A version of this post was originally published on the Travel Alberta blog.
Alberta is home to some of the world’s largest dark sky preserves, including Wood Buffalo and Jasper national parks. That means there’s no artificial light around to obscure the extraterrestrial view.
Check out these videos to see Alberta's night skies come alive at these six dark sky preserves.
Wood Buffalo National Park
Location: North-eastern Alberta
Nearest City: Fort McMurray, Alberta
How to get there: Drive north from Fort McMurray along the seasonal ice-road that links Fort Chipewyan and the national park, or drive northeast from Edmonton to Hay River, NWT, before turning southeast towards Fort Smith.
Winter Highlight: Traveling to Wood Buffalo National Park is the adventure. The paved road ends in Fort Hills, just north of Fort McMurray, and the ice road begins. It’s just over 500-km of temporary winter-road, which crosses the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, and passes through the hamlet of Fort Chipewyan.
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Location: Southeast corner of Alberta
Nearest City: Medicine Hat, Alberta
How to get there: Travel southeast of Calgary along the TransCanada highway to Medicine Hat, then highway 41 south to the park.
Winter Highlight: Clear skies are the rule, rather than the exception, in the southeast corner of Alberta. The lack of light pollution at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is immediately clear when looking towards the eastern horizon where the Orion constellation is vivid.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Location: Southwest corner of Alberta
Nearest City: Lethbridge, Alberta
How to get there: Drive 275 km southwest from Calgary to Pincher Creek and south to the national park entrance.
Winter Highlight: Solitude. Throughout the winter, two hotels and two restaurants remain open in the town of Waterton, but the number of visitors shrinks, leaving those who make the trek able to have much of this mountain paradise to themselves.
Lakeland Provincial Park
Location: Northeast Alberta, in the lakes district
Nearest City: Lac La Biche, Alberta
How to get there: Travel 215 km northeast of Edmonton, following signs for Fort MacMurray/Lac La Biche.
Winter Highlight: Cross-country skiing on machine-groomed trail near Shaw Lake isn’t just a daytime activity. The local Lac La Biche ski club organises night ski programs throughout the winter to take in the trails and the stunning dark skies.
Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve
Location: Central Alberta, just east of Edmonton
Nearest City: Edmonton, Alberta
How to get there: Drive 45 km east of Edmonton along Highway 16.
Winter Highlight: Elk Island National Park, which marks the northern boundary of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, is home to the densest population of hoofed animals in Canada. Bison, elk, moose, and both mule and white-tailed deer are common sights throughout the winter.
Jasper National Park
Location: West-central Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies
Nearest City: Edmonton, Alberta
How to get there: From Banff, follow the TransCanada highway to Lake Louise and the famous Icefields Parkway north. From Edmonton, drive west on Highway 16.
Winter Highlight: The Maligne Canyon icewalk tours, which are a Canadian Signature Experience, guides hikers along a canyon floor. Frozen waterfalls tower overhead.