Southern Alberta truly has a little bit of everything. From the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the wide-open farmlands of the prairies, to the unique Badlands with its archeological wonders and ancient dinosaur past. Travelling through this area will delight with its vast and sweeping views, including winding rivers, blue lakes, and breathtaking vistas overlooking valleys, coulees and rolling hills. Not to mention, Southern Alberta is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a world-renowned paleontology museum and some of the oldest Native rock art in the world.
1. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site honouring and preserving the area’s fascinating 6000-year old Plains Buffalo culture. This site features one of the oldest and best-preserved sites for communal hunting and bison jumps. Visitors can enjoy the fascinating interpretive center featuring many archeological finds in the area. There are also several self-guided walking trails and picnic sites.
Cost: Adult (18-64) $15, Senior (65+) $13, Youth (7 to 17) $10, Family (2 adults and youths, maximum 8 people) $40, Child (0-6) free
Address: 275068 Secondary Highway 785
2. Cypress Hills Provincial Park Dark Sky Reserve/ Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
The Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a beautiful park straddling the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.
The Cypress Hills Provincial Park Dark Sky Reserve is the first dark sky reserve in Alberta, thanks to its high elevation and lack of light pollution. Along with a sky full of bright stars, stargazers visiting this unique location will be rewarded with a chance to see the Northern Lights and nocturnal wildlife. During the day, don’t miss the birding opportunities and rare orchids and wildflowers in the area.
The area has many hiking trails and beautiful lookout points where visitors can witness the convergence of the Rocky Mountains foothills and the rolling grasslands. The park is also home to camping sites, swimming, vineyards, golf and skiing.
Address: Off Highway 41 in Cypress Hills Provincial Park
3. North Peak of Turtle Mountain
Turtle Mountain, known to Indigenous peoples as “the mountain that moves,” caused Canada’s deadliest rockslide. The mountain continues to move, but the movements are monitored to prevent future catastrophes. If you’re feeling brave, you can make the 6.2km return trip to the North Peak. After braving the shifting rocks and exposure, you will be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Frank Slide and the neighbouring peaks!
Address: Crowsnest Pass
4. Waterton Lakes National Park
Discover exposed sedimentary rock that is 1,500 million years old in this impossibly beautiful national park. Coloured bedrock and clear water are around every corner of the winding 16 km drive along the Red Rock Parkway. Easy hikes such as the Canyon Loop and Lower Bertha Falls will lead you through old-growth forests, fields of wildflowers and cascading waterfalls.
Cost: National Park Entrance Fees: Adults (18 to 64) $7.90, Senior (65+) $6.90, Youth (0-17) Free, Family/Group $16.00
Address: AB-5, Waterton Park
Emerald Bay Shipwreck
Emerald Bay is another one of many unique nature attractions in the Waterton Lakes National Park, located about three hours south of Calgary. This popular scuba diving spot offers visitors a chance to explore a real sunken shipwreck at the bottom of the bay. This area is also a popular picnic spot, with opportunities for swimming and kayaking.
Cost: Free, with National Park Admission
Address: Improvement District No. 4
Cameron Lake & Cameron Falls
Cameron Falls is located at the west side of Waterton Village. It originates at Cameron Lake, which is a beautiful lake in the Waterton Lakes National Park. Explore the lake via the lakeshore trail for spectacular mountain views and fishing opportunities.
Cost: Free, with National Park Admission
Address: AB-5, Waterton Park
5. Dinosaur Provincial Park
Explore the area where dinosaurs roamed 75 million years ago! In fact, more than 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been found here. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also home to towering Cottonwood trees and spectacular views along the many outdoor trails.
Cost: Outdoor areas are free to explore. Exhibit Gallery Admission Fees are as follows: Child (6 yrs and under) – FREE, Youth (7-17) – $2, Adult (18-64) – $5, Senior (65+) – $4, Family (two adults and up to three children or youth under the age of 18 years) – $14.00
6. Royal Tyrell Museum & Grounds
Even though the majority of the dinosaur exhibits are inside this world-renowned paleontology museum and research facility, visitors will also enjoy the outdoor areas surrounding the complex. Marked walking paths explore the natural archeological attractions, including a lookout to view the hoodoos. You can’t help but imagine a dinosaur peeking over the cliffs in the area.
Cost: Outdoor areas are free. Admission to museum is: Adults (18 to 64) $21.00, Senior (65+) $14.00, Youth (7 to 17) $10.00, Family (2 adults and children) $50.00, Children 6 and under: FREE
Address: 1500 N Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller
7. Canadian Badlands Hoodoos
Hoodoos are an easily recognizable attraction in the Badlands of Southern Alberta. These tall sandstone rock formations are made of sand and clay over millions of years. A hike on the Hoodoo Trail near Drumheller will allow you to take see many of these mushroom-shaped natural wonders. Hoodoos are very fragile, so do not climb or touch them.
Address: Coulee Way, Drumheller
8. Orkney Viewpoint
The Orkney Viewpoint is another must-see attraction while in the Drumheller area. This area offers breathtaking views of the Red Deer River Valley from a simple outcrop just west of town. The view in the fall is splendid, thanks to the full array of colors from the trees in the valley below.
Address: Located off Highway 837 west of Drumheller
9. Horsethief Canyon
Horsethief Canyon is a must-see lookout near the town of Drumheller. This location is very popular for its amazing vistas and panoramic views, and is also the site of many discovered dinosaur fossils. This is a great placeto witness the eroding sedimentary strata formations, known as hoodoos.
Address: Horsethief Canyon, Starland County
10. Horseshoe Canyon
Horseshoe Canyon is one of the most impressive lookouts in Southern Alberta, drawing almost 400,000 visitors yearly. This panoramic view from the platforms gives visitors a spectacular look at 70 million years of exposed striped canyon walls. Adventurers can venture into the canyon to hike the valleys below.
Address: Located 17 km southwest of Drumheller on Highway 9
11. Red Rock Coulee Natural Area
The Red Rock Coulee Natural Area features amazing and strange geographical formations, such as giant mushroom-shaped rocks. Some of these formations measure up to 2.5 meters across and are thought to be the largest in the world. Visitors will feel like they are visiting Mars with the wide expanses, steep coulees and hoodoos in the area. Photographers will enjoy a sunrise or sunset walk, for the unique colorings.
Address: Seven Persons
12. Bellevue Underground Mine
Gain a better understanding of a previously dominant industry in the Crowsnest Pass area by touring the Bellevue Underground Mine. Guests to this historically-rich site can enjoy tours between May and August. Each tour is guided by a trained and knowledgeable Heritage Interpreter. Hear the stories of workers, learn all about the revolution of the mining occupation, explore the beginnings of a mine, and more!
Cost: Adult $21
Youth (6-17) $12.60
Family (2 adult, 2 youth) $52.50
Child (5 and under) Free
Address: 2531 213 St, Bellevue
13. Lake Newell
Lake Newell is the perfect place to stop and refresh after a long day of sightseeing. This hidden gem offers a true beach experience, in the middle of Southern Alberta near the town of Brooks. This man-made lake is one of Alberta’s largest and warmest, offering opportunities for camping on Kinbrook Island, swimming, boating and fishing.
Cost: Free. Camping fees are extra.
Address: Newell Country No. 4, Alberta
Lake Newell Marsh & Nature Trails
Take in this ecologically diverse area by visiting the Lake Newell Marsh and Nature Trails. Birdwatchers will appreciate the vast variety of bird species, along with other wildlife. Try and visit during the spring and winter migrations for a unique birding experience. Cyclists and hikers will love the trails along the marsh as well.
Address: Newell County No. 4, Alberta
14. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park
This sacred location about 100 km southeast of Lethbridge, is home to ancient native art, hoodoos, steep sandstone cliffs and according to some, powerful spirits. Your visit to this unique location offers a chance to see pictographs and petroglyphs, including a detailed battle scene, that are more than 3,000 years old. You can also enjoy swimming at the white sand beach, birding, canoeing, fishing and hiking.
Cost: Free. Interpretive tours and experiences available at an additional cost
Address: NW 36 TW1 range 13, Milk River, Alberta T0K 1M0
15. Okotoks Erratic
If you’ve never been out to the Okotoks Erratic, be sure to check it out! It’s a ginormous rock that has been there since the ice age. You can bring a picnic for the large grassy area surrounding it, and explore this incredible natural phenomenon in your own backyard.
Address: AB-7, Foothills County
16. Woolford Provincial Park
Woolford Provincial Park is known for its great fishing opportunities on the scenic St. Mary River. Visitors will also love hiking through the riparian cottonwood ecosystem, where wildlife viewing opportunities abound. Paddlers and canoers can enjoy the peaceful St. Mary River, with easy access from the campground.
Cost: Free. Fees for camping in the park.
Address: 17km east of Cardston, Alberta
17. Lundbreck Falls
Lundbreck Falls is a gorgeous waterfall, easily accessible from highway 3 near the end of Cowboy Trail. These spectacular falls draw many visitors every year, who stop to enjoy a picnic and the spray of the falls from one of the many viewing sites. A nearby campground is available for overnight stays.
Address: 24B Range Rd, Lundbreck
18. Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
In 1903, the mighty Turtle Mountain fell, crushing the town of Frank and triggering Canada’s most deadliest rock slide. The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre offers a unique look into the coal mining town before and after the slide, while giving visitors a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. A 1.5 km interpretive walk will lead visitors through the mighty rocks of the Frank Slide.
Cost: Adult (18 to 64) $13, Senior (65 and older) $11, Youth (7 to 17) $9, Family (2 adults + youths to a maximum 8 people) $35, Military and Children (0 to 6) – Free.
Address: Box 959, Blairmore,Crowsnest Pass
19. Helen Schuler Nature Centre
The Helen Schuler Nature Centre is a 200-acre nature preserve just minutes from downtown Lethbridge. This picturesque park showcases three unique ecosystems: the prairies, the floodplains and the coulees (steep valleys formed from retreating glaciers). Visitors will be treated to natural beauty, wildlife and native plants along the self-guided trails.
Cost: By donation
Address: 1 Indian Battle Road South, Lethbridge
20. Henderson Lake Park
Henderson Lake Park is a large, picturesque park, right in the city of Lethbridge. This peaceful place features bike paths, mature trees, interesting horticulture and walking paths. Swimming and fishing is also available on the 27-hectare manmade lake. Non-motorized boating is also permitted from the docks.
Address: 2710 Parkside Drive South, Lethbridge
21. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Nikka Yuko is a fascinating park in the city of Lethbridge, built-in 1967 to honour the contributions of Japanese citizens to Lethbridge. Visitors will enjoy the Japanese gardens, tea house, traditional stone lanterns and the bronze Friendship bell. Admission includes all exhibits and programming, as well as a 45-minute tour of the grounds.
Cost: Adults: $11, Seniors (60+) & Students: $9, Children (11-17 years): $9, Kodomo (6-10 years): $7, 5 and under: free
Address: Mayor Magrath Drive S Next to Henderson Lake, Lethbridge
22. Little Bow Provincial Park
The Little Bow Provincial Park is the perfect place to stop and camp on your Southern Alberta adventure. Located near the quaint town of Vulcan, this park has a beach and a breezy reservoir for sailing and windsurfing. Visitors can also enjoy the shaded paths through the campground, and try and catch of the rare peregrine falcon, known to nest along the reservoir’s shoreline.
Cost: Free. Fees for camping in the park.