While most of the world might know Alberta from its large cities of Edmonton or Calgary, Alberta is famous for having some of the best biking, hiking, and kayaking thanks to the Rockies. It’s pretty safe to assume that if you’ve just moved or visited Alberta you’re probably already thinking about all the fun things you can do in the great outdoors. Alberta has a ton of great lakes and rivers to enjoy, both near the cities of Calgary and Edmonton and far out in the wilderness. We’ve compiled an even mix of close-by kayak spots and long day trips that will get you out exploring all the natural beauty that Alberta has to offer. For most of these spots, an inflatable kayak or fishing kayak is more than enough to enjoy the aqua blue glacier waters.
Ghost Lake Reservoir
This lake is a little under an hour’s drive west of Calgary on Highway 1A. You can find put-in spots at the northeast corner of the reservoir as well as near the town of Ghost Lake itself. This stunning lake offers over a thousand acres of water to enjoy. You’ll have great views of the Rockies in the distance and pine-studded grassland on both banks. This is a great lake to visit on a whim after work on a long summer day.
Astotin Lake, Edmonton
For you Edmonters, Astotin Lake fills virtually the same niche as Ghost lake does for Calgary. Astotin Lake is a little under an hour’s drive east of Edmonton on Highway 16. Found in the north part of Elk Lake National Park, Lake Astotin is just the largest of dozens of lakes that pocket this forested enclave of the Alberta prairie. You can put in at the Astotin Lake area at the east side of the lake Lake Astotin and easily paddle from one side of the lake to the other, or picnic on one of the islands that dot the lake.
If you want to kayak without leaving Edmonton, Big Lake is your go-to. Head to rotary park at the northwest corner of the city and paddle around this calm little lake that is surrounded by wetlands. You’re bound to see some interesting birds on Big Lake while catching a break from the city life. At only twenty-six minutes away from the city centre, you could easily catch sunrises and sunsets on Big Lake with ease.
Located out in Leduc just over a half-hour south of Edmonton, Telford Lake is a great low-key kayaking spot well within easy driving distance. This is a great beginner lake, especially for kayakers unused to being out on the water. You’re never more than a hundred metres from shore, and the lake itself is three kilometres long. If you wanted to do an informal race with a friend or test your endurance, kayaking from one end to the other would be a great exercise and get you in the mood to grab lunch or dinner in town. Telford Lake has some of the most affordable Alberta real estate located along its shores, so if you’re a kayaker looking for a lakeside house, you might want to take a closer look at Leduc.
Do yourself a big favour and spend a weekend out in Jasper National Park in the Rockies. Though Maligne Lake is four hours from Edmonton and even further from Calgary, the drive is well worth the time. The water of Maligne Lake is as smooth and clear as glass. When you see the snow-sided mountains reflected in the water you won’t feel bad about dipping your paddle into that image and obscuring it, because you’ll be at peace and soon the water will settle again.
The Bow River runs right through Calgary and residents know its route like their way home from work. You can kayak down most of its length, which can be a fun and unique way to explore Calgary. Unless you’re dying to paddle upstream back to where you put-in, it’s a good idea to have another car at the pull-out spot so you can save yourself the trouble of wearing your arms out going back upstream.
Buck Lake is a far-out kayaking spot that requires a few hours drive to get to from both Calgary and Edmonton. This lake flies under the radar and if you’re willing to make the trek out you’ll be rewarded with peace and quiet and privacy. The lake supports habitats for bald eagles, loons, and any intrepid kayakers willing to call it home for an hour or two.
No list of the best kayak spots in Alberta would be complete without Moraine Lake. Not only is Moraine Lake in Banff National Park the best kayak spot in Alberta, but it’s also probably among the best kayak spots in the world. You could be forgiven for not initially believing that Moraine Lake is a real place. The water is a colour you’d expect to see in the Bahamas, not Canada, but it really is that clear. Moraine Lake seems too good to be true, too perfect to actually exist on Earth, and if you visit and slip your kayak into its waters, make sure you keep it that way. Moraine Lake is one of Canada’s true national treasures, and every Albertan ought to make a pilgrimage up to Banff to see the wonder of it. Once you’ve hit all 10 of the best places to kayak in Alberta, make the trek over to Ontario for some even more awesome kayaking.