adventure travel calgary

Make a splash at Waterton Lake on an adventure travel vacation in Calgary. (Photo: Getty Images)


Why Calgary Is Canada’s Ultimate Adventure Basecamp

Though Calgary is a bona fide cosmopolitan city with enough amazing architecture, art, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained for an entire trip, it also has several unique natural and cultural attractions right in its backyard.

With plenty of outdoor adventures, including five of Alberta’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located just a short road trip away from the comforts of the city, Calgary is an excellent base for these excursions any time of year.

Banff National Park

Just over an hour from downtown Calgary is Banff National Park, one of the seven Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks. Here you’ll find a plethora of outdoor adventures, no matter the season, including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing, rafting, ice walks, tubing and horseback riding. All of these experiences have options for newbies and experts alike, including guided tours.

Bring your own gear or rent equipment directly from the venue or from dozens of shops in Calgary or one of the many towns in the park, including Banff and Lake Louise. Mount Norquay hosts numerous activities year-round, including guided Via Ferrata trail hikes, which are great for less-experienced climbers who want to experience the awe-inspiring mountains up close.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

adventure travel calgary
See the ancient world at your feet. (Photo: Getty Images)

Travel back 75 million years in just 2.5 hours with a drive out to Dinosaur Provincial Park UNESCO World Heritage Site, where hundreds of fossils and dinosaur skeletons have been found.

You can take in the scenic landscapes during a self-guided 15-to-60-minute walk along any of five different interpretive trails, but for the most immersive experience, sign up for a guided hike, bus tour or enriched learning program. These tours are the only way to experience the delicate ecosystems and dig sites.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Take a 3.5-hour drive south of Calgary to see Alberta’s newest UNESCO site, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. The highlight here is without a doubt the 10,000-year-old stunning rock carvings and paintings that reflect the history of Alberta’s Blackfoot Nation.

The best way to see these visuals is on a guided hike; you’ll also want to take a self-guided hike to see the unique hoodoos — tall, thin rock formations that take millions of years to form.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

adventure travel calgary
This site is a true “smash” hit. (Photo: Getty Images)

As the Rocky Mountains come into view during your under-two-hour drive south from downtown Calgary, you’ll approach Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Learn about the histories, traditions and cultures of some of Canada’s First Nations people through hands-on activities, indoor and outdoor interpretive exhibits, and guided hikes. The unique setting and history of this place makes it one of the most incredible attractions you can experience in Alberta.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is this charming area full of scenic water features, colorful flowers and striking mountains.

The hub is the small town of Waterton, with architecture that has major Wes Anderson vibes; locals host a variety of guided outdoor activities, from yoga to fishing, throughout the year. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails to suit all levels of experience throughout the park.

To experience something new on every visit to Calgary, book your stay at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy and begin planning your next adventure.