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.

There’s lots of things to do to fill your day.

One Day in Lethbridge Alberta

If you have one day in Lethbridge, make sure your itinerary includes these top two sites.

  1. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
  2. High Level Bridge

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

Pavilion and pond at Lethbridge's Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
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.  However, it is unique as it is designed with elements that represent the mountains and the prairies of Alberta.  Local plants and materials have been incorporated as well.

Take your time and relax.  Start by spending some quiet time in the pavilion and zen garden.  You can further immerse yourself in Japanese culture by participating in an age-old ritual, the traditional tea ceremony. Stroll through these beautiful grounds that are interspersed with flowing water, bridges, ponds and rock gardens. 

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 Park

Right beside Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, is beautiful Henderson Lake.  If you have the time, walk the full loop around this man-made lake. It’s about 2.5 kilometres.

Fountain on Henderson Lake
Henderson Lake

Lethbridge High Level Bridge

This is the world’s highest and longest steel trestle bridge.  It rises 96 meters above the river bed and is about 1.6 kilometres long.

This train bridge is officially called the Lethbridge Viaduct, but is commonly referred to as the High Level Bridge.

Side on view of Lethbridge Viaduct
The Lethbridge Viaduct

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

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 kilometers 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.

Aerial view of Lethbridge High Level Bridge
Aerial view of the High Level train bridge
Person under Lethbridge's High Level Bridge
Under the High Level Bridge

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 just north of the High Level Bridge. It is a great place to hit the trails among the cottonwood trees.

Helen Schuler Nature Centre

This small nature centre has many unique and interactive exhibits.  The displays describe the Oldman River valley and coulee.  There are also temporary exhibits that highlight the wildlife of the area.  The centre provides a great introduction before you hike the trails of the 80 hectare reserve.  You can also just relax on the roof top, green garden patio, and watch the trains go across the bridge.

Map showing of Lethbridge Nature Reserve, bridge and Indian Battle Park
Map showing of Lethbridge Nature Reserve and Indian Battle Park

To the south of High Level Bridge, is Indian Battle Park.

Indian Battle Park

Indian Battle Park was named after the 1870 battle between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes.  One year later, a formal peace treaty was signed between these two first nations.

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

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.

Fort Whoop-Up

Located within Indian Battle Park, Fort Whoop-Up is a historic replica of the original trading post of the late 1800s. 

When the US Army stopped the alcohol trade in Montana, many American traders moved north.  The trading post of Fort Hamilton was built, in 1869, near Lethbridge.

Besides trading regular goods, such as buffalo blankets and firearms with the local Blackfoot people, the trading post also sold illegal whiskey.

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

The fort eventually became known by its nickname, Fort Whoop-Up. 

The lawlessness of the area (including incidents such as the Cypress Hills Massacre) forced the government to take action.  The newly created North-West Mounted Police 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.

The current fort was built in 1967 and is just downstream from the original site.  Today, you can experience the lives of the traders that visited and lived within this community.  There are seasonal re-enactments and wagon rides for the kids.

Lethbridge Attractions and Map

Lethbridge Day Trips

Lethbridge has 3 world-renowned UNESCO sites, just a short drive away. Using Lethbridge as a base, these sites make for excellent day trip options.

1. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

This site provides a fascinating look at the culture and life of the Early Plains People. You can walk along the base of the jump cliffs and imagine the frenzy of the great buffalo hunt.
(distance 45 min)

2. Waterton Lakes National Park

Take a boat cruise aboard the HV International and enjoy the mountain views. You’ll even cross the US/Canada border and see Glacier National Park before it’s time to head back.
(distance 1 hr 20 min)

MV International and other boats docked with Prince of Wales Hotel in background

3. Writing-on-Stone Wall Provincial Park

This 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)

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Aerial view of the Oldman River and valley
Oldman River