Alberta is a kind of "IMAX" experience; it intrudes on all the senses, capturing one's imagination and fueling dreams of adventure amidst spectacular scenery. The western province is a land of contrasts, with topography that ranges from prairie to forest to towering, snow-covered peaks, sometimes all within just a few miles. Meandering creeks give way to stunning glacial lakes; waving wheat fields morph into Canada's version of "Badlands" with little warning, and Calgary, despite its modern skyscrapers, seems still steeped in the traditions of surrounding farm and ranch land.
The northern Rocky Mountains lie along the western border where Alberta meets British Columbia. In the northeast, the province gives way to sparsely-inhabited vast Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan is to the east, and Montana stretches along the southern boundary, also largely wide open space. But there is much to explore in Alberta; RV travel is a perfect way to visit, but allow ample time and always watch the weather. Even though Alberta's climate is deemed the best in Canada, with plenty of sunshine, conditions change quickly and temperatures can vary greatly in the course of a single day. Be forewarned, both when camping and when driving, especially in spring and fall when unexpected snow flurries are the norm rather than the exception.
Mountains and Lakes
Banff National Park, with spectacular Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, is a vision of beauty, equally favored by sports fishers, hikers, horseback trekkers, RVers, skiers, outdoor adventurers and nature enthusiasts who simply want to drink in the beauty of pristine surroundings. It's a year-round park, but winter weather can be dicey, so plan accordingly.
Waterton Lakes National Park adjoins Montana's Glacier National Park. The juncture of the two is known as Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, the first such dual-nation park to be formed.
Birds and Wildlife
Wood Buffalo National Park is not only Canada's largest, but also the second largest in the world, occupying more land area than Switzerland. and this is where you might actually see the buffalo roam. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park was established nearly a century ago to protect a herd of free-roaming wood bison that now numbers about 5,000. It is also one of only two known whooping crane nesting sites.
View owls at Crimson Lake, white pelicans at Kimbrook Island, and swans along with sandy beaches at Lesser Slave Lake, all provincial parks that offer RV campgrounds. There are others as well, including Elk Island and Jasper National Parks, Willmore Wilderness Park, Bow Valley, Sheep River and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks, all of them worth a detour off the main highway.
Dinosaurs and History
Drumheller Valley, in the Canadian Badlands, is the jumping off point for exploring the Badlands and dinosaur country. It is also the place to view hoodoos (the stunning sandstone formations), and find fossils. Drumheller is also the site of an annual Passion Play and other performing arts attractions.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, southeast of Calgary, is one of the best vacation spots if you're traveling with children. Not only is it super-friendly for RVers, but there's plenty to do, including bird watching, paddling the Red Deer River and nature hikes for all ages.
The Old West
While the Calgary Stampede may be the best-known event in the entire province, it's not the only reason to visit this modern city that sprung up along with the oil industry. Calgary has a lot of character, whether in Altadore or Copperfield, filled with great people, great drinks, and nightlife. It is Alberta's largest city, but Calgary honors its "cowtown" roots every year with a rollicking rodeo that attracts fans from throughout the world. It was also the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, so it knows how to handle crowds. Today it's Canada's third-largest city and home to the second-largest number of the corporate home offices in the country, even though it's not the provincial capital.
The city is definitely worth a visit, but it requires some advance planning to be a part of the annual Stampede spectacle.