With plenty of time left to sightsee this summer, many of us are looking forward to getting behind the wheel, hitting the open road and exploring Canada’s secret treasures.

Although vacations may look a little different this year as we prefer to stay closer to home, the day trip has emerged as the preferred getaway, according to a national survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Toyota Canada.

Only a quarter of Canadians feel comfortable taking a plane at the moment, but 70 per cent do feel comfortable travelling by car outside of their city or town. Good gas mileage is particularly important to Albertans, with more than three-quarters stating that’s their top concern for their summer road trip vehicle. Of those planning to hit the road, most are opting to stay within a 100-kilometre radius of home.

But with everyone aching to get out of the house, popular destinations are bound to be overrun by tourists. Fortunately, there are still plenty of places to visit if avoiding crowds is a priority for you.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack up your vehicle and check out these lesser known but exciting day-trip destinations!

Calgary

  • Big Horn Falls. Near Sundre, Big Horn Falls in Ya-Ha Tinda is known as one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets. Get wet with an adrenaline-fuelled rafting trip down the Red Deer River and enjoy hiking and waterfalls. Don’t miss the outdoor Pioneer Museum, which houses buildings like a ranger station and blacksmith shop, to get a glimpse of what life was like in the early 1900s.
  • Kananaskis. Found on Highway 22, just off the Trans-Canada Highway, Kananaskis Country (or K-Country) is like the best of Banff without the crowds. Think pristine lakes, incredible hiking trails and frequent sightings of wildlife like bears, moose and bighorn sheep.
  • Millarville. Only 35 minutes southwest of Calgary, Millarville offers plenty for families to do. The Saturday Farmers’ Market features food, art and other goods that are at least 80 per cent grown, made and sourced in Alberta. Add to that family-friendly rodeos, horse racing, art galleries, a winery, unique local artisan studios plus a whole lot of western culture, and Millarville is sure to be a hit.

Edmonton

  • Elk Island National Park. This national park maintains a pretty low profile compared to Jasper and Banff, making it a great hidden gem. Spread a blanket and gaze at a starry sky free from city lights or follow the footprints of a bison and learn how this magnificent animal was brought back from near extinction to roam the park today. In addition to being an important refuge for bison, elk and more than 250 bird species, Elk Island National Park is also an oasis of calm for day picnickers and overnight campers alike.
  • Devon. Just 40 minutes from Edmonton, you’ll find the under-the-radar town of Devon. Here, you’ll meet friendly folks without the hustle and bustle of more touristy towns, and enjoy plenty to do, from riding the trails at Riverview Bike Park to exploring an adorable array of cafes and shops.
  • Pembina River Tubing. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Pembina River Valley by taking a leisurely float down the Pembina River. During your float, you’ll be able to admire the 62-metre gorge and different kinds of wildlife while bathing in the sun.