Alberta Description & Overview
#1 Main Trans-Canada Route
Here is the route of the Trans-Canada Highway from east to west:
You enter Alberta on the Trans-Canada highway from Saskatchewan. The first 300 kilometres runs through grasslands (just north of the Cypress Hills parklands), and passes through the city of Medicine Hat. On the south side you can see the famous Brooks Aqueduct, built in the early 1900s, the largest concrete structure in the world at that time, and on then north side is Dinosaur Provincial Park and the city of Drumheller, home of the world-renowned Royal Tyrell Museum.
Then you arrive in Calgary, a booming city of 800,000 with a very pretty downtown with lots of glass and mirrors along the Bow River. The stretch of the highway through Calgary actually has stoplights. As you leave the city, you pass Canada Olympic Park, with its ski jumps and bobsled runs.
Banff National Park is a major vacation destination, and many visitors take an extra day or two to drive north up the Icefields Parkway into Jasper National Park.
This road takes you beside the Athabaska Glacier, where you can walk to the glacier's toe, and also take a Columbia Icefield trip in a bus equipped with huge icegoing tires.
Detour: Icefields Parkway
Another great side trip from Banff is the drive south into British Columbia and Kootenay National Park. Take Route 93 to drive through the beautiful Kootenay River Valley. This road ends at Radium Hotsprings, in the Columbia Valley. Just east of the BC border on the Trans-Canada is the stunning resort community of Lake Louise.
Mountain Towns of Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise
While the Rockies are the main attraction in Alberta, there are lots of other things to see and do. These include sampling the multicultural lifestyles of Calgary and Edmonton. There are also several scenic side roads.
Detour: Cowboy Trail North or South
A few miles west of Calgary, Route 22 leads you south through Cowboy Country, past historic ranches and Indian buffalo jumps. A little further west, Route 40 heads south at the edge of the Rockies, through Kananaskis Country and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Route 22 heads north from the Trans-Canada at Cochrane, past many scenic campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain Forest Reserve.
Alberta Road Map Itineraries along the Trans-Canada:
Yellowhead Route (Highway 16)
Here is the route of the Yellowhead Highway (#16) from east to west:
The Yellowhead Highway enters the province of Alberta at Lloydminster (noted not only for its oil industry, but as the only city in Saskatchewan that is taxed as if in the province of Alberta). The highway meanders through the gentle and lush farm lands of eastern Alberta. About 150 kilometres from the border, you pass through Vegreville, the heart of the Ukranian community in Alberta. You then pass through Elk Island National Park, with a herd of wood bison before arriving in Edmonton.
Edmonton is the gateway to the North, and has been for many years. First during the Klondike Gold Rush, then during the bush plane era, and then as the start of the Alaska highway. Edmonton's 800,000 residents are in the middle of the bulk of Alberta's oil & gas fields.
From Edmonton, the Yellowhead heads west and you pass the vast coal fields and neighbouring power plant at Wabamun. From that point, the highway movies through undulating farmland and bush country, before entering the Rocky mountains at Jasper. The Jasper area is unique in the Rockies for its wide glacier-swept valleys, and a number of hotsprings and disappearing rivers (they actually are underground). You cross into Bridith Columbia over the Yellowhead Pass, the lowest pass over the Continental Divide.
During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, many prospectors used Edmonton as their jumping-off point on a land route to the Yukon. It later became the main airstrip for bush planes and flat planes taking supplies and people into the arctic. During the Second World War, it became the starting point of the rushed-to-completion Alaskan Highway.
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