Less than an hour west of Calgary, Kananaskis Country is a vast playground of interconnected provincial parks offering a host of exceptional wilderness experiences. Along the Kananaskis Trail you’ll find pristine lakes, rushing rivers and waterfalls, scenic hiking routes and even a charming boutique mountain lodge tucked into the backcountry. An abundance of wildlife calls this area home, so keep a lookout along the way. If you’re lucky, you may spot elk, moose, bighorn sheep, grizzly or black bears.
Kickstart your alpine wilderness adventure with a trip to the Calgary Zoo. Stroll the forested pathways of the Canadian Wilds area to safely view some of Alberta’s all-stars up close. Local residents include bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, grizzlies, black bears, cougars, owls and wolves.
From Calgary, head west on Hwy 1A to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, located in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. An experiential tour allows you to observe wolf behaviour firsthand and gain a better understanding of how these mysterious animals live in the wild, as well as the importance of their preservation.
Back on Hwy 1A heading west, take the Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) turnoff. Continue south to Kananaskis Village for lunch. Stop by Boundary Ranch to see horses in the pasture and view buffalo in their paddock. Then rent a bike or rollerblades and explore the paved trails, or take out a kayak for a leisurely paddle on one of the nearby lakes.
Spray Valley Provincial Park
Continue south on Hwy 40 to the turnoff for the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail (secondary Hwy 742, gravel) and follow it north. Turn left onto Mt. Shark Road and stop for afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge in pristine Spray Valley Provincial Park. Enjoy the beautiful view of Moose Meadows from the veranda and watch for – yes – moose as well as the deer and elk that graze here.
Back on Hwy 742, head north again to Canmore – an active, eco-friendly town with a backyard full of mountains and a big dining, arts and cultural scene. Just before the town centre, stop at the Grassi Lakes day use area for a gentle scenic hike. Be sure to drop in at the Visitor Information Centre to learn about the area’s many recreational activities. For exceptional mountain biking and hiking head to the Canmore Nordic Centre, where you’ll find more than 100 km of trails to explore. Or, drive to Grotto Canyon and walk along the narrow creek bed to see unusual pillars of rock known as hoodoos and a sparkling waterfall.