Visiting Calgary on your next holiday? Once you’ve explored its top attractions and unique neighbourhoods, why not rent a car and go exploring beyond the city? Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most diverse provincial parks but is not limited to the popular—albeit beautiful—Banff and Jasper National Parks.
In this blog post, we’ve rounded up some of the lesser-known spots, close enough to Calgary that you can visit in a day or over a weekend. Why not make the most of your visit and sleep under the stars? Bring along a tent in your hire car, or consider a motorhome rental (now available to book online)!
57 minutes from Calgary
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Our first spot is just an hour from the city of Calgary—and a great option if your car rental in Canada is only for a short period. Made up of over 50 provincial parks, Kananaskis Country covers 4,257 square kilometres of the Rocky Mountains and has lots of options for hiking and activities like whitewater rafting during summer, and snow sports during winter. We recommend taking a cave tour into the underground grottos for a truly unique experience.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
24 minutes from Calgary
One of Canada’s largest urban parks, Fish Creek Provincial Park offers opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and swimming—all within city limits. The creek flows along the length of the park, joining Bow River at the east and is a popular spot for fishing. With plenty of beautiful scenery, the trails are great for biking, with lots of off-road areas for mountain biking. If you’d rather relax and take in the views, there are plenty of picnic areas for you to enjoy a bite to eat with the family.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
1 hr, 52 mins from Calgary
The Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park opens from mid-May and is best-loved for the scenic views it offers of the Red Deer river valley. Home to over 150 different bird species, including golden eagles, prairie falcons, mountain bluebirds and belted kingfishers, it’s favoured among nature enthusiasts. Many also choose to go canoeing on the river, or explore the park’s many hiking trails.
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
1 hr, 12 mins from Calgary
This park is actually part of Kananaskis and was originally built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Considered to be one of the best places in Canada for cross-country skiing, whatever your skill level, there are options for rentals, lessons and tours onsite. Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is home to 65 km of groomed trails—not only for skiers—but for mountain bikers and hikers too. Expect plenty of scenic lookouts as you explore this exciting area of Alberta.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
2 hrs, 21 mins from Calgary
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You may have read our previous blog post about taking a road trip through the Canadian Badlands—in which case you will be familiar with Dinosaur Provincial Park. Located in Southern Alberta, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect choice for those looking for a little more adventure with their car rental in Canada, having unearthed more than 150 dinosaur skeletons and over 50 species. We recommend taking a tour during your visit, like the Fossil Safari, where you’ll learn techniques to discover the remains of dinosaurs yourself!
Castle Provincial Park
2 hrs, 26 mins from Calgary
Stretching over 105,000 hectares, Castle Provincial Park and its neighbour, Castle Wildland Provincial Park are home to a mountainous landscape and are considered sacred to local First Nations groups. As well as being home to wildlife like grizzly bears and westslope cutthroat trout, you’ll also find over 200 rare plant species here. An easy weekend destination from Calgary, you can access the parks in less than three hours. Its famous Table Mountain hike may be steep and strenuous, but the views are certainly worth it. You’ll see everything from the prairies to the peaks in Waterton Lakes National Park.
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