Beyond its prairie and mountain landscapes, Alberta offers some unexpected travel vistas
By Andrew Mah
The badlands, beginning about 90 minutes east of Calgary, feature near-desert aridity, striated cliffs and canyons, and the mysterious mushroom-shaped rock features called “hoodoos.” There, hike through the eerie yet picturesque Horseshoe Canyon, stop by the town of Drumheller, and then visit the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum, where you can learn about dinosaurs.
Wood Buffalo National Park
If you think Alberta is a dry place, visit Wood Buffalo National Park, straddling the border between northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. A World Heritage Site and Canada’s largest national park, Wood Buffalo includes vast wild boreal plains featuring bogs, wetlands, meandering streams, spongy muskeg and wide silty river deltas. It’s also home to the largest free-roaming herd of buffalo in the world, and is the only natural nesting site of the whooping crane. For those looking for a true wilderness experience where you can camp, hike, fish and canoe, this is the place. It’s true backcountry—which also means it’s not easy to get to. The only all-weather year-round road access is from the Northwest Territories via the Mackenzie Highway.
At the end of the last ice age, the glaciers covering much of North America receded, leaving behind the flattened lands of the prairies. Other than the mountain ranges, the only land high enough to stay above the glaciers was a plateau called Cypress Hills, rising 600 metres above the great plains in the southeast corner of Alberta. As the only place in this region untouched by ice, it possesses a uniquely lush and diverse landscape, home to rolling green hills and an astonishing diversity of plants and animals. It’s also home to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, a designated Dark-Sky Preserve—special efforts made to reduce light pollution make it a great place for astronomy buffs.