6 national park locations you should road trip to in Alberta

Aug 18 2020, 11:18 am

COVID-19 still presents a very real and dangerous threat to public health. While much of Alberta’s outdoors have been reopened to visitors, it is recommended to plan ahead, check local restrictions and current public health measures, and avoid any areas that may be too crowded. 

If there were ever a summer to discover the beauty in Alberta’s backyard, this is it.

Albertans are blessed with some seriously stunning choices when it comes to national parks, with five of the country’s most scenic all falling within the province’s borders.

Alberta can also boast being home to Canada’s first-ever national park (Banff National Park) as well as its largest (Wood Buffalo National Park), though the other three (Jasper, Waterton Lakes, and Elk Island) are all more than worth a visit as well.

Here are a few of our favourite spots to check out at each of these expansive parks this summer!

For your own safety, please make sure you are prepared before heading out on your next adventure. Information on how to prepare for your trip and stay safe while on your hike is available from Albertaparks.ca and AdventureSmart. Parks Canada visitor guidelines are available here. Always remember to leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, stick to designated trails, and refrain from feeding wildlife — and please note that irresponsibly taken selfies (even if they look great for the ‘gram) can be fatal

national parks

Alberta’s national parks (travelalberta.com)

Two Jack Lake – Banff National Park


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Likely the shortest road trip for those heading in from Calgary, Two Jack Lake features 23 walk-in tenting sites, flush toilet washrooms with showers, picnic shelters, and a view of the stunning Two Jack Lake.

Distance: 1.5 hours from Calgary, 4 hours from Edmonton

Address: Two Jack Lake, Improvement District No. 9, AB

Pine Lake Campground – Wood Buffalo National Park

national parks

Pine Lake, Alberta (Parks Canada)

Pine Lake Campground is only accessible by driving through the Northwest Territories, which currently have travel restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see the territory’s website for restriction details before making any travel plans. 

The only road-accessible campground in Wood Buffalo National Park, Pine Lake Campground is 60 km south of Fort Smith and features outhouses, firewood, water, and a playground.

Open from May long weekend to September 30, this northernmost national park is the place to go if you’re hoping for some peace and quiet — seeing as it takes quite the trip to get to!

Given coronavirus restrictions, this one would be better to add to that summer 2021 bucket list.

Distance: 18.5 hours from Calgary, 15 hours from Edmonton

Ice Fields Parkway


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The 232-km stretch of highway between Jasper and Lake Louise is packed full of stunning works of nature, demanding hikes, and views that take the breath away.

No single spot is the real destination, so it’s about the drive and what you discover along the way, just as a great road trip should be.

Address: Highway 93

Distance: Mid-point of the parkway is 3 hours 20 minutes from Calgary and 4.5 hours from Edmonton

Maligne Lake – Jasper National Park 


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This 22-km-long lake is home to a wide variety of wildlife, three campsites, and Spirit Island — which makes for an epic excursion.

Location: Jasper National Park off Highway 93

Distance: 5.5 hours from Calgary, 4.5 hours from Edmonton

Hayburger Trail – Elk Island National Park


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This 12 km trip will take you through Elk Island National Park’s forests and meadows, and you may even spot some plains bison or moose roaming about. You’ll want to stick to the trail, though, as the large meadows contain some hidden areas of quicksand, according to Parks Canada.

Address: Access from Elk Island Parkway

Distance: 3 hours, 20 minutes from Calgary, 45 minutes from Edmonton

Belly River Campground – Waterton Lakes National Park

national Parks

Belly River Campground (Parks Canada)

Described on Parks Canada’s website as a self-registration, primitive campground, Belly River is the ideal place for getting away from the usual crowd — while still having access to flush toilets, fire rings, and kitchen shelters, along with other amenities.

You’ll want to arrive bright and early, as the unserviced sites operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Once there, you’ll be able to enjoy aspen forests, Belly River, and wildlife including foxes, bears, and deer.

Address: Off the Chief Mountain Highway, 26 km from Waterton Townsite and 5 km north of Chief Mountain border crossing

Distance: 3 hours from Calgary, 5 hours 45 minutes from Edmonton

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