15 Day Trips to Alberta Small Towns Within Three(ish) Hours of Calgary

Banff, Drumheller, Medicine Hat, Okotoks, Waterton — all of these Alberta small towns and more are just a short drive away.

Photograph courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka Photography

Due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to safe to say that this will be the summer of Alberta road trips for many Calgarians looking for a change of scenery close to home. Thankfully, Alberta is full of interesting small towns that are worth visiting, several of which are a mere three hour drive or less away.

Here are a few of the small towns near Calgary that would make a great day trip destination this summer.

 

Banff

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour and 30 minutes.

What to expect: Banff has lots to offer in every season. Take in the view on a Banff Gondola ride, experience the national park from a canoe or a hiking trail, eat at the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs and more.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Banff

 

Bearspaw, Glenbow and Springbank

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour and 35 minutes round trip, less if you are only visiting some spots along this route.

What to expect: From an amusement park to provincial parks, there’s something for everyone in Bearspaw, Glenobw and Springbank just outside of Calgary.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Bearspaw, Glenbow and Springbank

 

Black Diamond and Turner Valley

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately 50 minutes.

What to expect: These sister towns embrace the ranching, coal mining and oil and gas production history of this province. There are a wide range of experiences here, including brewery and distillery taprooms, a classic soda shop, fly fishing and more.

Read more: Neighbouring Towns: Where to Shop and Eat in Black Diamond and Turner Valley

 

Bragg Creek

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately 40 minutes.

What to expect: Outdoor fun and adventure beckons in Bragg Creek, which offers plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, paintball, golf and more.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Bragg Creek

 

Canmore

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour and 10 minutes.

What to expect: Canmore is an ideal spot for mountain biking and hiking, but you can also keep things a little more low-key by spending some time on a restaurant patio or doing a bit of shopping along Main Street.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Canmore

 

Carstairs, Olds and Torrington

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately four hours and 30 minutes round trip, less if you are only visiting some of the spots along this route.

What to expect: These three small towns, which can be visited in a loop or individually, are home to unique attractions like the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum, Custom Woolen Mills‘ family-run woolen mill, a sunflower maze and more.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Carstairs, Olds and Torrington

 

Cochrane

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

What to expect: Located just a short drive from Calgary, Cochrane features some great coffee shops, mountain views and even a wolf-dog sanctuary you can visit for a tour.

Read more: Neighbouring Towns: What to Do on a Day Trip to Cochrane

 

Crowsnest Pass

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately two hours and 45 minutes.

What to expect: Comprised of five towns, Crowsnest Pass is particularly known for its coal mining history and as a great spot for outdoor activities like mountain biking and hiking. To learn more about the history of the area and some of the natural and man-made disasters that have happened there, you can visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, the Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site and more.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to the Crowsnest Pass

 

Drumheller

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour and 30 minutes.

What to expect: From the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology to the largest dinosaur (model) in the world, there’s no denying that dinosaurs are king in Drumheller. But you’ll also find amazing hoodoo structures, plenty of hiking trails and some great theatre.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Drumheller

 

Lake Louise

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately two hours.

What to expect: Not far from Canmore and Banff, Lake Louise is equally worth a visit. Hiking, horseback riding, canoeing and gondola rides are a just a few of the outdoor activities you can take part in here.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Lake Louise

 

Medicine Hat

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately three hours.

What to expect: There’s plenty to do in this sunny Alberta destination. Be sure to visit the Medalta Potteries National Historic Site to learn more about the area’s clay and pottery industry and grab a drink at one of the local breweries and distilleries.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Medicine Hat

 

Nanton

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour.

What to expect: Nanton is a small town with plenty of interesting sites. The stores are full of cool antiques and delicious candy, there’s the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre and a local forge where you can pick up a new frying pan or some decor.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Nanton

 

Okotoks

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately 30 minutes.

What to expect: One of Calgary’s neighbouring towns, Okotoks is a great destination if you want to get away for awhile but don’t want to drive too far. Spend time exploring the historic downtown area, visiting a local honey company and meadery and checking out a local glacial erratic.

Read more: Neighbouring Towns: What to Eat, See and Do in Okotoks

 

Red Deer

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately one hour and 30 minutes.

What to expect: Red Deer is much more than just Gasoline Alley. With a bit of exploration, you’ll find lots of local breweries and restaurants, farmers’ markets, the Bower Ponds outdoor park space and more.

Read more: What to Do on a Day Trip to Red Deer

 

Waterton

How long it takes to drive there: Approximately two hours and 40 minutes.

What to expect: One of the first national parks in Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park is a picturesque spot to do some hiking, indulge in some water sports or stay in the iconic Prince of Wales hotel, which is a national historic site.

Read more: What to Do on a Trip to Waterton

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