
While this area of the province has much to offer, two of the biggest highlights are the Bellevue Mine Tour ? which takes you 300 metres deep into the old Bellevue mine ? and the famous Frank Slide. Frank Slide is known throughout Western Canada as being the site as one of the largest natural disasters in Canadian history. In 1903 the nearby Turtle Mountain collapsed, and with it came 90 million tones of limestone down onto the community of Frank below. Today the town is an ocean of rocks and stone, a ghost of what once stood there.
At only three hours south of Calgary, this is the perfect historical daytrip for anybody visiting southern Alberta.
Just south of the Crowsnest Pass is Alberta’s newly designated provincial park, Castle Provincial Park. This park opened in 2017 with the purpose of being one of the most accessible parks in all of Canada. Often, provincial parks can be difficult to explore. Here in “flat Saskatchewan”, for example, it isn’t uncommon to find ropes and foot holds to help people climb up and down sharp drops in our parks. In Alberta that’s even more extreme, and Castle Provincial Park strives to solve that problem. Throughout this park are a myriad of paths, roads and inclines all made as accessible as possible.
The park even has the first-of-its-kind “Icon Explore” e-trikes, which allow people with disabilities to explore the nature with their friends. It would also be handy for people like me, who can’t ride a bike, to go biking with my family and friends.
The park also includes Castle Falls, a waterfall that cuts through the dynamic stone landscape, and Beaver Mines Lake, which are two perfect places to explore and take a break in the summer heat.
The final place to explore nature this summer in southern Alberta is Waterton Lakes National Park. By itself, this park is stunning, being home to the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel. The mountains surrounding the hamlet of Waterton are easy to climb and offer several waterfalls to explore.
Having been to Waterton several times, I can talk all about the beauty of the region, but that isn’t why the park made my list. Last year, the same year Castle Provincial Park was opening, Waterton was under siege by a roaring forest fire. It tore through the landscape, torching trees, jumping rivers and decimating communities. Thankfully, the hamlet of Waterton was saved. Today the park is regrowing, with young saplings appearing beneath the charred remains, and new plants emerging from the ashes. The determination of nature to always regrow and return is inspiring, and something we should all strive towards.
Waterton perfectly demonstrates what makes nature such a beautiful part of the world around us.
If You Go
Cypress Hills Provincial Park is around an hour drive from one of Canada’s sunniest cities, Medicine Hat.
Tourism Lethbridge has plenty of resources to offer to start planning your trip.
The Go Crowsnest Pass website can get you started in visiting this region.
Find out more about how you can enjoy Castle Provincial Park on their website.
Check out the My Waterton website to get planning your trip.
Travel Alberta also has lots of valuable information about things to do and places to see in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Canalta Hotels has partnered up with a collection of destinations across Southern Alberta. Stay a Night & See a Sight. They’re set to help you plan your trip.
Images by Matt Bailey and Chris Istace Mindful Explorer.
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Categories: Alberta, Canada