Summer in Alberta is perfect for road trips. My travels have taken me north to the “Mighty Peace” and south to Waterton Lakes National Park. Here are a few gems along the way. Plan a route and make hotel or camping reservations before you go
Heading north to Peace River
Peace River is 505 kilometres from Edmonton, the perfect distance for stops along the way. First stop: Slave Lake on Highway 2.
Birdwatchers’ beach special: North of Slave Lake on Highway 88, visit Devonshire Beach on Lesser Slave Lake. The sandy stretch was named one of the top beaches in North America. Not fancy, but usually not busy either. Good for a swim and picnic. Further along Highway 88, stop at the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation. Stretch your legs along the Songbird Interpretive Trail. The bird banding station is open for fall migration from July 12 to the end of September. Get directions to the banding station at the main building. Visit www.borealbirdcentre.ca.
Fish along the breakwater: High Prairie is next along Highway 2. The town has six motels as well as a 3-D movie theatre. This is a good overnight spot. Stock up at the 24-hour IGA, and swim in the local indoor pool, and visit the museum on Main Street. Have a tasty supper at one of several restaurants. Next, take a 30-km drive on Highway 749, turning at Highway 679 to fish whitefish and pickerel at the breakwater at Winagami Lake Provincial Park (www.albertaparks.ca/winagami-lake/). Pelicans nest here; eagles are spotted as well. Camping is available in the park. Continue west to Peace River.
The Mighty Peace River: The drop along Highway 2 into Peace River is breathtaking. The town has everything: a museum, hotels, camping, restaurants, and a movie theatre. The spectacular view from 12 Foot Davis Hill is worth the uphill drive. The legendary miner and fur trader is buried beneath a cairn. Heading home, take Highway 684, known as the Shaftesbury Trail, and cross the river by car ferry. The crossing is short but memorable. Visit https://peaceriver.ca/community-services/museum/.
Head south to Waterton Lakes National Park: Entrance fees are waived this year because of Canada’s 150th anniversary, but pre-book hotel rooms or campsites in the area. RVers can stay in the national park. Watch for mountain sheep in the town’s parks. You might also see black bears, eagles, moose, and deer in the area.
Waterton Lakes by boat: Enjoy a boat tour to Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. Board at the marina ticket office in Waterton. No reservations required. A home-grown guide pointed out eagles and a black bear as we cruised across the Canada/USA border (no passports required). Visit http://www.watertoncruise.com/contact-us.php.
Great Canadian Barn Dance
Located near Hillspring, Alberta, the Great Canadian Barn Dance is a hidden gem. The Kunkel family opened the resort, complete with lake, more than 25 years ago. Take in a buffet followed by the Music Legends show performed by the Kunkels. Our show featured hits from the ‘70s. Stay at the campground, in a lodge, or in a cottage. Visit http://www.gcbd.ca/.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
On your way back to Edmonton, head for Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a 15-minute drive from Fort Macleod on Highway 785. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the impressive museum tells of the culture and traditions of the North American plains. A short walk takes you to a cliff where bison were corralled and driven over to ensure the tribe’s winter survival. Visit http://www.history.alberta.ca/headsmashedin/.
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