Are you considering a move to Alberta but looking for a peaceful location away from the big cities? If so, you may be interested in our pick of the 16 best small towns in Alberta to live in.
We first moved to Alberta from the UK in 2006. Over the years, we have travelled extensively in Alberta for both work and family reasons, and we write from personal experience. We know the province well, and we have visited the towns that we discuss.
16 Best Small Towns In Alberta
So which towns did we choose, and how did we choose them? We have tried to choose attractive towns that are large enough to provide a good community and range of amenities but still have a small-town feel.
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We have written articles on all our picks for the best small towns in Alberta. You will find links in the first paragraph for each town.
Reasons To Live In Alberta
Before choosing your ideal hometown, you need to know whether Alberta is the province for you. So, just what are the benefits of living in Alberta?
You may be surprised at this one because Alberta can be cold, actually very cold, in the winter. However, Alberta winters are less severe than in many other parts of Canada. The weather is also bright and sunny, with low precipitation and low humidity.
The low humidity means that Albertans enjoy warm, comfortable summers while other parts of Canada sweat it out in hot, humid conditions.
Cost of Living
Alberta is one of the most affordable provinces in Canada, and Albertans have a high disposable income. Provincial taxes are low, there are no public healthcare premiums, and housing costs are generally below national averages.
Alberta is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in Canada and the world. The Rocky Mountains are the most obvious example, but the province also offers beautiful lakes, wild forests and the unique beauty of the wide open prairies.
Other benefits include a strong economy, good job opportunities, world-class education, accessible healthcare, and friendly people.
Of all of the communities that made our best small towns in Alberta list, Banff is the one you most likely know. This lively town based in the Rocky Mountains is a world-renowned holiday destination that operates year-round, welcoming millions of visitors.
Banff lies in southwestern Alberta, on Hwy 1. It is around a 1.5-hour drive west of Calgary and a 10-hour drive east of Vancouver and the west coast.
The town sits at the southern end of Banff National Park, Canada’s first and the world’s third national park, and also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main benefit of Banff is pretty obvious, and that is its stunning location. It is a great place for those that love the outdoor life; there are endless hiking and biking trails, and some of the world’s best ski resorts are on its doorstep.
However, the town does sit within Banff National Park and is subject to the many federal restrictions imposed on national parks. If you are interested in living or running a business in Banff, you will need to know how these might impact you.
Banff is also one of the more expensive towns on our lists, but if you can navigate the National Park regulations and come to terms with the costs of living, it truly is a beautiful place to be.
Black Diamond is a small foothills town with a stunning Rocky Mountain backdrop. This is one of our smaller best towns in Alberta, but it has surprisingly good amenities and is also within easy reach of Calgary, Alberta’s largest city.
Black Diamond can be found on the southwestern side of Calgary. It will take you around 50 minutes to drive to downtown Calgary and less than half of this time to get to the city limits.
Despite its proximity to Calgary, residents of Black Diamond are more likely to use the amenities of neighbouring Okotoks (population around 30,000). Okotoks has an excellent retail park and an impressive range of restaurants and bars.
Black Diamond made our list of best small towns in Alberta because it has an attractive rural location, low crime rates, good schools and affordable property. The town has a small-town feel, but you have easy access to all the amenities of Okotoks and Calgary.
The only downside we can see of this town is that some people may prefer to be part of a larger community, and you will almost certainly need your own transport.
It will take you around 35 minutes to drive to downtown Edmonton and 25 minutes to drive to Edmonton city limits. It is also less than an hour from Edmonton International Airport.
We chose Bon Accord because it is a peaceful rural community but is within easy reach of Edmonton’s city limits. It is also one of the most affordable on our list of the best small towns in Alberta.
Overall the cost of living in Bon Accord is below average, even for Alberta, and this is mainly due to the low property prices. These are significantly below Alberta averages and less than half of the national average for Canada.
On the downside, this is a small community with limited amenities in the town itself. You will need your own transport if you want to make Bon Accord your home.
Camrose is one of two small communities on our list which are technically cities. Once a town reaches a population of 10,000, it has the option to apply to the province for “city” status. Many towns choose not to do this, and you will find many in the province which are significantly bigger than the “City” of Camrose.
We aren’t the only ones to appreciate Camrose. In a Moneysense survey of the best places to live in Canada, Camrose ranked 11th out of 415 cities in Canada. Camrose’s highest-ranking indicators in this survey were based on its economy and affordability.
Camrose is the regional centre for Camrose County in central Alberta. Its closest major cities are Edmonton (to the northwest) and Calgary (to the southwest). It is around 90km from Edmonton and almost 300km from Calgary.
The city has an attractive location, in an area filled with lakes. It has prairies to the south, boreal forest to the north, and the Rocky Mountains to the west.
The benefits of Camrose are that it has very good amenities for a community of its size. It has elementary, middle, and high schools within the city, with dual-track English and French Immersion available for all age ranges.
It also has very good road connections to Edmonton if you do need access to a city. However, public transport is limited, so you are likely to need a car. Also, younger people may find it lacks access to good nightlife.
Canmore is a vibrant mountain community nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. It is known for its stunning scenery, outdoor activities and diverse wildlife. It is a tourist town and a popular weekend destination for Calgarians looking to escape the city.
Canmore lies in southwestern Alberta. The closest major city is Calgary, around a 1-hour drive to the east of the town. Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, is a 10-hour drive from here.
The town lies in the Bow Valley at the southern edge of Banff National Park. The Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) and the Canadian Pacific Railroad run through the town.
Most people are attracted to Canmore by its incredible location and the range of year-round outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and winter sports. Crime is low, and as a holiday destination, it has an excellent choice of bars and restaurants for its size.
Unlike Banff, Canmore doesn’t lie within the national park, so residents and businesses aren’t tied by the many park rules. However, the downside of this is that there are many weekend and holiday homes, which push up the cost of real estate.
Banff and Canmore have the highest property prices on our list of the best small towns in Alberta. However, Canmore is an amazing town, a great place to bring up children and well worth the cost if you can make the finances work.
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Cochrane is a fast-growing Calgary commuter town popular with immigrants, particularly from the United Kingdom. Cochrane’s population is the largest of our best small towns in Alberta, with more than 32,000 residents at the last count (in 2021).
The community combines a small-town feel and proximity to the mountains with the benefits of being close to a major city. It has a quaint historic downtown area and was initially developed on the back of ranching.
Cochrane lies in southwestern Alberta, just west of Calgary, at the base of a large steep hill appropriately named “Big Hill.” The town is just 50km from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and it will take you just over an hour to get to Banff. Much of the town has beautiful views over the Bow Valley towards the mountains.
This attractive family-oriented town has good schools and some of the best sports and recreational facilities that I have seen anywhere. However, it has grown rapidly in recent years, and property prices have grown along with its popularity.
Despite this, affordable housing can be found, and many of the recent new builds have focused on reasonably priced condos and townhouses.
A recent downside of living in Cochrane has been traffic congestion as the town road infrastructure struggles to keep up with the town’s growth. However, this is expected to be a short-term issue.
Devon is an attractive riverside town with easy access to Edmonton city. It is located in a beautiful river valley with an extensive trail network and a popular day-use area.
It offers a peaceful, rural atmosphere surrounded by rolling hills and open farmlands, making it ideal if you are looking for an easy-going lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Devon lies southwest of Edmonton and is just a 40-minute drive to the city’s downtown area. It has an excellent strategic location, with great road connections, and is just a 15-minute drive from Edmonton International Airport.
Devon has a small-town feel to it but with easy access to the amenities of a large city. The town is also very affordable, and housing is cheaper than in the city. House prices are lower than average for Alberta and around half of the national average for Canada.
On the downside, job opportunities within Devon are limited, and many people commute to Edmonton for work. At the time of writing this, there was also a shortage of doctors in the town, but this is a problem for many small towns in Canada.
It lies on the Red Deer River, surrounded by a surreal landscape of hoodoos known as the Alberta Badlands. Many find the Badlands fascinating, and they are a draw for tourists, especially in the summer.
Tourists also flock to Drumheller due to its location in Dinosaur Provincial Park; the town is home to the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum.
The benefits of actually living in Drumheller include low-priced housing and real estate costs that are less than the provincial average and less than half of the average for Canada. The town also has excellent amenities for its size.
On the downside, some people may find Drumheller’s unique landscape a little bleak, especially in the winter. It is also further from a major city than most of the communities on our best small towns in Alberta list.
Fort Macleod is a small town on the edge of the Rocky Mountain foothills; you can easily see the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It has an attractive downtown which is a Designated Historic Area, and the town itself lies on rolling prairie land.
This prairie town is in southwestern Alberta, around 180km south of Calgary and just 60km from the U.S. border. The closest regional centre is Lethbridge (population 105,000), around a 45-minute drive east of the town.
Fort Macleod may not be an obvious choice, as it is a long way from a major city, and it is one of the smaller communities on our best small towns in Alberta list.
However, it is an attractive, peaceful place to call home, with good amenities for its size. A major benefit is the low cost of living and, in particular, the affordable real estate.
Lethbridge is a relatively short drive away from amenities that you can’t find in town, although you will probably need your own transport if you live here.
The area is known for its wind farms, and southern Alberta is known to be a windy location. However, many of the winds are Chinooks, which are warm winds that blow down from the Rocky Mountains and can provide much-needed relief from the bitter winter weather.
Grande Cache is a mountain hamlet on the edge of the Rockies. It is probably the most isolated of the communities in our pick of the best small towns in Alberta.
The town lies in west-central Alberta. It is located on Highway 40 (known as Bighorn Highway), approximately 145 kilometres northwest of Hinton and 435 kilometres west of Edmonton. This mountain community is on the northern edge of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains overlooking the Smoky River.
Grande Cache lies adjacent to Wilmore Wilderness Park, a beautiful location with panoramic views of mountains and river valleys. The community has suffered some ups and downs in recent years, but the economy is improving, partly thanks to a growing tourist industry.
The cost of living in Grande Cache is very low, and property prices are the lowest of the towns on our list. If you really want to escape the cities and settle in a peaceful rural community, then Grande Cache could work for you.
However, it is a small community with not many more than 3,000 residents, and it is a long way from a major city. For this reason, some may find this town a little too small and isolated.
Jasper is a mountain town within the Jasper National Park. This tourist town, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, has thousands of kilometres of trails on its doorstep and easy access to some of the best skiing in the country.
You will find Jasper on the western edge of Alberta, close to the British Columbian border. It is almost equal distances from Edmonton (390 km to the east) and Calgary (415 km to the southeast). Both cities have international airports, but the trip to Edmonton is around one hour quicker (just under 4 hours).
Living in Jasper means living in one of the most beautiful places in the world; mountains, fast-flowing rivers and a winter wonderland in the colder months.
It is a great location for people who enjoy the outdoor life and are looking for a life away from the big cities. However, the location may be a downside for some people who could find the town a little isolated.
The next biggest community is Hinton, around one hour west, with a population of around 10,000. Hinton has some big box stores such as Walmart, Canadian Tire and Mark Workwear, but you may still need to travel to Edmonton or rely on online purchases for some items.
Another downside is that property prices are quite high in Jasper, at almost double the provincial average. The remote location also means that other costs can be higher than elsewhere in Alberta. However, as a tourist destination, the town does have a great selection of bars and restaurants.
Lacombe is an attractive community that is technically a city, despite its relatively small population. It has a small-town feel and sits in rolling parkland surrounded by lakes, with the Rocky Mountains to the west and the flatter prairies to the east.
Lacombe lies in central Alberta between the cities of Edmonton (to the north) and Red Deer (to the south). The distance from Lacombe to Edmonton is 125 km, and Lacombe to Red Deer is around 25km.
The city has received many awards in recent years, but the most notable was a 5th place ranking in a Moneysense.ca survey of the best places to live in Canada. The survey ranked 415 cities in Canada based on economy, affordability, healthcare, education, weather, amenities and cultural events.
Lacombe is a great place for outdoor activities, and many Calgarians and Edmontonians head to this area to enjoy the lakes in the summer. Sylvan Lake and Buffalo Lake are easily accessible from the city, and many small lakes surround Lacombe itself.
You can also enjoy a range of winter activities, such as cross-country skiing, or you could try your hand at ice fishing.
Lacombe is well-served by schools and has good healthcare and other amenities. The community is very safe and is a good place to bring up a family.
On the downside, there is very little nightlife in Lacombe, so it may not be a great fit for younger people. Shopping options are also limited, but the regional centre Red Deer is around a 20-minute drive away.
Okotoks is an attractive town located in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. This town is the biggest on our list of best towns in Alberta, with a population of over 30,000. However, it still has a small-town feel and stunning views of the mountains to the west.
Okotoks is also a 10-minute drive from Calgary city limits, providing additional amenities and job opportunities. The town is also very forward-thinking, with an active program of economic development.
It will take you around 2.5 hours to drive to the US border from Okotoks, plus a further couple of hours to reach anywhere in the US of any size. Travelling westwards, it would take you about 12 hours to drive to Vancouver on Canada’s west coast (approximately 1000km).
Okotoks is popular with families, particularly with British immigrants. It has excellent recreational and retail facilities even for its size. If by any chance you can’t find something you need in Okotoks, you are just 10 minutes from Calgary’s city limits.
There are very few downsides to this community unless you are looking for somewhere very rural. The only negative I could find was that some areas have historically been subject to flooding, so make sure you check potential properties out for this.
Olds is a medium-sized town, on the prairies of central Alberta, with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains to its west. It is located on the north side of the Red Deer River, approximately 77km south of the city of Red Deer and 90km north of Calgary.
The town is big enough to provide most of the amenities you will need. But, if there is anything you can’t find locally, Calgary is only an hour’s drive away.
In Olds, you avoid the noise and traffic of a big city and have easy access to the many outdoor activities in the surrounding countryside. The nearby recreational areas draw crowds from Calgary in the summer.
Olds has a rural feel, but good amenities, including schools offering French immersion programs, and the town has its own hospital. Road connections are excellent; it is just an hour from Calgary International Airport. Olds is also very safe, with very low crime rates, even for Canada.
The cost of living in Olds is below average for Alberta and Canada. A significant factor is the relatively low housing costs: property costs are around 25% lower than the provincial average.
In practical terms, there are very few downsides to living in Old. The only negative for me is that the town feels a little bland and lacking in character.
Peace River is a stunning riverside town in northern Alberta. It’s an excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts, including endless options for walking, hiking and biking, both in town and in the surrounding areas.
Peace River lies in northwest Alberta, surrounded by aspen parkland. It sits on the banks of Peace River, at the point where it meets Smoky River, Heart River and Pat’s Creek.
The town is further north than our other choices for the best town in Alberta. It will take you almost 5 hours to drive southeast to Edmonton and 2.5 hours to drive southwest to Grand Prairie.
However, a major benefit is that Peace River is a relatively cheap place to live; much of this is due to low property prices, even for Alberta. The average property in Peace River is around 40% of the average for the province.
Peace River has a beautiful, peaceful location far from any major city. This will be a benefit for some, while others may find it a bit too isolated.
Pincher Creek is a small town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is situated in a beautiful valley with stunning mountain views in the distance. It is an excellent location for outdoor enthusiasts with a wide range of summer and winter recreational activities.
You will find Pincher Creek in southern Alberta, directly east of the Rocky Mountains and around 50km from the popular Waterton Lake National Park. Its location close to Waterton Lake makes it a popular tourist destination.
Calgary is a little over 2 hours away to the north and has the closest international airport to Pincher Creek. Heading south, it will take you around an hour to get to the US border. The closest sizeable community is Lethbridge, 100km to the east, with a population close to 100,000.
Overall, Pincher Creek is a relatively cheap place to live, with property prices almost half the provincial average. And unlike many other small towns, Pincher Creek also has a handful of big box stores, such as Walmart and The Brick.
Generally, Pincher Creek has excellent amenities for its size. Its main downside is that some may feel that it is a little too isolated for them.
Conclusion – Best Small Towns In Alberta
Alberta, with its diverse landscapes and vibrant communities, offers a plethora of small towns that are ideal for those seeking a peaceful life away from the hustle and bustle of big cities.
From the world-renowned tourist destination of Banff to the serene riverside beauty of Peace River, each town in Alberta has its unique charm and advantages. Whether you’re drawn to the stunning Rocky Mountains, the vast prairies, or the picturesque river valleys, there’s a town in Alberta that caters to your preferences.
With a blend of natural beauty, affordability, and community spirit, these 16 towns stand out as the best choices for a fulfilling life in Alberta in 2023. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a family looking for a safe environment, or someone seeking a quiet retreat, Alberta’s small towns offer a perfect blend of amenities, community spirit, and natural beauty.