Get out there and explore with a free Parks Canada Discovery Pass and celebrate Canada 150 with the best natural wonders in the country. Make Calgary your basecamp to adventure for a day trip to incredible National Parks and National Historic Sites that will take you into the heart of Canadian history and have you back in time for dinner in the heart of the city. Tuck yourself into affordable hotels in Calgary after hiking in the great outdoors for the ultimate Canadian adventure.

With the Parks Canada Discovery Pass, admission to all National Historic Sites and National Parks across Canada, including these 12 day trips from Calgary, is free in 2017.

Here’s 12 National Parks and Historic Sites you can visit with a day trip from Calgary.

Wateron National ParkPhoto credit Stevin Tuchiwsky

1. Waterton National Park

Spot everything from bighorn sheep to grizzlies in Waterton National Park. Connected to Glacier National Park in Montana on its southern border, the two parks form the world’s first International Peace Park. Stop by the Prince of Wales Hotel, overlooking Waterton Village, in the summer for a traditional English tea with a spectacular view.

How to get there: Waterton National Park is approximately 2.5 hours from Calgary in southwest Alberta along Highway 

Where to stay: Stay in the south of Calgary, at a hotel like Wingate by Wyndham Calgary, so you can spend more time exploring Waterton National Park.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: Get to the trailhead of Cameron Lake or Red Rock Canyon early when the park is quieter and you may see more wildlife and have the trail to yourself.

First Oil WellPhoto credit Darren Roberts

2. First Oil Well in Western Canada National Historic Site

Take a scenic drive along Akamina Parkway to Western Canada’s first oil well. Originally drilled in 1902, the entrepreneurs who discovered the oil had to abandon their dreams a short time later. Today, you can touch the old casing and explore the site where the oil boom in Alberta began.

How to get there: The First Oil Well in Western Canada is approximately 2.5 hours from Calgary in southwest Alberta along Highway 2.

Where to stay: Enjoy the waterslide at Residence Inn Calgary South before starting your National Historic Site adventure.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: Visiting the First Oil Well in Western Canada is the perfect complement to a trip to Waterton National Park or exploring nearby Cameron Lake for boating, fishing, and cross-country skiing.

Bar U RanchPhoto credit Andrew Penner

3. Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

Hitch a wagon, rope a steer, saddle a horse, and enjoy campfire stories surrounded by the largest collection of historical ranch buildings in Canada. Visit the cookhouse, watch the blacksmith hammer a horseshoe, or see the saddle maker repair a rein, for a glimpse into cowboy life that brought ranchers, poets, politicians, royalty and the infamous Sundance Kid to Bar U Ranch.

How to get there: Bar U Ranch is approximately 1 hour and 100 kilometres southwest of Calgary along Highway 22, also known as The Cowboy Trail, and only accessible by car.

Where to stay: Staying in the southern part of the city along the #2 or #201 highway gets you easy access to Bar U Ranch. Try a resort like the Deerfoot Inn & Casino for Western, family fun before zipping down to this National Historic Site,

Seasonality: May 15 – September 30

Insider tip: Nearby Pekisko Creek is an important trout spawning stream and home to some renowned fly fishing rivers.

Banff National ParkPhoto credit Paul Zizka

4. Banff National Park

Canada’s first national park just might be the most famous in the world. With its Rocky Mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, and scenic drives, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banff, has captured traveler’s imaginations for generations for its world class skiing, hiking, camping, and majestic views of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

How to get there: Banff National Park is approximately 1 hour from Calgary along the TransCanada Highway and is also accessible by Brewster Banff Airport Express or On It Transit for $10.

Where to stay: Choose a hotel on the west side of Calgary, like the Four Points by Sheraton West, to avoid traffic and get on the road quickly.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on weekdays when it is not as busy for the perfect Instagram shot.

Banff Park MuseumPhoto credit Ian Holmes

5. Banff Park Museum National Historic Site

Find Western Canada’s oldest natural history museum in the heart of downtown Banff with an awe inspiring collection of early 20th century taxidermy, from cougars and bison to bears and deer. The Banff Park Museum was built in 1903 and is home to more than 5,000 historic botanical and zoological specimen, Victorian-era antiques, and is the oldest surviving federal building in any Canadian national park.

How to get there: Banff National Park is approximately 1 hour from Calgary along the TransCanada Highway. The museum is located on Banff Avenue in Banff National Park.

Where to stay: Enjoy accommodations with as much character as Banff with Kensington Riverside Inn, close to Memorial Drive so you can bypass downtown traffic and head to the mountains.

Seasonality: May 15 – October 15

Insider tip: Admission to the museum is free with your Parks Canada Discovery Pass and can take as little as 30 minutes to explore, making it a great addition to any visit to Banff National Park.

Cave and BasinPhoto credit Parks Canada

6. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Three railway workers came across a cave of hot mineral spring waters in 1883 and started what became Canada’s first national park. Cave and Basin hosts a series of unique events each year, from star gazing and live performances to Lantern Tours on Saturday nights May through August. Journey into the historic cave, take a guided tour, and smell the minerals that started it all.

How to get there: The Cave and Basin is on the edge of the town of Banff, approximately 1.5 hours from Calgary along the TransCanada highway.

Where to stay: Loft style accommodations with easy access to the TransCanada Highway with Aloft Calgary University.

Seasonality: May 15 – October 15

Insider tip: Pair your Cave and Basin experience with a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, just a short drive around Sulphur Mountain. Admission to Cave and Basin is free with your Parks Canada Discovery Pass.

Sulphur MountainPhoto credit Paul Zizka

7. Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site

In 1957, a cosmic ray station was built on Sulphur Mountain as part of the International Geophysical Year to study cosmic rays and space particles. The station remained active until 1978 and today features the incredible Banff Gondola experience, with stunning views of the Bow Valley and mountain top dining 2,900 feet above Banff at Sky Bistro.

How to get there: Sulphur Mountain is approximately 1.5 hours from Calgary along the TransCanada highway and by Brewster Banff Airport Express or On It Transit. You can also get to Sulphur Mountain by the free shuttle service from the Elk + Avenue Hotel and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel daily once in Banff.

Where to stay: Grey Eagle Resort & Casino has live entertainment, dining, and casino action with easy access to the TransCanada Highway.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: If you don’t want to hike up Sulphur Mountain, take the Banff Gondola to the redesigned visitor centre includes a 360-degree rooftop observation deck and ridgetop boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station, making this an accessible National Historic Site for everyone in the family.

Skoki LodgePhoto credit Paul Zizka

8. Skoki Lodge National Historic Site

Experience a backcountry lodge with some history at Skoki Lodge, the first ski lodge in Canada and possibly North America. Start the trek at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and make Skoki Lodge, built in 1930, your basecamp for cross-country skiing, hiking, climbing, fishing and horseback riding. The surrounding area is also a photographer’s dream.

How to get there: Lake Louise is approximately 2 hours from Calgary and Skoki Lodge is only accessible by hiking or skiing the 11 kilometre trail that begins at the Lake Louise Ski Area.

Where to stay: Pick a hotel in southwest Calgary, like Azuridge Estate Hotel, and pamper yourself before your wilderness trek with comfortable accommodations only a couple of hours from Skoki Lodge.

Seasonality: June – September in summer and December – April in winter

Insider tip: The lodge and three surrounding cabins have space for 22 guests, so book early and be prepared for no electricity or running water.

Yoho National ParkPhoto credit Parks Canada

9. Yoho National Park

Four campgrounds, 28 mountain peaks over 3,000 metres high, and over 400 kilometres of trails make Yoho National Park an adventure lover’s paradise. Take a free guided tour of Emerald Lake, spend a night at beautiful Lake O’Hara, or marvel at the Takakkaw Falls, some of the highest in Canada. One visit to Yoho National Park and you will understand why “Yoho” is a Cree expression of awe and wonder.

How to get there: Yoho National Park is approximately 2.5 hours from Calgary along the TransCanada Highway and just 30 minutes past Lake Louise.

Where to stay: Experience adventure in the city on the banks of the Bow River at Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire Hotel before experiencing the awe and wonder of Yoho National Park.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: Campgrounds and RV parks are busy mid-June – September and operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early for the best spot.

Rocky Mountain HousePhoto credit The Prairie Creek Inn

10. Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Take your pick from a First Nations tipi or a Métis trapper’s tent for an authentic camping experience at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. Hear the music of an indigenous drummer, create a dream catcher, taste traditional food, and hear how the fur trade shaped Canada’s history. The Enhanced Heritage Camping Kit will complete your night under the stars as you light a fire with flint and cook a traditional bannock supper.

How to get there: Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is approximately 2.5 hours from Calgary and located 6 kilometres west of Rocky Mountain House along Highway 11A.

Where to stay: You can arrive at Acclaim Hotel Calgary Airport minutes after you touchdown in Calgary and be on the road to Rocky Mountain House in no time when you stay on the northern side of the city.

Seasonality: May 10 – September 30

Insider tip: Plan to spend at least a half day at this National Historic Site and book in advance to reserve an overnight stay in an authentic tipi.

Howse PassPhoto credit Parks Canada

11. Howse Pass National Historic Site

First Nations hunters made Howse Pass an essential part of their hunting and trade routes in the 1700s, linking Alberta with the Columbia River Valley. Named in honour of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Joseph Howse, you can now hike through this incredible landscape for views of Alberta and British Columbia.

How to get there: The Icefields Parkway is approximately 3.5 hours from Calgary and the pass can be reached by hiking 26 kilometres west to the border of British Columbia and Alberta.

Where to stay: Trek into Howse Pass with the contemporary design and exceptional service at Hotel Alma at the University of Calgary waiting for you in Calgary.

Seasonality: Open year round but may be inaccessible due to snow in the winter.

Insider tip: Be sure to check trail and road conditions before trekking to Howse Pass and be prepared with sufficient food and materials as there are no facilities or services available on the trail.

Jasper National ParkPhoto credit Parks Canada/Ryan Bray

12. Jasper National Park

Check the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies off your list with over 11,000 square kilometres of stunning vistas and trails. Part of the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site, Jasper National Park is a great place for day hikes, spotting wildlife, taking photographs, or taking a dip in the Miette Hot Springs.

How to get there: Jasper National Park is approximately 3.5 hours from Calgary along the TransCanada Highway.

Where to stay: Start your road trip in northwest Calgary at the Days Inn Calgary Northwest.

Seasonality: Open year round

Insider tip: Get an early start from Calgary and be sure to check ahead for road conditions to make this long, but beautiful day trip a part of your Calgary adventure.

Book your National Parks adventure to Calgary now with Air Canada - Tourism Calgary's official partner airline, flying from over 35 destinations directly into YYC Calgary International Airport.

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