Top Ten

Road Trip Planner: Top 10 Winter Road Trips in Alberta

Here's a list of 10 winter favourites for your Road Trip Planner.

By Wheels Wheels.ca

Nov 28, 2014 7 min. read

Article was updated 9 years ago

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Snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. It's no wonder many Albertans go into hibernation-mode the minute the mercury plummets to subzero temperatures. Still, there's a good chunk of winter enthusiasts who just can't wait for Mother Nature to cast her blustery spell on the province. Here's a list of 10 winter favourites for your Road Trip Planner.

1. Lake Louise, AB

The iconic turquoise waters are a summer tourist staple but in the winter, Lake Louise transforms into a glittering winter wonderland. Lace up a pair of skates and zip down the frozen lake, just beneath the magnificent Victoria Glacier. There?s no shortage of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails to explore. For a more leisurely jaunt, hop into a cosy horse-drawn sleigh and watch as the snowy landscape blurs by. The renowned Ice Magic Festival is part of January?s month-long celebration of winter in Banff National Park, hosted by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The highlight? An annual 34-hour 'carve-off', where professional ice carvers from around the world chisel unique masterpieces-out of 300lb. blocks of ice!

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary: (183km) -2hr drive

from Edmonton: (469km)- 4hr34min drive

Road Trip Alberta

2. Banff, AB

Nestled in the national park bearing its name, the town of Banff is one of the crown jewels of Western Canada. It?s also a popular choice for a winter road trip (or day-trip)?and not just for skiers and snowboarders. Visitors can take a spin in a traditionally-styled sleigh ride, or if they're feeling more adventurous, board a 'dogsled', and have a train of purebred Huskies scamper through the snow, while passengers tailgate in an authentic Inuit sled. Mount Norquay's snow tube park is also minutes from town for those looking to hit the slopes (in a giant inflatable donut). Feeling more mellow? Unwind by taking a dip in the upper hot springs or a gondola ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, just minutes from town and in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, to get a sweeping view of the six mountain ranges. For the luxury traveller looking to pamper themselves, a spa retreat at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel along with high tea are mainstays. Cap the day off with a stroll through downtown Banff, browsing through the quaint tourist-friendly shops or dining at one of the street-side restaurants.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary: (129km) -1hr30min drive

from Edmonton: (415km) -4hr3min drive

Road Trip Alberta


3.Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium is the perfect getaway for city dwellers looking to dial it down a notch. Soak your tired muscles in the soothing mineral-rich hot springs as you take in the dazzling alpine scenery - the snow-capped mountain peaks of Kootenay National Park, crystallized waterfalls frozen in time, and giant pillars of blue ice.

For the winter sport enthusiast, snowboarding, skiing, ice-fishing or snowmobiling are just some of the activities available. If you take any number of the backcountry trails, you?re also bound to spot some wildlife, including bighorn sheep.

Road Trip Travel Time:

'from Calgary (262km) -3hr9min drive

from Edmonton (547km) -5hr44min drive

Road Trip Alberta


4.Canmore, AB

Ask any Calgarian and they?ll tell you Canmore is Banff's less busy, but equally stunning counterpart. The Nordic Centre Provincial Park is a favourite for cross-country skiers, dog-sledding enthusiasts, and photographers searching for stunning views of the Bow River Valley and the Three Sisters, a famous trio of mountain peaks. Drive down the nearby Spray Lakes Road and you?re bound to find moose, deer, or other wildlife. Downtown Canmore comes alive with the spirit of the holiday season in the final week of November and gets a second wind at the end of January for the town?s three-week long winter carnival, with a lantern parade, log-sawing competition, ice and snow-carving, and sled dog races all in the works. For food, swing by the ever-popular ?The Scoopin? Moose? cr?perie and ice cream parlour?their mouth-watering selection of sweet or savoury crepes are a must.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (106km) -1hr19min drive

from Edmonton (391km) -3hr51min drive

Road Trip Alberta


5.Athabasca Region, AB

The Athabasca Region is your best bet for a slice of solitude from the big city grind. The frozen waterways is an ice-fishing oasis, with an abundance of trout and perch, as well as walleye and pike. Northern Alberta's wide-open spaces offer some quiet reflection, interrupted only by the delight of reeling in the catch of the day. Need to brush up on your angling skills? Sign up for a guided fishing tour.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (448km) -4hr37min drive

from Edmonton (152km) -1hr58min drive

Road Trip Alberta


6.Jasper National Park, AB

The scenic drive to Jasper National Park means exploring one of Canada?s national treasures: the Icefields Parkway. The 232km stretch is said to be one of the world's most stunning roadways, winding through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The Parkway boasts magnificent views of ancient glaciers and turquoise mountain lakes, with rushing waterfalls and passages to numerous hiking trails. During the winter months, Jasper is a mecca for ice climbers, with different types of ice routes for a wide range of skill levels. For the winter enthusiast wanting to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, visitors can take a guided walking tour across the floor of the frozen Maligne Canyon and take in exhilarating views of the expansive limestone-walled gorge.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (415km) -5hr12min drive

from Edmonton (364km) -4hr9min drive

Road Trip Alberta


7. Fallentimber Meadery, AB

There's a certain buzz in the air at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Perhaps it?s because the quiet spot, just northwest of Calgary, makes for a scenic drive. Or perhaps it's because it's home to the Fallentimber Meadery. The popular honey winery began as a family farm 45 years ago, producing natural, never-pasteurized honey, collected from hives stationed along the eastern edge of the foothills. Today, visitors can take free tours of the meadery, and indulge in a few tastings of their signature mead amid the backdrop of the stunning scenery. Fresh meads and beeswax candles are sold exclusively in nearby stores and farmer's markets.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (95.9km) -1hr30min drive

from Edmonton (289km) -3hr16min drive

8. Johnston Canyon, AB

In the heart of the Bow Valley Parkway, a half-hour drive from the town of Banff, a sparkling gem lies hidden from view. Johnston Canyon is a popular excursion with majestic viewpoints via a network of trails and steel catwalks. In the winter, hikers can find frozen creek walks and curtains of jagged ice hanging over the edge of cliffs. Venture deep into limestone caves, with canyon walls lined with icicles, and find the seven sets of cascading waterfalls frozen in time. The terrain to the upper falls can be more rugged during the colder months?be sure to pack the comfortable footwear!

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (151km) -1hr47min drive

from Edmonton (436km) -4hr20min drive

Road Trip Alberta


9. Drumheller, AB

The journey to Drumheller is breathtaking. It begins on mainly flat terrain, but soon plunges into the famed Canadian badlands and Dinosaur Valley. In the winter, the sweeping canyons resemble glaciers, submerged in a blanket of snow. Steeped in millions of years of history, time has etched itself into the landscape, carving our magnificent sandstone pillars (or 'Hoodoos'). While some of the local attractions are closed during the winter season, others are still open year-round. Drop by the Royal Tyrrell Museum and trace history through the vast collection of dinosaur fossils. With more than 11 exhibits on display, the museum is one-of-a-kind and boasts an impressive showcase of dino skeletons from the final 20 million years they roamed the planet. For a unique view of the land, climb up the 'World's Largest Dinosaur? ' an 86-foot lifelike Tyrannosaurus Rex made largely of steel, and with views of the site from inside its gaping mouth!

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (137km) -1hr38min drive

from Edmonton (313km ) -3hr27min drive

Road Trip Alberta


10. Waterton Lakes National Park, AB

Just north of Montana and in the southwestern part of Alberta, there lies a staggering natural beauty. Waterton Lakes National Park is a jagged crest carved out by glaciers into the Canadian Rockies. The site is much more quiet and less busy than some of the province?s other getaways. Rich in wildlife, replete with rare wild flowers, and boasting incomparable mountain scenery. One of the most photographed spots in the park is Cameron Falls a natural wonder that freezes over in the winter. The falls cascade over 1.5-billion-year-old rock, some of the oldest in the entire mountain range. Accessing this site is also easy for anyone ? it's wheelchair and baby-stroller friendly and there's no hiking required.

Road Trip Travel Time:

from Calgary (550km) -5hr40min drive

from Edmonton (255km) -2hr58min drive

Road Trip Alberta


More: Jaunt To Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

More: Ontario road trip: Riding the Ontario Highlands.

More: Top 5 Winter Road Trip Travel Tips

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