Home Canada Things To Do in Lethbridge – A One-Day Tour

Things To Do in Lethbridge – A One-Day Tour

by Andy Vanr

Enjoy a day in Lethbridge, the beautiful prairie city on the Oldman River.

Relax and re-energize in a traditional Japanese garden. See the steel-trestle High Level Bridge spanning the Oldman River Valley. Explore some of the many trails in the valley below.  Learn about Lethbridge’s frontier town roots at Fort Whoop-Up.

These are the best things to do in a day in Lethbridge.

One Day in Lethbridge Alberta

This itinerary hits the highlights of Lethbridge in one day.

Consider staying in the area longer, making Lethbridge the base to explore Southern Alberta’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites on fascinating day trips.

Lethbridge Attractions Map

Lethbridge Map
Click on the map for an interactive version.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

A Japanese garden located in the middle of the Canadian Prairies? Yes.  This Lethbridge garden adheres to the traditions of a Japanese garden but is unique as well. It is designed with elements that represent the mountains and the prairies of Alberta.  Local plants and materials have also been incorporated.

Pavilion and pond at Lethbridge's Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

Take time to relax and stroll through the beautiful grounds.  Start with some quiet time in the pavilion and zen garden.  Become immersed in Japanese culture by participating in an age-old ritual, the traditional tea ceremony. We enjoyed our walk on the paths through the rock gardens and over the bridges with water flowing beside us. 

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is a beautiful experience of tranquility and harmony.

Pond reflecting bridge and bell at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Pond reflections at Nikka Yuko

Henderson Lake is right beside the Japanese Garden.  If time permits, walk the full loop around this man-made lake. It’s about 2.5 kilometres. On a Saturday, split the walk with a side trip to the neighbouring Exhibition Grounds to wander the Lethbridge Farmers’ Market.

High Level Bridge

This is the world’s highest and longest steel trestle bridge.  It rises 96 metres above the river bed and is about 1.6 kilometres long. The bridge is officially called the Lethbridge Viaduct, but is commonly referred to as the High Level Bridge.

In the early 20th century, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) needed to remove the steep grades and many bridges on its original route to improve efficiency in getting coal from the mines in the Crowsnest Pass to market.

Side on view of Lethbridge Viaduct
We walked the nature trails which wind under the Lethbridge Viaduct. We felt tiny beside the bases of the bridge.

Work began on this steel trestle bridge in 1907 and was completed in 1909, utilizing 12,400 tons of steel. The bridge shortened the route by 9 kilometres and removed the need to maintain 22 wooden bridges.

The railroad bridge has stood the test of time, with trains crossing it daily, more than 100 years later.

The High Level Bridge crosses the Oldman River Valley. The city has developed an extensive urban park system in the valley.  Take some time to explore the nature trails and the cultural sites found in this beautiful valley.

Lethbridge Nature Reserve

This Nature Reserve is located on the east side of the Oldman River and north of the High Level Bridge. It is a great place to hit the trails among the cottonwood trees.

The Helen Schuler Nature Centre has many unique and interactive exhibits.  Displays describe the Oldman River valley and coulee.  Temporary exhibits often highlight the area’s wildlife.  The centre provides a great introduction to hiking the trails of the 80-hectare reserve.  The roof top’s garden patio is a great place to relax and watch the trains cross High Level Bridge.

Aerial view of the Oldman River and valley
Oldman River Valley – The Lethbridge Nature Reserve is on the east side of the river.

Fort Whoop-Up and Indian Battle Park are south of the nature reserve.

Fort Whoop-Up

This replica of a late 1800s trading post was built in 1967. The original Fort Whoop-Up was just upstream. Experience the lives of the traders that visited and lived within this community. There are seasonal re-enactments and wagon rides for the kids.

When the US Army stopped the alcohol trade in Montana, many American traders moved north. In 1869, they built a trading post of Fort Hamilton, near Lethbridge. In addition to trading regular goods, such as buffalo blankets and firearms with the local Blackfoot people, the trading post also sold illegal whiskey. The fort eventually became known by its nickname, Fort Whoop-Up. 

Fort Whoop-Up with High Level Bridge in background
Fort Whoop-Up

The lawlessness of the area (including incidents such as the Cypress Hills Massacre) forced the government to take action.  A detachment of North-West Mounted Police, then newly created, was sent to the area to establish order and manage the trading post.  After several fires, the fort lost significance and was eventually deserted between 1890 and 1892.

Fort Whoop-Up is within Indian Battle Park, the site of an 1870 battle between the Cree and Blackfoot on the banks of the Oldman River (then called the Belly River).  One year later, a formal peace treaty was signed between these two first nations. The battle was the last major conflict between the two Tribes and the last tribal battle on Canadian soil.

Today, Indian Battle Park is a beautiful green space with picnic facilities.  There is a network of walking trails.  Take a walk along the river, or head up the stairways on the hillside.  Enjoy the great views of the valley and the High Level Bridge from the many benches at the end of your climb.

Aerial view of Indian Battle Park trails with bridge in background
Indian Battle Park Trails

Galt Museum

Learn about the human history of southwestern Alberta. Exhibits are changed frequently so there is always something new to discover. Enjoy the fantastic view over the valley from the back of the museum.

Lethbridge Farmers’ Market

Browse the local farmers’ market for crafts, fruits and vegetables, local meat, homemade baking, and much more.

On Saturdays from June to October, visit the Exhibition grounds. From July to September, a second Farmers’ Market is added on Wednesdays in downtown Lethbridge.

Whoop-Up Days

For 125 years, Southern Alberta has gathered at Exhibition Park for 5 days of fun during the last full week of August. The celebration of summer has a rodeo, daily concerts, midway and more carnival attractions.

Day Trips from Lethbridge

Four UNESCO World Heritage Sites are just a short drive away from Lethbridge. Use the city as a base for day trips to these amazing places.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The world-class Interpretive Centre at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump provides a fascinating look at the culture and life of the Early Plains People. Walk along the base of the jump cliffs and imagine the frenzy of the great buffalo hunt. (distance 45 min)

Rock bluff grassy plain above below

Waterton Lakes National Park

Take a boat cruise aboard the HV International in Waterton Lakes National Park. Enjoy the lakeside scenery and mountain views and cross the US/Canada border to Glacier National Park before it’s time to head back. (distance 1 hr 20 min)

Boat dock lake green-roofed building on hill

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park has the most significant collection of First Nations rock art in the North American Plains, some possibly as old as 3500 years. Hike along the trails that wind through hoodoos and sandstone cliffs and discover why this is a sacred and spiritual place for the Blackfoot First Nations. (distance 1 hr 20 min)

Gravel path through pillared-stone rock formations

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Palaeontologists have found fossils of over 49 different species of dinosaurs between 100 and 66 million years old within Dinosaur Provincial Park. Hikes of the park, both guided and self-guided, are available. (distance 2 hours)

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