10 Most Beautiful Small Towns in Alberta

Alberta is the fourth most populous province in Canada, located in the western part of the country. It shares a southern border with Montana and a western border with British Columbia. The latter sits across the Rockies, which, comprise a dream destination for skiing, wilderness, scenery, and outdoor pursuits. Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, while Calgary is the largest city in the province. Alberta boasts the world's fourth-largest oil reserves after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and the third-largest reserves of crude oil in the world.

Alberta was first inhabited by the Blackfoot, Cree, and Assiniboine, and explored by the Europeans in the 18th century, then part of the Northwest Territories. Alberta was one of the first and most popular destinations when the settlement of the west opened in the late 19th century. Today the highly-livable province thrives through energy, agriculture, forestry, and tourism. There is the must-see city of Calgary, mountainous getaways, diverse natural sights north-to-south, and beautiful small towns to explore the rich province.

Banff

Scenic street view of Banff, Alberta in winter
Scenic street view of Banff, Alberta in winter. Image credit Aqnus Febriyant via Shutterstock

The picture-perfect town of Banff is a world-sought destination, located at the east end of Banff National Park, and home to 8,000 residents. The town is seasonally overrun in December and January for holiday pursuits and skiing, as well as peak months of July and August for a respite from the city into refreshing nature. There are tons of accommodations at every step for all styles and budgets, but book in advance to get the desired hotel or B&B. The streets with adorable animal names, run perpendicular to the Banff Ave thoroughfare, strewn with shops and attractions for all tastes and ages. There are ice cream shops, cafes, casual eateries, and fine dining amidst countless souvenirs, winter gear, brand-name stores, and boutiques. Banff is easily accessible only 89 miles from the Calgary Airport, and with one of the nation’s most scenic drive-ins through a mountainous tunnel. There is also the beautiful Bow River, camping, and fishing nearby for endless days spent at the peaky backdrop.

The lovely town is a sight to behold with a looming mountain and peaking castle-like hotels encasing a small-town atmosphere that is the epitome of Alpine towns in Canada. Banff is the respite for skiers during winter, providing easy access to the slopes of Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise with Tri-Area Lift tickets sold to all three in town. Many skiers love the heavenly soaks in outdoor hot spring pools amidst scenery following a day on the slopes. During the warmer months, there is hiking and biking, including a moderate path alongside the Gondola to the top that can be strenuous in the snow or under the summer sun. The scenery is second-to-none, along with two restaurants and souvenirs following the rewarding hike. The beautiful Lake Louise is only 40 miles away, while the popular west-end hiking areas of Banff National Park are accessible on a day trip.

Bon Accord

Northern lights in Alberta Canada
Northern lights in Alberta Canada.

The tiny town with a loud name is perfect for stargazers, with crisp nights and clear skies filled with stars, like no other around. There is even a chance to sight the Northern Lights during the right season in town. Despite its small perimeter, Bon Accord has a concentrated center of amenities and wondrous ventures around. The town is the namesake of the anciently-named Aberdeen in Scotland, whose settlers once made their way over the ocean to Bon Accord.

Today, the thriving agriculture community boasts environmental sustainability and attractions such as the beautiful Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farms, with, arguably the country's best pumpkin patches. One can wander amidst colorful flower fields with sweet scents and sights for a lifetime of memories. The award-winning town is a quintessential getaway 25 miles north of Edmonton, named Canada’s first and only Dark Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association in 2015.

Canmore

The streets of Canmore in Canadian Rocky Mountains
The streets of Canmore in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Image credit i viewfinder via Shutterstock

Canmore is a must for scenically-inclined tourists, set right along the Trans-Canada Highway, at the foothills of the Rockies. The lucky 15,990 residents stroll about their daily tasks in the fresh mountain air and have "peaking" views from the window. Canmore is the real respite from the city's hustle and bustle, with a great share of amenities and outdoor activities amidst breathtaking vistas, and is far less touristy than the nearby Banff. The Three Sisters Mountain Range looms overhead from any vista point in town. Canmore is also under an hour away from the prime scenery and hiking trails around Lake Louise, which is on the other side of Banff.

Only 75 miles from Calgary Airport, Canmore offers a quick getaway into nature with pursuits such as hiking, biking, or a scenic picnic in the open areas around. Similar to Banff, there are shuttle buses to the skiing areas in winter. The "naturally good-looking" town boasts a postcard downtown village at the backdrop of snowy peaks. It is a destination base for rock climbers, mountain bikers, and various outdoor adventures. Visit the Canmore Nordic Provincial Centre, used in the 1988 Winter Olympics, as a pre-hike or ski pursuit in town. The tranquil landscape with a peaceful atmosphere is ideal for relaxation within the scenery, with many quality cafés, shopping, and reasonably priced hotels.

Drumheller

Landscapes around the hoodoo rock formations outside of Drumheller Alberta
Landscapes around the hoodoo rock formations coming into Drumheller Alberta. Image credit Todamo via Shutterstock

Drumheller is a must-visit small town for quintessential views and outdoor pursuits unlike the Rockies or the rest of Alberta. The site of discoveries is easily-accessible under two hours from Calgary for an awe-inspiring day trip. Drumheller is home to the world-famous dinosaur museum, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, with a huge collection of real dinosaur bones and fossils. Afterward, stroll the vast badlands near an archaeological site to reminisce on the acquired knowledge from the exhibits that felt like journeying through evolution.

The Badlands are great for scenic sun walks, while the active adventurers love the easy access to hiking around the Horsethief Canyon. The town includes natural and human attractions for all types of pursuits, such as the Midland Provincial Park, hoodoos, suspension bridges, coal mine tours at the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, and many ghost towns around that keep with the theme. The badlands are quintessential through the wintertime, when snow-covered hoodoos hit the eye differently, while back-in-town Christmas lights adorn the streets with cheer in the air.

Grande Cache

Welcome to Grande Cache, welcoming sign in Alberta, Canada
Welcome to Grande Cache, Alberta. Image credit Sopotnicki via Shutterstock

Grande Cache is set at the bounds of the Willmore Wilderness Park, not far from the British Columbia border. The town is nation-famed for the intense "Canadian Death Race" that takes place in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and traverses the town. The race runs for 77 miles, over 17,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, including three mountain peaks, and a significant river crossing. The beautiful Grande Cache Lake is a destination for paddling and scenic strolls along the banks with breathtaking mountainous vistas.

Grande Cache offers a getaway into a remote small-town atmosphere amidst the great outdoors, with pristine surrounding wilderness and mountain views for aspiring natural pursuits. The Willmore Wilderness Park is outdoorsmen's dream come true, with bears, wolves, caribou, and more, that requires detailed planning and backcountry knowledge, which adds even more thrill and excitement.

Legal

Legal Alberta Grain Elevator
Legal, Alberta grain elevator. Image credit Wilson Hui via Creative Commons

The tiny satellite town with a memorable name, only 32 miles north of Edmonton is a world-famous destination for marvelous paintings. It is also a great day trip into northern Alberta for one-of-a-kind natural beauty. The town has many interesting attractions, along with a rich and interesting history dating back to 1894 when the Francophone community settled in the area. Its many French residents today hold roots close to the heart, while in 2011, the award-winning town received the title of French Mural Capital of the World, with over 35 unique murals painted throughout.

The tranquil community, surrounded by farms and landscapes, reflects a peaceful and special atmosphere. Downtown Legal is cute and busy, with a fantastic 12-acre Citadel Park housing an indoor arena, curling rink, baseball diamonds, and playgrounds. The town offers a quick family getaway with much to see and do. Its Fete Au Village festival is an annual "violent” Legal celebration of French culture, that is a must-see on a summer getaway especially if you are bilingual.

Lake Louise

Beautiful autumn views of iconic Lake Louise in Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta Canada
Beautiful autumn views of iconic Lake Louise in Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta Canada. Image credit BGSmith via Shutterstock

The town named after its iconic waters is what all the active, nature fans, and unparalleled sights-seekers, dream of. The tiny modern town is home to 1,000 residents, living in a very-special resort village. The immediate surroundings include endless trails for nearly year-round hikes, snowshoeing in winter, and spectacular fall vistas. It is a popular destination only 113 miles from Calgary, and 36 miles from Banff. Lake Louise has its own share of seasonal pursuits such as riding a horse-drawn sleigh, dog sled rides, and skating the pristine lake's glistening surface amidst mountains.

The town is a "settlement” without a school, hospital, or church, while accommodations are more expensive than in other areas during winter. Visitors can snatch an Airbnb from many residents who find their own respite elsewhere for the holidays. Dine right in the heart of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Canadian Rockies, with the dominating hotel/resort overlooking the waters. The Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the best ski resorts to stay in Canada any season of the year with canoeing and other summer pursuits along the banks.

Nanton

Facade of historical buildings in the historic town of Nanton.
Facade of historical buildings in the historic town of Nanton. Image credit Jeff Whyte via Shutterstock

The tiny town named after Sir Augustus Meredith Nanton of Winnipeg is a must-visit in southern Alberta. It is set only 57 miles south of Calgary for a popular getaway into a small-town atmosphere with an authentic downtown area, unlike any other in the nation. Nanton's charming streets boast beautiful historic buildings in-between countless attractions for all tastes. There is the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, the Nanton Candy Store, the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre, and the Museum of Miniatures.

The town has everything the culture-vultures heart desires, including the famous Antique and Art Walk of Alberta. It lines the beautiful main street amidst boutiques, selling everything from artwork to clothing, collectibles, and home décor. There is also a popular rodeo scene every weekend during summer, for a unique spin on Calgary’s world-famed stampede. One of Canada’s longest-running night rodeos is a must-experience for its nighttime atmosphere and special attractions.

Peace River

 View of peace river in northern Alberta
 View of peace river in northern Alberta. Image credit mike8816 via Shutterstock

The beautiful town along the breathtaking namesake river was once called the Peace River Crossing, established 302 miles northwest of Edmonton. The Northwestern Alberta town is the second-largest in the region, housing proud isolation, yet lively streets. Surrounded by remote wilderness, Peace River is a playground for outdoor lovers to explore. The Sagitawa Lookout right outside of town offers breathtaking vistas, while the looming Misery Mountain is a must during winter for more amazing scenery and pursuits.

"Rivière-la-Paix" is home to over 6,710 residents and attracts nature lovers and solitude-seekers with farming communities and untouched landscapes. Spend an afternoon on a picnic along the Peace River with amenities around the corner that feel a world away within the nature of the Riverfront Park. There is warm hospitality and wholesome attractions in town such as the historical Catholic St. Augustine Mission from 1888. It marks the missionaries' landing spot along the river who settled and worked with the local First Nations population. Peace River also held the 2004 Alberta Winter Games, commemorated throughout the town.

Waterton

Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada seen from the Bears Hump
Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada seen from the Bears Hump. Image credit Jason Patrick Ross via Shutterstock

Waterton or Waterton Park is an oasis in the Rockies with a population of 120 in southwestern Alberta, within Waterton Lake National Park. The park transitions into the Glacier National Park across the border in Montana, with Waterton a perfect base for the natural world of wonderments. Some notable sights include the International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Biosphere Reserve. There are hiking trails, canoeing, and kayaking routes, as well as numerous great shops and restaurants along the streets to stay full and entertained in between the great outdoors.

The uncrowded town with pristine nature around offers a calm atmosphere amplified by mesmerizing mountain views. It is an idyllic respite or romantic getaway, with a small national park for quaint strolls, scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, and more outdoors. There are endless hiking trails with camping sites, look-outs, and picnicking along the way. The Waterton Lakes houses over 60 different mammals with common sightings of bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats, along with bird-watching opportunities, all, at the stunning backdrop of the Canadian Rockies.

These towns with low populations spread throughout the beautiful mountain province will take your breath away. With most accessible from Edmonton or Calgary, their charming landscapes and unique "it" factor will immerse you in the small-town atmosphere at nature's doorstep.

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