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The sun is shining and the air is heady with the smells and sounds of an idyllic summer’s day – fresh-mown grass, honey bees buzzing among the flowers and twittering birds darting through the dappled shade of a forested city park.

A picnic can be a planned outing, a reward at the end of a strenuous hike or a quick bite shared on a park bench. But wherever you are in Alberta this summer, there’s a secret garden, a lakeside trail or a sunny mountaintop to spread out the blanket, recline and dine.

The Boxed Lunch

So what works for a picnic? A sandwich and a bowl of fresh berries, cured meat with fresh local bread and cheese or a vegetarian samosa with sweet chutney all sound good to me. I can usually find something that works for dining al fresco at my favourite local butcher shops, bakeries, delis and markets.

Keep the picnic blanket and a portable cooler in the car. That way you can always grab a bag of ice and load up on delectable goodies at a farmers’ market or take-out shop and then head for the hills on the spur of the moment.

The Big Rock

For a prairie picnic, nothing beats a hike out to Big Rock. That’s right, the Okotoks Erratic – an Ice Age relic cleaved from a mountain and carried here on a massive glacier more than 10,000 years ago. Just south of Calgary, it’s my favourite place to catch the prairie breeze and dramatic mountain views.

En route, you’ll find treats for your picnic basket at the Saturday Millarville Farmers’ Market. Think chewy, smoked Longview beef jerky and pepperoni, organic cherries from Blush Lane and moist, locally made cake from Alberta Whisky Cake. Or stop in at the Black Diamond Bakery for their famous Dead Fly Pie (puff pastry stuffed with sweet currants, aka Eccles cakes).

Rocky Mountain High

There are so many sweet spots in Kananaskis Country to stop for a picnic. I’m partial to Elbow Falls or the pretty little Grassi Lakes near Canmore, both hidden gems where you can easily tote a picnic lunch.

My go-to spot for provisions in Canmore is Valbella Gourmet Foods – landjaeger sausages are a must for mountain trails, along with local breads, pickles and their own wild boar pate, quiche and sausage rolls.

From a romantic dinner in a city park to a snack pulled from your pack on a wild mountain trail, Alberta is the place to picnic.

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