Checking out the wondrous sights (photo: John Price/Travel Alberta)

Alberta After Dark

By Joanne Elves


Alberta embraces the night with five designated Dark Sky Preserves, including Jasper and Elk Island National Parks, Beaver Hills, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and Lakeland Provincial Park. A unique status, however, belongs to Waterton Lakes National Park and Montana’s Glacier National Park nearby. Combined, they are recognized as the world’s first trans-border International Dark Sky Park.

In the park, the Robinson family offers excellent tours to experience the park after dark. Brothers Keith, Kevin, Kris and Mike grew up in Waterton and now operate Dark Sky Guides. The tours combine a search for nocturnal creatures and stargazing, along with nighttime hikes far from town to look way up and marvel at the Milky Way.

“Giving people a local’s perspective and appreciation of both our sky and wildlife goes a long way to ensuring people have a truly memorable experience,” says oldest brother, Keith.

(illustration: Charlotte Watters)


Monster Mini Golf, with locations in Calgary and Edmonton, cranks up the black lights to create a glowing golfing experience you won’t find at the country club.

Many local bowling lanes in Alberta offer glow-in-the-dark bowling. Dark rooms, loud music and strobing neon lights will take your five- and ten-pin to a whole new level.

Take a hike to a mountain lodge for some of the best night-sky views in the province. Many resorts like Skoki Lodge in Lake Louise are off-grid and far from any light source.

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To get you looking in the right direction, attend events at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory near Priddis or at the University of Alberta Observatory. Test your newfound skills by renting a telescope from the Calgary chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

The Great Horned Owl is a stealth hunter at dawn and dusk. Watch for those big yellow eyes watching you in urban parks, cemeteries and golf courses. A visit to the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre (reopening in May) in Coaldale will have you nose-to-beak with Alberta’s provincial bird and many other rescued nocturnal birds.

An excursion with Canmore Cave Tours is the ultimate dark experience. Follow your guide through water-worn caves to arrive at the stalactite-crusted grand gallery. On the way there, you’ll slide through the laundry chute and slip through the challenge squeeze. Turn your headlamp off to add to the excitement. Covid-19 restrictions apply, check the website for details.