Beyond Lethbridge — Day Trip Ideas

Day Trippin’ - Affordable hotels, deliciously diverse restaurants, indulgent amenities — Lethbridge is a great place to hang your hat as you day trip around Southern Alberta. Keep reading for 5 day trips plus one other-worldly trek.

Lethbridge is the heart of Southern Alberta, but follow its arteries past city limits and you’ll find gems hidden amidst the prairies. From Unesco World Heritage Sites to eclectic antique shops, southern Alberta is full of must-visit locales that even Hollywood comes to capture from time to time. 

So, gas up the car, grab some caffeine and crank the tunes because it’s time to hit these endless Alberta roads. 

TRIP 1: THE CROWSNEST PASS 

The Crowsnest Highway is a scenic drive that takes you through wind turbine speckled prairies that give way to purple foothills and eventually, rugged rocky mountains. When the highway is suddenly flanked by boulders bigger than your car, you’ll know you’ve reached your first stop: Frank Slide

The deadliest landslide in Canadian history, 110 million tonnes of rock enveloped three square kilometres of The Crowsnest Pass (and the town of Frank) in about 100 seconds. Wander through the eerie wreckage of broken limestone on your own, or head to Frank Slide Interpretive Centre for an in-depth look at the tragic story. 

A local’s advice 

The best part of the Pass is the easily accessible outdoor activities. If you need a hiking challenge, Turtle Mountain (the part of the mountain still standing) offers an amazing bird’s-eye view of the Slide. Over this seven-kilometre hike, you’ll gain nearly one kilometre of elevation, so pack water, snacks, and another set of legs for the way back down – because they’re going to feel a little bit like Jell-O. 

Frank Slide attracts all kinds of outdoor adventurists like:  

After all that activity, head to Cinnamon Bear Cafe for region-renowned cinnamon buns, the historic Rum Runner for a pint, or grab a scoop from The Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe in Bellevue on your way back to Lethbridge. 

The trip at a glance 

Duration: 1.5-hour drive, one-way 

Expected cost: $15 for tickets to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre 

Trip 2: Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump

Perhaps the most uniquely named attraction in Canada, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump spans 6000 years of southern Alberta history. Built right into the side of the Porcupine Hills, the museum’s design won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for Architecture in 1990.

The 45-minute drive to this Unesco World Heritage Site takes you through Fort Macleod, then out into the wide-open prairies. While the town hasn’t been around as long as the buffalo jump, Fort Macleod boasts plenty of history of its own, including the NWMP Fort, which hosts the NWMP music ride in the summer.

A local’s advice

There’s more to Fort Macleod than just its fort. Wander along 3rd Ave and 24 St. and you’ll experience its historic downtown, which has played host to various blockbusters like Brokeback Mountain, Interstellar, and the newest Ghostbusters film.

As you poke around, duck into some shops for some general antiquing and perusing. Then head to Stronghold Brewing for a pint before you hit the old dusty trail back home.

The trip at a glance

Duration: 45-minute drive, one-way

Expected cost: Admission to the Buffalo Jump is $15 for adults. The NWMP Museum costs $12 for adult admission + $6 for entry to the musical ride

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Trip 3 Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

With thousands of preserved rock-art drawings dating back to 1050 B.C., Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park features the highest concentration of petroglyphs and pictographs in the world.

Otherwise known as Áísínai’pi in Blackfoot, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has long been considered a spiritual area by the Blackfoot people. All it takes is a quick wander among the hoodoos (towering sandstone pillars) to inspire that same sense of wonder at the forces which moulded this alien-looking landscape. 

A local’s advice

While Writing-On-Stone is worth the trip all on its own, there’s plenty more to see that will round out your trip. About half an hour south of Lethbridge on Hwy 4, Hickory Street BBQ in Stirling offers some of the best BBQ around.

And, if you’re in the mood for dinosaurs, but don’t want to make the two-hour trip to Drumheller, the Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur and Heritage Museum in Raymond should satisfy your dino-cravings.

The trip at a glance

Duration: 1.5-hour drive, one-way

Expected cost: Admission to Writing-On-Stone is free, Devil’s Coulee has an $8 admission for adults and a $6 fee for seniors and kids

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Trip 4 Waterton Lakes National Park

Less trafficked than Banff or Jasper, but equally astounding, this Unesco World Heritage Site boasts some of the best hikes and views in the southern Canadian Rockies.

For the adventurous, the Crypt Lake hike delivers thrills and chills with its cliff traverse and glacial waters. Those who prefer to ‘go deeper’ can scuba dive in Emerald Bay, exploring the wreckage of ‘Gertie’, an old paddle wheeler that used to ply the waters here.

If paved roads are more your speed, hit up Pat’s for an e-bike rental, and explore the townsite, Red Rock Canyon or Cameron Lakes in that mountain-fresh air, au naturel.

A local’s advice

On the way to Waterton via Cardston, take a break at Mountain View’s ‘Barn Store’ for a homestyle breakfast sandwich. In Waterton, get caffeinated at the Windflower Corner Coffee before your big hike, dive or ride. When you’re done for the day, grab a dog at Wieners of Waterton: the place where all your dreams of hot-dog toppings come true.

The trip at a glance

Duration: 1-hour drive, one-way

Expected cost: $7.80 for an adult, $19.60 for a family/car

Trip 5 Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation

Who would have thought a ‘raptor’ could be so charming? From barn owls to hawks and bald eagles, the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale offers a rare treat – experiencing local wild birds up close and personal.

Among other sustainable initiatives, this charity organization rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey in the hopes of releasing them back into the wild.

So whether you’re a bird fanatic (yes we are) and want to let a tiny burrowing owl named Basil perch on your finger, or watch as a bald eagle swoops through the air between trained handlers, then the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is the day-trip you.

A local’s advice

As long as you’re in Coaldale, you might as well stop for lunch.

Well-known in the area for their fresh and delicious homemade sandwiches and donuts, Coaldale Bakery is the perfect place to park for an enjoyable meal in this slow-paced, Alberta town.

The other option you have for a delicious local lunch is Wiebe’s Delicatessen, with a mouth-watering selection of European (specifically Dutch) meats, cheeses and more.

The trip at a glance

Duration: 15-minute drive, one-way

Expected cost: Admission to the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is $15 for adults, $8.50 for youth, $6 for children aged 3 – 5, and kids under 3 years are free.

Bonus Trip to Vulcan: The Star Trek Pilgrimage

Are you ready to boldly go where no one has gone before? 

Ok, so plenty of people have made the voyage to Vulcan – most notably the greatest Vulcan of them all, Spock – but if you count yourself a Trekkie, then this is a must-do pilgrimage.

Though you may not meet Spock or Tuvok, you can get immersed in Star Trek memorabilia at the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station. Grab a guide and hit the town to see the various, Trekkie-themed easter eggs in the area, like the model of the original Enterprise.

The trip at a glance

Duration: 1-hour drive, one-way

Expected cost: Free for most attractions

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