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You’re Not A True Albertan Until You’ve Visited These 5 National Parks

Posted on May 15, 2024 by Britanny Burr

Let’s dig into the wild, wonderful world of Alberta’s National Parks. Whether you’re a hardcore hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or someone who appreciates breathtaking views, Alberta’s parks have something for everyone. We’re talking about Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, and Wood Buffalo–Alberta’s five magnificent national parks. Each of these gorgeous parks is a UNESCO World Heritage sites. UNESCO sites are areas designated to preserve places of cultural, natural, and historic significance.

We know we’re a little bit biased when we say Alberta’s the best. While we aren’t the Canadian province with the most national parks, we do believe we’re the Canadian province with the best national parks. Each offers a special slice of Canada’s natural beauty, so let’s explore what makes each a must-visit destination.

Banff National Park

Established in 1885 as Canada’s first national park and the flagship of the nation’s park system, lies the allure of Banff. Even the name sounds like an adventure waiting to happen. Situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park is a mix of awe-inspiring landscapes, from majestic mountains to pristine turquoise lakes.

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise have been coined the crown jewels of this park, with their stunning clear waters and gorgeous backdrops. Banff is home to the historic Banff Springs Hotel, which looks like a castle straight out of a fairy tale. Let’s not forget about the impressive Chateau Lake Louise where you can hike, ice skate, or canoe to your heart’s content. Whether you’re hitting the high alpine slopes in the winter, hiking in the summer, or simply relaxing and taking it all in at one of its world-renowned hotels, Banff’s beauty and magnetism are unparalleled.

Jasper National Park

Jasper is Banff’s laid-back cousin. While it’s certainly less crowded, it’s equally as stunning, offering a charming, serene, and untouched wilderness experience. Jasper National Park is vast and is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Its quaint community welcomes travelers from all over the world and boasts the world’s second-largest dark sky preserve where no artificial lighting is visible. Featuring glaciers, lakes, incredible falls, hot springs, wildlife, and some of the most scenic drives in the world, including the Icefields Parkway. For adventurous souls, Jasper National Park is a trip worth the trek.

Elk Island National Park

Just a stone’s throw away from Edmonton, Elk Island National Park is a sanctuary for all things wild and is one of the best places in Alberta to see wildlife in their natural habitat. From the impressive bison roaming the prairie meadows and woodlands, to playful beavers building dams, and showcasing over 250 bird species, this park is a nature lover’s dream. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Elk Island plays an important role in the conservation of prairie ecosystems and the plains and woods Bison. It remains Canada’s only completely fenced National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park is where the rolling prairies of Alberta meet the majestic peaks of the Rockies. It’s best known for its breathtaking landscapes, crystal clear lakes, and rich biodiversity, and boasts some of the most incredible views as far as the eye can see.

Wood Buffalo National Park

Last but not least, let’s not forget Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada’s largest National Park (and one of the largest in the world). This park symbolizes the very heart of Northern Canada, a hidden gem off the beaten path, and is seriously worth the journey for anyone who decides to make the trip.

It’s one of the best places to witness the natural phenomenon of the northern lights and is home to the world’s largest beaver dam! Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Wood Buffalo protects one of the world’s last free-roaming herds of wood bison and provides a critical nesting ground for the endangered whooping crane. It offers a landscape so diverse and vast, from boreal forests to sprawling grasslands and salt plains, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into an entirely different world. This place is bucket-list-worthy and we really hope you have the chance to pay it a visit this summer!

Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Great West Media & Southern Alberta Newspapers Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. The Hot Summer Guide is a special feature about summer activities, bucket list adventures, staycation options, road trips, attractions, events, and road trip-worthy food & beverage destinations across Alberta. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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