Best nature spots and things to do in Alberta

Are you like me and spend your weekends wistfully wishing you were somewhere else? Do you stalk the Instagram feeds of outdoor adventurers like HikeBikeTravel and WanderWoman? Are you super keen to hike and explore, but recoil at the thought of having to navigate a hiking guide? There are so many great things to do in Alberta, but figuring out how and when to do them is the tricky part.

Best things to do in Alberta for outdoor adventure
If you’re into outdoor adventure, you’ll never be bored in Alberta.
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Maligne Lake jasper canada
Is kayaking Maligne Lake on your bucket list?

The good news is we don’t have to be total voyeurs to indulge in a spot of wanderlust. We can get out there ourselves! Two of Canada’s top adventurers have released a fantastic book, that’s both an amazing read and an awesome gift. Here are a few of my favourite spots gleaned from 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

125 Nature hot spots in Alberta
Who knew there were so many rad adventures to be had in Alberta?

Things to do in Alberta

If you wanna hit up the best parks and conservation areas in Alberta, this book is for you. It’s chock full of the best things to do in Alberta.

Sure, you know about Banff and maybe some other national parks in Alberta, but there are loads of (dare I say better?) uncrowded spots that are equally as awe-inspiring.

Don’t worry if you aren’t that adventurous. I’m not. This book also gives fresh insights into the popular places, so you can enjoy them even more than you have in the past.

Jasper in summer
Back when I lived in Jasper, I’d hang at Pyramid Lake all summer long.

Why most guidebooks suck

125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta is one of the few guidebooks I keep on my coffee table because I legit pick it up and flip through it often. I’m not gonna lie to you and tell you I read it cover to cover. I’m not a total keener:)

But I regularly get inspiration from this guide because of how it’s laid out. Most guidebooks blow because of how they’re organized. This one is way user-friendly.

Jasper National Park spirit island
A shooting star goes over Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. (Photo credit: Ryan Bray/Parks Canada)

Each hot spot entry includes a well written description as to why you’d want to visit. (Both the authors are award-winning travel writers and photographers, and reading their work is a true pleasure.)

But my favourite is the teaser, explaining why the destination is hot. In a concise, easy-to-read format, it gives at-a-glance deets on the location and its special features.

And the photography is unreal. Pick up a copy, and you’ll understand why the authors have each won several national photography awards.

Sentinel pass alberta winter
Cool clouds Sentinel pass (Photo credit: Debbie Olsen)

Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area

What totally floored me was the city section. Duh, of course there are beautiful wilderness areas right in my own backyard. So why don’t I ever think about places like the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area? Why am I always fantasizing about getting to the mountains or the Canadian Badlands?

Anyway, after reading this section, I’m now super keen to get to the Ann and Sandy Cross. It’s only a 20-minute drive from south Calgary for crying out loud!

According to Nat Hot AB (I’m acronym-ing this guide), I can meander through hundreds and hundreds of aspen, spot red-tailed hawks and take part in a stargazing night here.

Vermillion Lake Banff
Winter settles upon Vermillion Lake (Photo credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism/Noel_Hendrickson)

Frank Lake

Here’s something I’m ashamed to admit. I’ve never stopped at Frank Lake. Driven past it, yes. Partied beside it – hundreds of times! It’s 15-minutes from my hometown of High River, but have I ever gotten out of the car here? Nooooo.

I seriously didn’t realize how significant of a wetland area it was. I’m no nerd birder, but even I can appreciate their sweet calls and the brilliant flashes of colour as they whiz by. If you’re into wildlife, these are 8 of the world’s best wildlife and wilderness destinations

birds of alberta
Frank Lake is an awesome spot for wildlife photographers. (Photo credit: Leigh McAdam)

Another spot that isn’t on my radar, but should be is Kinbrook Island Provincial Park. I know not all the lakes in Alberta are glacier fed, but it sure feels that way. Fortunately, the lake isn’t. It sports a sandy beach and is super close to Dinosaur Provincial Park. It’s the perfect spot for a family outing.

alberta beach
Check out the beach at Kinbrook Island (Photo credit: Debbie Olsen)

125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

For me, the best part of this book was at the end. There’s a special interest section that talks about Alberta’s best features and where to find them. There’s a section on caves – which are the best ones to explore and why. Same with dark skies, hot springs, waterfalls and nature festivals. If it’s just the highlights you want, flip to the back of the book to get insta inspiration. 

Dark sky canada
Jasper National Park has one of Canada’s best Dark Sky Preserves (Photo credit: Rogier Gruys/Parks Canada)

But should you want to venture further south, to the U.S., here is a handy list of the U.S. National Parks in alphabetical order.

About The Author

23 thoughts on “Best nature spots and things to do in Alberta”

  1. Currently my favorite hot spot if anywhere in the Crowsnest pass, there is so much to see and so many different activities available.

  2. Such a great idea! Just discovered Aspen beach this summer- my new favourite hotspot!

  3. Candace Paul

    Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump… loved it! Can’t wait to check it out in the summer and sign up for there guided walking tour!

  4. Lori McLellan

    I’m not sure I can pick a favourite! One of my favourite local parks is Carburn in SE Calgary.

  5. Jim Hoover

    A couple years ago, we hiked the Sawback Trail. You get there via Norquay Ski Hill, and you head NW, one or two mountain ranges away from the Trans-Canada Highway. Finish up at Skoki Lodge, or if you are cheapskates like us, Merlin Lake Campground. Spectacular.

    1. Ha ha. You’re speaking to a fellow cheapskate here. I’ll be checking out Merlin Lake Campground next summer when I’m looking for things to do in Alberta

  6. Pattie Rasimas

    would love to Kayak at Maligne Lake or any of the beautiful spots you mentioned.

  7. Meredith McLeod

    Maligne Lake looks the most awesome. I want to see that. Thanks for all the travel info.

  8. Mary O'Hagan

    The route from Jasper to Banff was the first time I viewed the rocky mountains and that memory has never left me. I always told people you could never describe the majestic and awe-inspiring beauty of just being there. I love to live vicariously through the adventure books written by frequent travelers and sometimes even make one of those destinations come true. Can’t wait to read Leigh’s latest’s book, written about a province in my own home country!

  9. Tony Pigat

    Travelling west from Nordegg to the Banff Jasper highway especially in the Fall, and seeing nature in all it’s glory is an unforgettable EXPERIENCE.
    Floating down the Milk River at Writing On Stone Provincial Park is another memorable experience.

    1. Great tips, Tony! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Pretty sure Eve and I have never been to Writing on Stone. Would like to do that someday.

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