Imagine a journey through alpine forests, rolling foothills, wide open prairies and stunning badlands, all in the course of a day. Sound like something out of a movie? It could very well be – the authentic vistas of southern Alberta are favourite locations for Hollywood filmmakers.
To the east, fertile prairie lands suddenly drop away to reveal a world of multicoloured canyons and unusual rock formations known as Hoodoos. The Canadian Badlands are home to the largest deposits of dinosaur bones in the world – and there’s so much going on there it gets its own page!
Discover the coulees, kilns and concerts in Medicine Hat. And jump east to explore Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
Spend time at three of Alberta’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites. Hunt for fossils in Dinosaur Provincial Park. Explore the Crown of the Continent, where the mountains and prairies meet.
Drive the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) through high ranch country. See the locations where movies like Legends of the Fall and Brokeback Mountain were filmed.
In the summer, stay on a guest ranch and herd real cattle with real cowboys. Go horseback riding and whitewater rafting in the mountains. Hike, paddle or ride just about anywhere. In winter, challenge your downhill skills when you ski Castle Mountain. Hit the Crowsnest Pass for superior cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Bring the whole family to ski at Pass Powderkeg.
Endless prairies. Towering peaks. Real cowboys. Here’s your insider southern Alberta checklist!
Explore Southwest Alberta and discover a timeless land of plains, foothills and mountains. Pack up the family and go fishing, mountain biking or stay at a guest ranch. Explore the shady past and funky arts scene of Lethbridge. Whoop it up at a barn dance or get lost in a corn maze.
The area is rife with outdoor thrills and surprising history. Mountain slopes mean biking and snowmobiling trails that are out of this world in Crowsnest Pass. Discover the massive 1907 coal mining operation of the Leitch Collieries and witness the devastation caused by the 1903 Frank Slide.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Witness the collision of prairies and mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton is pleasantly free of crowds, so you can experience the splendour of the Rockies from your own secret patch of alpine paradise. 90 minutes southwest of Lethbridge.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
600 m (1,970 ft) above the Great Plains lies the high plateau of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, a unique place shared with neighbouring Saskatchewan. Hit over 50 km (31 mi) of hiking trails through woods, grasslands and wetlands – a contrast to the badlands nearby. 32 km (20 mi) southeast of Medicine Hat.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Camp by the river in the sacred Blackfoot land of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Explore the valley’s unusual rock formations, and ancient paintings and carvings on the sandstone cliffs. Two hours southeast of Lethbridge.
Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park
Experience authentic Plains Indians culture at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. Stroll among the remnants of a Blackfoot village from the 1700s. Tour the stunning 5,760 sq m (62,000 sq ft) museum and learn stories about the exhibits from a local First Nations interpreter. Outside, visit the site of Chief Crowfoot’s grave and learn more about the cultural significance of this place. 107 km (66 mi) east of Calgary.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Imagine hundreds of bison at full gallop thundering over the edge of a cliff. It must have made quite a sight. For thousands of years this was the most effective way for the Plains Indians to hunt the buffalo. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is the biggest, oldest and best preserved of its kind in North America. An hour west of Lethbridge.
Bar U Ranch
Walk in the footsteps of the pioneers at Bar U Ranch, an original 1880s homestead. Visit the Percheron horses and the blacksmith shop. Watch a master saddle maker at work. Stay for a cowboy lunch and pick up local western crafts and books before you head home. 90 minutes southwest of Calgary. Along the way, check out some coollittletowns.com for more adventures off the beaten path.
Coal Mining History
Grab a miner’s lamp and go underground at the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. Jump in a coal car and explore the site above ground. Climb Canada’s last remaining wooden tipple. Check out the East Coulee School Museum nearby for a look at life as a coal miner’s kid. 15 minutes southeast of Drumheller.
Paddle or float along the gentle, warm and shallow Milk River while admiring the canyons, cliffs and gullies of the Badlands. Sleep under the stars at any of the scenic, serviced campsites in and around Milk River. Before it’s too late, take a picture of Alberta’s very last row of wooden grain elevators in nearby Warner. 45 minutes southeast of Lethbridge.