A pandemic summer: The best getaways near Calgary
By Karina Zapata, Publishing Editor
I’ll be frank: I wouldn’t exactly call myself an outdoorsy person.
But, as the wider population is unable to safely travel without putting themselves at risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19, it’s safe to say that we have all had to make the most of what’s around us during this pandemic summer.
Luckily for us in Calgary, we’re a mere hour away from the beautiful Rocky Mountains, which makes being unable to travel a lot easier. And the best part is finding hidden gems surrounding the city with gorgeous rivers, lakes and waterfalls that make you forget that you aren’t exactly on a beach.
These getaway spots are so good that I’m a little hesitant to share them, but here it is:
1 hour and 7 minutes from Calgary
I love tent camping, but nothing will ever beat Sundance Lodges. While there are sites to set up your tent, Sundance Lodges is known for its trapper’s tents and canvas tipis (though I personally have never booked one here, and likely never will). Both options come with wooden floors, beds, lanterns and small kerosene heaters that are refueled daily by the campground staff.
I’m a huge fan of the trapper’s tents at Sundance Lodges. The best part is that, if you’re lucky enough, your trapper’s tent could be adjacent to the Kananaskis River, with views of Mount Allen, Mount Lorette and Mount Kidd. To have your morning coffee with a beautiful view, all you have to do is walk a few feet.
1 hour and 12 minutes from Calgary
If you visit Kananaskis enough, you have definitely been to Wedge Pond. On a sunny weekend, this place is packed with people sunbathing, starting a bonfire, swimming and fishing. The turquoise pond shows a beautiful reflection of the mountains, which is perfect for taking photographs.
There are also several picnic tables throughout the trail if you want to stay a while, and there are a few fire pits if you come early enough to grab one. Right off Highway 40, Wedge Pond is easy to get to and there is a large parking lot right by the water.
Cat Creek Falls
1 hour and 30 minutes from Calgary
Cat Creek Falls is truly a hidden gem. An hour-long, family-friendly hike will lead you to a beautiful waterfall spilling into a small pool of clear water. If you’re brave enough to face the frigid water, it’s a good place to swim in… or maybe just dip your toes in. The falls are extremely refreshing and calming after a long walk — it’s a place that you can stay at for ages. I’ve seen people of all ages, from toddlers to elderly people, enjoy the hike but keep it noted that the trail can get busy, depending on the day and time you go.
The trail has no service and can be difficult to find, so make sure you have done your research beforehand and have some maps on you, just in case.
2 hours and 36 minutes from Calgary
I’m surprised I haven’t seen more photos of Castle Falls, considering it’s only two and a half hours away from Calgary. Near Pincher Creek, just off the Alberta-B.C. border, the falls are crisp and blue. On a hot day, you’ll find people swimming and floating in the river, clearly enjoying the crisp waters paired with the scorching sun. If you aren’t a big swimmer, you can lounge in the sun on the smooth-layered rocks.
To get to the falls, simply park at the Castle Falls campground, grab your floaties and make your way over.
Lussier Hot Springs
3 hours and 58 minutes from Calgary
This one is the farthest of all, but I promise it’s worth it. A four-hour drive from Calgary in BC’s Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park is Lussier Hot Springs — undeveloped, natural hot springs. The hot springs come in a set of three: the upper pool that can sit at a temperature of 43°C, the second-warmest bottom left-hand pool and the bottom right-hand pool that can be as chilly as the river.
These hot springs aren’t exactly a hidden gem — they’re extremely popular for those who live near it in every season. However, the warm, clear water is worth the trouble and makes you feel like you’re at a spa, completely free of charge.