The autumn months in the southern region of the province can provide beautiful days, with cooler weather to enjoy outdoor activities and sites. The gorgeous fall colors come to life as the trees turn gold and red, allow fantastic photo opportunities. Pumpkins and fall vegetables abound and corn mazes are filled with visitors. Trails become less crowded as tourists return home. Halloween events and spooky tours are available for those looking for otherworldly adventures. It’s time to get out and enjoy autumn!
1. Take a Horseback Ride
Boundary Ranch offers up one hour and longer horseback riding opportunities to enjoy time out in the cooler weather. No experience necessary, six years of age and older can enjoy this activity. The incredible beauty of the Kananaskis valley during the autumn months is something that can’t be missed. Keep your eyes open for birds and other wildlife as you ride and be sure to take your camera along to capture the beautiful scenic views with the fall colors that will be on every side.
2. Enjoy Harvest Lights at Calgary Corn Maze
This amazing corn maze is one of the favourite things to do in the Calgary area in the fall. Along with the 11-acre maze, you can also enjoy other fall activities here, such as the incredible pumpkin festival every weekend in October, or the Flashlight Nights which give you a chance to experience the maze at night, or the petting zoo, face painting, and loads of other things to do here. You can easily spend an afternoon enjoying the fresh air and fall fun. This fall you can enjoy all the fun of the farmyard as the whole farm remains open while becoming colourfully lit with thousands of lights under the evening sky.
Address: 284022 Township Rd 224, Rocky View County
3. Drink Some Fall Brews
Explore the 7-kilometers of craft beer sites in southeast Calgary, where there are an incredible number of breweries to enjoy. A fantastic way to spend an afternoon or evening in the autumn months, as you can try out the unique fall brews that are offered up by these breweries. This tight knit group of breweries built the craft brew scene in the city and take pride in their brews. Please be responsible and don’t drink and drive.
4. Experience the Butterfield Acres Petting Farm
This petting farm is an excellent place to take the kids, or adults who are kids at heart, to enjoy some one on one animal time, but the fall brings an extra adventure opportunity – the chance to pumpkin hunt! For little kids, this is a great activity that allows you to hop onto a hay wagon pulled by one of the sturdy farm tractors for a ride out to the pumpkin patch to look for little pumpkins, just perfectly sized for kids. You get to haul them back to spend some time carving and decorating to take home. If you are looking for datenight fun, then take a sunset tractor ride, try your hand at horse brushing, or warm up around the fire with some s’mores and hot chocolate during Harvest Pumpkin Fest Date Night.
Address: Butterfield Acres Farm, 254077 Rocky Ridge Road, Calgary
5. See Some Golden Larches
From the second week of September until the first week of October, you have the opportunity to see a unique type of tree turn golden – the Golden Larch. As they only thrive at higher altitudes, and while you can see some in the city of Calgary itself, it is best to head out to Banff or Kananaskis to see these lovely coniferous trees. Take a moment to touch the soft needles, these will fall in a couple of weeks, just as others do, and grow green again in spring. Choose a trail to trek or just enjoy one of the many places where you can sit and soak up the beauty of the trees and the surrounding scenery.
6. Enjoy “All You Can Golf” in Kananaskis
Monday nights are the perfect time for golfers to head out to Brewsters, especially if you are a fast golfer. The All You Can Golf nights offer up as many holes as you can golf before it gets dark every Monday until October 26th. This unique 18-hole golf course lies at the base of Yamnuska Mountain and follows the moraines of the north bank of the Bow River. The Par 72 layout extends to an unassuming 5,606 yards of play that winds its way through the rugged, tree-lined terrain of the mountain. With the lovely fall weather and colors, you can spend some beautiful evenings here this fall.
7. Dress Up for Calaway Park Halloweekends
From September 5th to October 12th, on Saturdays and Sundays, you can head out of Calgary to the number one fun destination near the city – Calaway Park! The creative Halloweekends that are offered here allow kids and adults of all ages to don their costumes and enjoy the special adventures that have been created for the fall season. Take a stroll through Hallotown and discover spooky scenes, spot the details of each Hallotown scene by participating in the Hallotown Scavenger Haunt, and enjoy the physically distanced, non-touch photo opportunities. Reservations required, book online.
Address: Calaway Park, 245033 Range Rd. 33, Calgary
8. Enjoy the Jungle Farm Pumpkin Patch
From September 5th to October 31st, you can travel out to the Jungle Farm to choose your own pumpkin to carve or eat. The farm store will be open and there may be an opportunity to pick your own pumpkin (details to be announced). There is normally a fall festival and lots of fall activities on the farm to enjoy, such as live music, corn maze, pumpkin canyon, wagon rides, demonstrations, and more. Make this a true day trip and spend the time exploring the farm and enjoying being out of the city.
Address: 28120, Township Rd 362, Red Deer County. Directions
9. Check out the Fall Colors with the City
One of the best things about spending time outside in the fall is the pretty colors that the trees and bushes turn during the season. You don’t necessarily have to spend the day outside the city to enjoy the colors, instead take a gorgeous autumn day to explore the city’s parks. From Confederation Park where you can see loads of yellow Poplars, to Edworthy Park to see aspen, willow and balsam poplar, to Bowness Park and Prince’s Island Park where you can get some unique red and purple colors along with the standard yellows. Take a camera and a picnic lunch and enjoy!
10. Explore Waterfalls
It is fall in Alberta, which means some of our natural and gorgeous scenery is about to transition into warm and cozy hues of gold, red, purple, or orange. This season can be one of the best to view our Alberta waterfalls as the blue or glacial waters create a stunning contrast to the changing leaves.
10. Eat Up at the Granary Road Fall Festivals
This active learning park is an amazing place to enjoy and experience everything apple! During September, vendors will have everything from apple pies and desserts to other apple products for sale, and for the kids in the family there will be an apple orchard tree house for them to enjoy. Along with the apple fest, there is plenty more here to enjoy as well. Then mid weekend, the market celebrates all things pumpkin! Take an afternoon to visit and explore the 36 acres of fun!
11. Take a Banff Ghost Walk
Are you looking for a spooky activity to enjoy during the fall? As Halloween approaches, we tend to look for the spooky and scary, it’s a natural time of year for that. Why not take a trip out to Banff to experience a walking, guided tour of some of the most haunted and ghostly places in the area? From ghost towns to haunted hotels, these tours are bound to give you the tingles. Starting at the Banff Good Earth Coffee House be prepared to walk about 3 kilometers with your guide. Reservations are accepted online.
Address: 333 Banff Ave, Banff
12. Run the Rocks
This is one of the most unique races that you will come across, so if you are looking for a challenge to take you out of Calgary for the day, this is for you. Crowsnest Pass is the home to this race that will take you 5 kilometers over the Frank Slide area and back. A combination of running and scrambling, you will need your wits about you to complete this historic path. Even if you are not running, you may want to check out this exhilarating fall activity!
13. Visit a Ghost Town
The cooler fall weather in the province promises great road trip days, so take the opportunity to visit some spooky places to prepare for the upcoming Halloween celebrations. With the colorful fall colors and prairie scenery, these spooky buildings and towns can provide just the right atmosphere, along with fantastic photo ops. Take a picnic or find a great place to eat lunch along the route. Check out the abandoned town of Bulwark, the haunted bar and hotel in Wayne, the once-prosperous coal town of Bankhead, the 7-resident town of Orion, along with quite a few more that are well within driving distance of Calgary.
14. Take a Scary Train Excursion
Take the short 45-minute drive outside of Calgary to experience riding the rails through the autumn fields. The scenic views are always fantastic, and the fall months bring fun excursions for all ages to enjoy. In September you can enjoy the Champagne Brunch train, High Tea train, Prairie train and the Wine and Cheese Train. In October prepare yourself to ride the Train of Terror every weekend! There is also Aspen Haunted Adventure, an all ages experience where you can walk through onsite haunts, join for a hayride, go trick or treating or enjoy ghost stories and hot chocolate.
Address: Aspen Crossing, Mossleigh, Directions
15. Go on a Short Hike in Banff
The shoulder season is sometimes the best time to explore and enjoy the outdoors. Not everyone wants to spend a long time hiking in the cooler weather though, so some short hikes are a great way to still be active and be outside. Banff offers up some fantastic short walks, so tie on your walking shoes and set out to experience the trails when not so many people are about. The fall colours in the mountains are stunning, along with the normal incredible views that you get no matter where you are. Try out the Tunnel Mountain hike or Fenland Trail.
16. Go Birdwatching
Migratory birds have found a fantastic sanctuary at the Gaetz Lakes Bird Sanctuary. September and October are fantastic months to take a walk through the oldest migratory bird sanctuary in the province. The 122-hectare property is protected land right in the city of Red Deer and is a convenient place to visit as a day trip from Calgary. There is a 4-kilometer trail that winds around and plenty of viewing points to not only catch a peek at the birds, but also other wildlife that may be in the area, such as moose.
Address: 6300 45 Ave, Red Deer
17. See the Fall Colors from Above
Why not get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area? If you have the nerve to jump out of a plane and float your way back to earth, this is an incredible experience to have this fall. You don’t need any experience to jump tandem with one of the professionals, so for those who are wanting to try this out for the first time, you can rest assured that you are taken care of from start to finish. Block off an entire afternoon for this activity, you will need it.
18. Bragg Creek Paintball
Choose from a field of obstacles, bunkers and varied terrain and play paintball outdoors! There is also a large picnic area and you can bring your own food.
Address: 2221 Highway 22, Bragg Creek
19. Visit Sundre or Drive to Ya Ha Tinda Ranch
A drive from Calgary to Sundre, is a fabulous way to enjoy fall colours, see wild horses along the countryside. Follow Red Deer River west through Clearwater Country to Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, enjoying the view of mountain peaks and valleys all awash in fall colours. Parks Canada raises its horses here on the historic Ya Ha Tinda Ranch. There are plenty of outfitters in Sundre/Clearwater Country so that you can go on guided trail rides. You can also see plenty of wildlife in the area including grizzly bear, wolf, cougar, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep.
20. The Most Beautiful Art Tour in Alberta
In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, dotted along Highway 22 (the Cowboy Trail) and Highway 2A, there is a community of artists, craftspeople and galleries who celebrate creativity and supporting each other’s talents. You are invited to join in and go for a tour of these galleries and private studios located in the stunningly beautiful foothills of southern Alberta!
21. Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area
Visit 4,800-acre wildlife preserve – the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. There is a slight charge to park for the day, but you can experience some wilderness and outdoor adventure here by taking a remote hike. You must register for your hike as there are restrictions for visitors, including timelines and access, but it is very much worth it to experience the outdoors here. Soak in the beauty and the quiet as you explore.
Address: 194001 160 St W #20, Foothills County Directions
22. Glenbow Ranch
Located between Calgary and Cochrane on the north shore of the Bow River, the foothills parkland offers sweeping views of golden prairie grasses and bright red and purple shrubs along the river. Explore any – or all – of the nine trails looping and weaving through coolees, along the river and over the hills. The seasonal colours are breathtaking, but keep in mind that they can be fleeting, so don’t put your hike off too long. Make sure to see them before a strong wind sweeps through and the leaves end up on the ground.
Address: 255001 Glenbow Road, Cochrane
23. Johnston Canyon Ink Pots
Beyond Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park are five pristine aquamarine coloured pools called the Ink Pots. The trail is a lightly-travelled (heavily until Johnston Canyon Upper Falls), moderately difficult trek up and over a forested ridge that emerges in an open meadow. Here, you’ll find the unique sight of warm water bubbling up from deep below the Earth’s surface into shallow pools. It’s a four hour round trip from the parking lot, 5.4 km one way. The brilliantly-coloured pools are striking against the backdrop of fall colours – you won’t find a better place for photos! If you manage to go on a sunny day, the colours in the pools will be even more vibrant.
FYI: Bow Valley Parkway east of Castle junction is closed to vehicle access this year (2020). Plan to eat at (and call for reservation) Blackswift restaurant located beside Johnston Canyon so that you can park at the trailhead. You can also hike 6 km or bike from Castle Junction to the trailhead.
24. Antique & Art Walk of Alberta
Visit Nanton and get a head start in Christmas shopping. Find boutique shopping, art, collectibles, antiques, and more at Nanton’s independent traders offer you what no box store or mall can. Visit Museum of Miniatures and Bomber Command Museum of Canada while you are here.
25. Sheep River Provincial Park
This is probably one of the best kept secret places in the province. Travel half hour from the town of Turner Valley to this incredible provincial park. You will find less tourists here than most provincial parks, and some fabulous hiking opportunities, along with the phenomenal views of the falls and area.
Take a Scenic Drive
Probably the best way to enjoy fall colours is to enjoy a scenic drive. Drive Highway 40, sections of Cowboy Trail, Smith-Dorrien Trail, Bow Valley Trail, to experience some spectacular fall scenery, such as the magnificent Rocky Mountains, the beautiful rolling foothills, and the wide-open expanses of the prairies.