Spring is a magical time in Alberta. Even though snow clings to the higher elevations well into June and July, there are many areas where it begins to melt as early as March. Wildflowers begin to bloom, rivers swell with meltwater, wildlife becomes more active and thousands of birds pass through on their annual spring migration. And there is no better place to embrace springtime than at one of Alberta’s many Provincial, National and Municipal Parks and Recreation Areas. Here are a few suggestions for the best parks to visit this spring in Southern Alberta:

 

Banff National Park

There is plenty to see and do in Banff in the springtime. At the lower elevations, there are numerous easy hikes including the paved Bow River Trail, which begins right in the townsite, or the 1.5 km Stewart Canyon Trail, which leads you to a foot bridge over the Cascade River.

 

Vermillion Lakes. Photo Credit: banffbeyond.com

 

For some incredible views with none of the work, the Sulphur Mountain Gondola is open year round and takes you right to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Afterwards, take a drive to Vermillion Lakes to enjoy the sunset of a lifetime. There are also 3 ski resorts within Banff National Park that enjoy some of the longest ski seasons in the country, so you can keep your winter adventures going well into May if you wish.

 

 

Map via British Columbia and Alberta GPS Maps

 

Bow Valley Provincial Park

Sitting at a relatively low elevation in the Rocky Mountains’ front ranges, Bow Valley Provincial Park sees its snow melt fairly early in the season. And while the trails will likely be wet and muddy in places, some proper footwear and maybe a pair of gaiters will allow you to explore a number of scenic trails.

 

Bow Valley Provincial Park. Photo credit: playoutsideguide.com

 

Good options for early-season exploring include the Flowing Water Trail, an easy 2.4 km return trek that takes you along boardwalk, up some stairs, through wetlands and past the Kananaskis River, and the 1.9 km Many Springs Interpretive Trail, which features a boardwalk with bridges and a lookout over some bubbling springs. Or, bring your bicycle and enjoy the paved 8.6 km (5.3 mi) Bow Valley Bike Path, an easy ride for all ages.

 

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Calgary Parks

There are lots of options to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the city. In Calgary, parks free up from snow early in the season and include Bowness Park, with its 11 km (6.8 mi) of designated trails that lead you along a river, through mixed forest and a grassland ravine.

 

Nose Hill Park in Calgary. Photo credit: Gavin Young

 

Nose Hill is Canada’s second largest urban park, and offers hikers some incredible views of the Rockies and the Bow River valley. If you don’t mind a short drive, Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is found just a half hour away and has trails leading you to a series of viewpoints and waterfalls. Also worth exploring is Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, with 25 km ( 16 mi) of trails.

 

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Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park

Following the Spray Lakes Road past the Nordic Centre for 2 km will lead you to the trailhead for Grassi Lakes, a family-friendly hike that should only take you 30-40 minutes to complete. The trail leads you past a waterfall to a pair of sparkling emerald lakes tucked between Mount Lawrence Grassi and Mount Rundle. Keep your eyes peeled for rock climbers scaling the cliffs above the lakes.

 

Grassi Lake. Photo credit: tourismcanmore.com

 

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Straddling the Alberta and Saskatchewan border, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is Canada’s highest point of land between the Rockies and the Labrador Peninsula. Still, it is at a relatively low elevation compared to the parks found in the Rockies, and park visitors can expect the snow to begin melting early in comparison

 

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

 

The park is known for its wide diversity of wildlife, and spring is one of the best times to see the many species that call the park home. Newborn mule deer and moose can often be seen during this time, along with thousands of birds who pass through on their annual migration.

 

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Map via British Columbia and Alberta GPS Maps

 

Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area

Located within an easy hour’s drive of Calgary, this provincial rec area has numerous low-elevation hikes that are perfect for taking in the spring scenery. The Fullertoon Loop will take you a couple of hours to complete, but it leads to a beautiful lookout over the Elbow Valley that is well worth the moderate workout.

 

Fullerton Loop, Elbow River Provincial Rec Area. Photo credit:rockiesfamilyadventures.com

 

Depending on the year, this trail can be free of snow as early as March. Found nearby, the Riverview/Sulphur Springs Loop is a 10 km (6.2 mi) trek along rolling hills that shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to complete. If you have your family along, try the Paddy’s Flat Interpretive Trail, an easy bike-friendly trail that leads you to sandy beach.

 

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Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Once the snow has melted in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, the Peter Lougheed Bike Trail offers a great family-friendly ride. This paved, rolling trail takes you to a picnic area on Lower Kananaskis Lake, where you can enjoy your lunch and some incredible views over the brilliant mountain-lined lake. Bring your fishing rod, since Lower Kananaskis Lake is open to angling year-round and is known for its record-sized bull trout.

 

Fishing on Upper Kananaskis Lake. Photo credit: playoutsideguide.com

 

Waterton Lakes National Park

While Waterton is a very sleepy place to visit in the winter, once the snow begins to melt the park comes alive in many ways. Most notably, the wildflowers begin to bloom in May, and a short walk from your car will usually lead you past 20 to 30 different species.

 

Black bear in Waterton Lakes National Park. Photo credit: youtube / Tinekemike

 

Hundreds of tiny streams spring up to carry away the meltwater and, for whitewater kayakers and rafters, this is when the park’s rivers are at their most exhilarating. The peaceful beauty of the blooming flowers and the adrenaline rush of the raging rivers make Waterton a truly unique springtime destination.

 

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Map via British Columbia and Alberta GPS Maps

 

 


 

You can find your way to these and many more parks with the help of our Southern Alberta Mapbooks and British Columbia and Alberta Backroad GPS Maps. No other map product gives you the breadth of road coverage that ours do, helping you find that secluded, unobstructed viewing area with ease. Click here to order one online or use our store locator to find a Backroad Mapbooks retailer near you.

 

 

Did we miss your favourite Park? Let us know in the comments below or share your best park photos with us on Instagram using #brmblife for a chance to be featured on our feed and win prizes.