Many of you may already know the love we have for Canada. When we started Flying The Nest back in 2015 one of our very first stops was Vancouver… and we loved it so much we ended up staying for four months exploring all over the country. If there was one place however that stayed with us it has got to be the national parks of Alberta. Hiking to turquoise lakes surrounded by green forest and incredible wildlife … it’s a place that’s pretty easy to fall in love with.
It been almost five years since those long summer road trips and about time we headed back … but this time to experience Alberta during the winter. We love a winter getaway and thought Canada’s Rocky Mountains would be the perfect place for it. We wanted to do a road trip that was full of cozy cabins, snow capped mountains, frozen lakes and plenty of hot chocolates – and this trip to Alberta was that and more!
If you are busy planning your next winter holiday, we are here to convince you why Alberta is the place to go! Check out our YouTube video below of our time road tripping the Rockies, and keep scrolling for more info!
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Our 8 Day Alberta Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Calgary
We kicked things off in Calgary landing just before sunset with enough time to pick up our hire car and head into town for a much needed sleep before the road trip began. When heading to Canada during the winter we highly recommend hiring an SUV that has good quality snow tyres. We rented a car from Budget at the Calgary airport and as this was our first time driving through a lot of snow & ice we found the car to be perfect.
We spent the night at the Hotel Arts located in the heart of Calgary’s city centre – a great stop to stay when spending a night or two in the city.
Day 2: Calgary to Banff
We grabbed some breakfast from Yellow Door Bistro before jumping into our SUV full of excitement as the road trip had officially begun. We headed west from Calgary along Highway 1 making our towards the mountains. After about an hour of driving we stopped off at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.
As the popularity of wolfdogs as pets increased in Canada this place opened as a way to rehabilitate and rehome displaced wolfdogs and is now one of the largest sanctuaries within Canada. It was incredible to be able to get so close to these beautiful packs of wolfdogs, with some being up to 80% wolf!
After many pets and cuddles we jumped back on the road headed to Banff National Park. After picking up our National Park Pass from the Banff Visitors Centre we continued on to check into our historic log cabin where we would be staying for the next two nights.
Storm Mountain Lodge is one of those places straight out of a fairytale – cute wooden cabins tucked away in the forest covered in fluffy white snow and fireplaces blazing. Once we checked in we put on a fire and headed to the lodge restaurant to have a delicious warm meal after a big day of driving.
Day 3: Banff
After a cozy night spent in our log cabin we looked outside and saw that we had woken up to a winter wonderland. It had snowed all night and we ended up spending the morning playing in the snow (any Australian would understand the excitement we get when we see fresh snow)!
After snapping way too many photos and spending a good 10 minutes getting all the fresh snow fall off our car we headed into the small town of Banff to spend the rest of the day. Banff is one of those places that is so fun to simply walk along the quaint streets hopping from store to store with a hot coffee in hand.
After buying way too many souvenirs the snowy weather began to clear so we decided to go check out the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain, and the best way to get to the top is on the Banff Gondola. Seeing the Rockies from above is seriously breathtaking and there are some great cafes and restaurants at the top if you are looking for a unique place to grab a bite to eat.
While roaming the streets of Banff a restaurant caught our eye. Located inside a large wooden cabin is the Grizzly House serving some amazing Swiss influenced fondue. If you are looking for a place to warm up your belly this is the spot. They are super popular so make sure you book a table and you can not go without ordering the cheese fondue!
Day 4: Banff to Lake Louise
Today we said goodbye to our log cabin and to Banff as we made the one hour drive out to the famous spot of Lake Louise. A dream of ours has been to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise … and this dream would finally be coming true. Located right on the lake overlooking the most stunning views over the Rockies, this hotel is one that needs to be on your bucket list. While checking into our room our jaws dropped as we looked out over the lake watching families ice skating and making snow angels in the snow – this is why travelling during the winter here in Canada is so special!
We ended having the most magical day spent ice skating on the frozen lake, going on an afternoon sleigh ride, marvelling at the ice castle built right on the lake and warming up as the sun went down with hot chocolates inside the hotel outdoor ice bar!
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Day 5: Drive the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper
One of the most picturesque drives in Alberta is the Icefields Parkway and today we would be doing just that. The drive takes around 5 hours to complete between Lake Louise and Jasper and is important to note that it is not very well maintained. This means that snow and ice can easily build up along the road, so this is when hiring a SUV with good quality snow tyres comes in handy.
We headed out early in the morning and drove half way, stopping way too many times to snap photos of the stunning landscape surrounding us. Here we met up with our guide from Pursuit Adventures and headed out to a very unique lake…
Abraham Lake is special. Each winter when the lake water freezes methane bubbles formed by the decaying organic matter freeze too causing a beautiful sight to see! Our guide gave us crampons and took us right out onto the frozen lake as we walked right above the bubbles. This is seriously a must do when driving along the Icefields Parkway. Our Pursuit Adventures tour even finished with a cup of hot soup and some hot chocolates for the road … the best way to end any winter tour!
After our bubble lake adventures we continued on along the Icefields Parkways until we arrived at the beautiful Jasper National Park. As it was getting quite late we headed straight to our hotel to check in and relax for the rest of the day. We checked into the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and was greeted to a cute wooden cabin over looking a frozen lake and snow capped mountains … the scenery here in Alberta just keeps getting better and better!
Day 6 & 7: Jasper National Park
We had two full days to take in everything Jasper has to offer and loved every minute of it. We spent each morning having breakfast at a little local cafe called Bear’s Paw Bakery (get the white chocolate and raspberry scone… it is amazing).
Hiking is amazing here in Jasper and one awesome hike to do especially during the winter months is at Maligne Canyon. Each year the canyon freezes over making for a breathtaking ice walk. We headed out on a day tour with Sun Dog Tours which we recommend as its tricky to know which parts of the frozen canyon is safe to explore or not. We were given crampons and guided right inside the canyon, with frozen covered walls surrounding us it looked like we had stepped into a fairytale ice kingdom.
After a day of hiking we spent our second day in Jasper relaxing in the hotel heated outdoor pool. There is something so magical about swimming outside surrounded by snow. The Fairmont has an amazing spa facility with not only a heated pool but also outdoor hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and plenty of spa treatments you can choose from.
Our final night in Jasper ended around a campfire roasting s’mores as the snow started to fall. It’s funny how after a week full of adventures our most memorable moment of our road trip was chatting around the open campfire. It’s always the small things that make your top highlights.
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Day 8: Jasper to Edmonton
Today it was time to say goodbye to Jasper and head back to civilisation. After a four hour drive we had arrived in Edmonton and checked straight into our hotel, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. This stunning hotel is located right in the heart of the city and the rooms are stunning.
Seeing as this was our final night on our winter getaway to Alberta we thought it would be perfect to end our trip visiting the Edmonton Ice Castles. Each year a group of very talented people get together and build these Ice Castles by hand taking thousands of man-hours to create. It is an amazing sight to see and we recommend heading down at night when the ice is all lit up and all that more magical.
A big thank you to the Alberta tourism board for inviting Flying The Nest to visit Alberta & sponsoring our visit, as always all opinions are our own.