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What is the most beautiful province in Canada? Well, my totally biased answer to this totally subjective question is: Alberta!
Hear me out. Alberta has the most diverse natural landscapes in all of Canada, from Rocky Mountain peaks and rolling grasslands to arid badlands and immense swaths of boreal forest.
The province also boasts Canada’s two most popular national parks, as well as the largest one. Within them, you’ll find the country’s prettiest lakes and most accessible glaciers.
Read on to learn 10 reasons I think Alberta holds the crown as Canada’s most beautiful province. For ever more inspiration, don’t miss my ever-growing bucket list of places to visit in Alberta!
1. The Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are Canada’s most famous mountain chain. These dramatic, towering giants run north to south along the border of British Columbia and Alberta.
While the Rockies are equally beautiful on either side of the provincial border, and down in the US too, you’ll have to visit Alberta to explore the two most famous Rocky Mountain national parks, the most iconic lakes and epic waterfalls, and to drive the world-renowned Icefields Parkway.
2. Legendary National Parks
Alberta is home to not only Canada’s most famous national park (Banff National Park), but also the second most famous one (Jasper National Park). Together, they receive over 6 million visitors per year!
But as incredible as they are, there is more to Alberta than just Jasper and Banff. Waterton Lakes National Park is their smaller and lesser-known cousin. Every bit as beautiful, it is also one half of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, with Glacier National Park in the United States.
Meanwhile, Elk Island National Park, a popular day trip from Edmonton, is a conservation centre of wood and plains bison, while Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta is Canada’s largest (and the world’s second largest) national park, ideal for an extended road trip from Edmonton for serious travelers!
3. Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
I’ve already mentioned Banff National Park, but the two most famous lakes in Banff are so beautiful that they get their own entry here.
Stunning Lake Louise is sometimes called the “Jewel of the Rockies.” Its vibrant turquoise waters are flanked by vertical peaks, while the elegant Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits on its shore.
A short drive away, Moraine Lake is another contender for the most beautiful lake in Canada. Moraine Lake and the surrounding Valley of the Ten Peaks were featured on the Canadian 20-dollar bill from 1969 to 1979.
4. The Badlands
While the Rocky Mountains rise above, the Albertan badlands sink below the surrounding plains, carved out by the movements of glaciers in the last ice age and the Red Deer River Valley. This has exposed layers deep below, thus revealing one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur bones anywhere on Earth.
The badlands are stunning in an extraterrestrial kind of way, reminiscent of the surface of another planet. Especially unique are the collections of hoodoos, windswept rock towers with flat tops.
5. Prairie Sunsets
Anyone from the prairies can tell you about how gorgeous the sunsets (and sunrises!) are. Not only is the horizon especially vast, but the colors are particularly vibrant and drawn out, as the sun sets and rises especially slowly on long summer days.
But why are sunsets and sunrises especially beautiful in Alberta, even by prairie standards? Well, there’s a scientific explanation for it, which has something to do with chinooks, or gusts of warm, dry air that descend from the Rockies onto Alberta.
6. The Cowboy Trail
In Alberta, the area where the Rocky Mountains and prairies meet is called the foothills. Running north to south along the foothills, parallel to the Rocky Mountain chain, is Highway 22, or Cowboy Trail.
The Cowboy Trail traverses the heart of Alberta’s ranchland, with the Rocky Mountain peaks ever-visible to the west. For something especially beautiful, come in July, when the fields are painted yellow with blooming rapeseed (canola). Also don’t miss Bar U Ranch, a National Historic Site.
7. Northern Lights
Alberta is one of the best places in the world to view aurora (Northern Lights).
True, you can see them from locations all over Canada. But Alberta is home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve (Wood Buffalo National Park), and the second-largest one (Jasper National Park, which is far easier to reach than Wood Buffalo).
The most accessible Dark Sky Preserve in Alberta is Beaver Hills, which includes Elk Island National Park. Only 30 minutes outside of Edmonton, it couldn’t be easier to get out of the city for stargazing and Northern Lights viewing.
8. Huge City Parks
Well it might be a stretch to call Alberta’s two largest cities (Calgary and Edmonton) beautiful, they are nevertheless home to some of the country’s largest green spaces.
In Calgary, Nose Hill Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country. It features a commanding view of the city, wildlife such as coyotes and porcupines, and an indigenous medicine wheel. Meanwhile, Fish Creek Provincial Park in the south of the city is even larger.
In the Alberta capital, it’s all about the Edmonton River Valley. This expansive, forested valley runs through the city and is considered the largest urban green space in North America.
9. Snow, Glaciers & Ice
Winters are extra frosty in Alberta, with temperatures regularly plummeting below -30°C (-22°F).
OK, so other provinces in the Great White North get really cold, too. But in Alberta, all of the diverse landscapes I’ve described above take on a new, snow-blanketed appearance in winter.
Athabasca Glacier on the mighty Columbia Icefield is the most accessible and visited glacier in the Rockies, while the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk is a surreal experience in Jasper in winter. Meanwhile, visit Banff in winter to try ice skating on Lake Louise or marvel at frozen waterfalls in Johnston Canyon.
A unique phenomenon you can witness in Alberta in winter is frozen methane ice bubbles. Yet another unmissable experiences is skiing at some of the best ski resorts in the world.
10. The Wildlife
Adding to Alberta’s stunning landscapes, many of the most famous and iconic Canadian animals can be seen there. This includes black and grizzly bears, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, and lynx.
Bison, which once roamed the plains across Canada but were nearly hunted to extinction, survive thanks to conservation projects in Alberta’s Elk Island and Wood Buffalo national parks.
In the badlands, look out for rattlesnakes, while the southern grasslands are home to pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.
Well, have I succeeded in convincing you that Alberta is Canada’s most beautiful province? If you absolutely disagree, please let me know what your pick is in the comments below!