Choosing the route that takes you through Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon means choosing some of the most striking and incredible countryside you can imagine. As you make your way northwest on Highway 2 across Alberta and into BC and the Yukon, you will find yourself endlessly amazed by the pristine beauty and majesty of the Canadian Rockies and the lush landscape that is Alberta.
Begin your journey in Coutts - one of the busiest Canada/U.S. border crossings. Travel northwest on Hwy 4 to Lethbridge, home of Fort Whoop-Up and the exquisite Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Continue west to historic Fort Macleod, the first outpost established by the North West Mounted Police and where western Canada’s oldest theater, the Empress, stages numerous summer productions. Just northwest of Fort Macleod is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Tucked into the side of a cliff where bison were herded to their deaths by the Blackfoot Indians for nearly 6,000 years, the interpretive center is rich with artifacts and interactive displays.
From Lethbridge, drive north on Hwy 2 to Calgary, "Heart of the New West" and home to the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," the Calgary Stampede. From the moment you arrive you’ll find that Calgary pulses with a youthful entrepreneurial spirit yet it still respects its humble western roots - most evident in the 10-day whoop-up, known as the Calgary Stampede (held every July). Want to see a spectacular panoramic view of the prairies to the east and the Rockies to the west? Take a trip to the top of the Calgary Tower. But be sure to experience some of the city's other key attractions – the Calgary Zoo, Glenbow Museum, Fort Calgary, Heritage Park and Canada Olympic Park – or, simply, go fly fishing in the Bow River, right in the heart of the city. While here you must decide what route you wish to take to Alaska. Head north toward Edmonton and you’ll be on the most direct route, what we call the "Gateway to Alaska." Swing west to Banff and you’ll be on Alberta’s Rocky Mountains Route.
Route 1: Alberta's Gateway to Alaska
The most direct route to Alaska is Hwy 43, the "Gateway to Alaska" – a beautifully maintained stretch of blacktop that slices through Edmonton, Whitecourt, Valleyview and on to Grande Prairie.
The Queen Elizabeth Highway (Hwy 2) is the most direct route from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta’s capital. Known as Canada’s "Festival City," Edmonton has plenty of historic neighborhoods, superb cultural attractions such as the Royal Alberta Museum, the newly renovated Art Gallery of Alberta, the Francis Winspear Centre and the Alberta Legislature. However, the No. 1 crowd pleaser continues to be West Edmonton Mall that spans 48 city blocks, has 58 entrances and houses more than 800 stores and services plus the world’s largest indoor waterpark.
Perched at the confluence of the Athabasca, McLeod and Sakwatamau Rivers on Hwy 43, Whitecourt’s surroundings make it the ultimate playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Tube rides down the McLeod River, sandy beaches, fishing holes and walking trails make this an easy place to spend a few days. Precisely why many of Whitecourt’s earliest settlers, who were Yukon-bound, decided to settle here instead. Be sure to visit the Whitecourt and District Forest Interpretive Centre and Heritage Park that houses a museum gallery devoted to every aspect of the forest industry. Innovative displays of recreated forests plus industrial tours to forestry-related companies can be arranged at this Centre. Continue north on Hwy 43 to Grande Prairie.
Grande Prairie is the last major stop on this route before linking to the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, BC. Uniquely positioned at the juncture of Hwy 43 (for those coming from Route 1) and Hwy 40 (from Route 2) – this modern city is a.k.a. the "Shopping Capital of the North." Loaded with malls, spas, theaters and museums it also offers excellent bird watching, fishing and hunting opportunities. The two must-see attractions are the Grande Prairie Museum in Muskoseepi Park and the Grande Prairie Regional College, designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal. If you’re here in early June don’t miss the Stompede rodeo – the first rodeo on the pro tour circuit. And if you’re visiting between June and August enjoy a free bison barbeque (on Wednesdays) or a free bus tour of the area (on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays) – available at their friendly visitor center.
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Let Alberta entice you with its long sunny days, glacier-fed lakes, pioneering past, dinosaur history, friendly folk and well-serviced campgrounds. Need more reasons to extend your stay? Here are a few easy detours and diversions:
Explore Alberta’s historic Cowboy Trail, Hwy 22, and discover how the Old West lives on in its art, history, food and hospitality. Begin in Cardston (home of the Remington Carriage Museum) and then head to Pincher Creek (visit Kootenai Brown’s Pioneer Village) and north on Hwy 22 to the Bar U Ranch (a national historic site just south of Longview) and other small-town charmers like Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Bragg Creek. Continue north to Rocky Mountain House where you’ll discover a superb national historic site where the story of David Thompson and Canada’s fur trade is re-enacted. All along the Cowboy Trail you’ll spot cowboys ropin’ cattle, experience smalltown rodeos and marvel at the rich ranchland where quarter horses still reign.
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