Alberta: Where the Prairies Meet the Rocky Mountains
Alberta: From rolling ranchlands to the rugged Rockies, this is Canada’s Wild West
Anyone who’s been to the Calgary Stampede knows that this rodeo competition is more than just “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. It represents everything that the Wild West – and Alberta – conjures up in the imagination: cowboys, expansive ranchlands, big sky country and to the west, the majestic Rocky Mountains.
While Calgary may host this annual festival of all things cowboy, there is more to Alberta than chaps and Stetsons. A rich oil industry has helped to fuel (pun intended) development in the province and the two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, boast modern architecture, a vibrant culture and booming culinary scenes.
Geologically, it’s not just fossil fuels that put Alberta on the map: fossils have as well. Dinosaur lovers will find one of the richest deposits of fossils in Drumheller, the ‘Dinosaur Capital of the World’. Here, every child’s fascination with these prehistoric giants comes to life in the Royal Tyrell Museum with its displays of impressive original skeletons. How famous is this deposit? Well, two dinosaurs found here have been named Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus, to give you an idea.
To the west, though, is the feature that attracts millions of visitors to Alberta from around the globe: the Rocky Mountains and the 5 National Parks that lie within. Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Elk Island and Wood Buffalo Parks are each uniquely beautiful, with jewel-coloured glacial lakes, spectacular mountain passes and the chance to see Canada’s iconic wildlife. And if you want to take one of the most scenic drives in the world, head up the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.
Just remember one thing: whatever brings you to Alberta, be sure to bring your camera!
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When the sun sets on Jasper National Park’s stunning lakes and mountains, another side of this Park’s beauty reveals itself: millions of stars that light up the night sky in what is the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve. But those stars seem to sparkle even brighter come October, when this mountain town hosts its annual celebration of the night skies: the Jasper Dark Sky Festival.
When it comes to hiking, I’m all about bang for your buck. Meaning it’s more about the scenic rewards that await than it is about the challenge of the journey to get to them. Which is why the Valley of the 5 Lakes Trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta was one of my favourites: this one hike brought us to not one but five jewel-coloured lakes, and it wasn’t even that difficult, which is my idea of a perfect trail. Here’s what you can expect if you go.
It’s home to grandiose hotels where it costs a King’s ransom to stay, offers pricey gondolas to transport visitors to its most picturesque viewpoints, and absolutely teems with international tourists who flood here every year. No, it’s not Venice, Italy – it’s Banff National Park, Canada. Like Venice, it’s a one-of-a-kind destination, which is exactly why you should visit.