Blink and you may just miss the village of Alix in central Alberta…and if you do, you’d miss out.
Alix may be small, but it has a surprising amount of fun activities and things to do, with some being particularly unique to the area.
Having spent some time in the Lacombe last year, we were happy to discover that Alix provides another reason to travel to this region.
This is a place that you definitely need to get off the highway and dig a little deeper.
The lake dotted, rolling hill landscape hides some great outdoor recreation opportunities, complemented by some one-of-a-kind local businesses.
In this post, we’ll share the best (tried and tested) things to do in Alix, Alberta, along with recommendations for places to stay and eat.
Published August 2023. We visited Alix in late July 2023, in partnership with Lacombe Regional Tourism.
Introducing Alix, Alberta
Alix is a small village (pop. 800) in Alberta, Canada, located on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Stoney, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Blackfoot / Niitsítapi, Tsuut’ina, Métis and Cree.
A 40 minute drive east of Red Deer, Alix is almost half way between Calgary and Edmonton. The town of Stettler is another half hour to the east of Alix.
The community was originally established as Toddsville in 1900, after American settler Joseph Todd.
The name was changed less than 10 years later after a chance meeting between Canadian Pacific Railway President William Van Horne and the first white female settler in the area, Alexia Westhead.
Ranching was the main industry initially, until the Alix Creamery opened in 1916. The railway was also a focal point, with there being as many as three stations in Alix at one point.
Alix’s most famous resident is Irene Parlby, Alberta’s first female cabinet minister and one of Canada’s ‘Famous Five’ suffragists.
Of course, Irene is only the most well known human resident of Alix. A large dark creature was first spotted swimming in Alix Lake in 1979.
Locals theorised that it could be a sturgeon, beaver or…an alligator? The legend of Alix’s mascot, the Alixgator, was born.
Alixgator aside, Alix is a peaceful village today. It’s an ideal detour when driving between Highway 2 and Stettler or day trip destination from Red Deer or Lacombe.
The best things to do in Alix, Alberta
Without any further ado, let’s start sharing the best things to do in Alix, Alberta! The below map shows where to find our top picks for activities in the Alix area.
Walk the Alix Nature Trail
Without a doubt, Alix’s star attraction is the 6.3km long Nature Trail that circles Alix Lake. In addition to the scenic views of the water and calming atmosphere, there is an abundance of wildlife activity to enjoy.
The trail experience changes from season to season, as migrating birds arrive and leave. I’d highly recommend downloading the Merlin Bird ID app to help identify the many different birds as you walk.
Almost completely flat for the entire length, the Alix Nature Trail is super accessible and family friendly. Interpretive signage is provided along the path, with outhouses and benches at regular intervals.
There are two main trailheads, on 54th Street and also on Lake Street. Note that the northeastern section does run through a residential area.
Visit the Saving Grace Animal Society (and fall in love!)
Helping put the village firmly on the map, the fabulous Saving Grace Animal Society is based in Alix.
This charitable sanctuary, and its passionate 20+ person strong team, provides care and foster support for up to 300 animals (both domestic and farm) at any given time, with around 100 adoptions every month.
The idea for a welfare-focused animal refuge was sparked by co-owner Erin Deems, who had previously worked as an an inspector in federal and provincial meat processing facilities and also as a Peace Officer for the SPCA.
Why Alix, you may ask? The village sits almost exactly half way between Lacombe and Stettler, the hometowns of the two founders. Rent is cheaper here, which enables Saving Grace to care for more animals.
Animal lovers are welcome to visit the main facility, with informal tours offered. Call first if you can and plan to arrive sometime between 10am and 4pm.
Donations are gratefully accepted, to help cover vet costs and other operations. And if you have a place in your home for a new member of the family, check out Saving Grace’s very active Facebook page for adoptable animals.
Paddle, boat and swim in Alix Lake
Of course, Alix Lake isn’t just a place to walk around. It’s a great place to paddle, boat and swim as well!
A boat launch sits just off Main Street, with a large turnaround area and floating wooden dock. The lake is one of the more interestingly shaped in the area, with several intricate bays to explore.
The municipal beach by the campground is an ideal spot to launch a canoe or kayak, with a long sandy beach and conveniently close parking.
As previously mentioned, the lake is home to many birds and small mammals. Exploring in a non-motorised boat is the perfect way to quietly observe them.
The beach launching spot is the perfect place to swim too, with a roped swimming area and nearby shower facility.
Learn about Alix’s origins and influential residents at the Wagon Wheel Museum
As briefly mentioned above, Alix is host to some surprisingly big history and the Wagon Wheel Museum is the best place to learn about it.
The exhibits showcase pioneer living and ranching life through the 20th century, with a focus on local residents, the Central Alberta Dairy Pool, the railway, sports and the impact of the world wars.
I particularly enjoyed the museum’s focus on influential women in the community, with Irene Parlby being just the most well known. Alix is, after all, named after a woman, something that is quite unusual in Canada.
On the theme of names, you may wonder exactly how many wagon wheels are featured in this museum. The answer is none at all!
The name refers to Alix (and the museum) acting as the the hub of a wagon wheel, with the rim formed by the region and the spokes being the surrounding school districts.
The museum is a particularly great for families, with many small Alixgators hidden within the exhibits for children to find. Entrance is by donation.
Browse Alix’s independent stores and cafes
Genuine Reveal is a must see in Alix, a hobby/decor shop featuring trading cards, spots items, board games and handmade gifts. It’s an intriguing mix, presented by one of the friendliest couples in town (and dog Moose).
Sweet Crumbs Cakery at The Pantry is another essential stop, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
The cinnamon buns here are mouth smackingly tasty (we loved the maple pecan version in particular) and some are as large as your head! There are delicious lunch options too.
Looking for somewhere to eat in the evening? Check out Sally’s Kitchen in the Alix Hotel (classic Canadian fare plus ice cream) or Jeanne’s Pizza Pantry (loaded pies, wings, fish and chips).
Play a round of golf at Haunted Lakes Golf Club
With rolling hills and beautiful water views, Alix’s Haunted Lakes Golf Club is a picturesque location for a round of golf. The course features nine holes, with three sets of tees on each.
Wondering where the ‘haunted’ name comes from? Before the area was settled by Europeans, Indigenous people often camped on the lake’s eastern shore.
So the story goes, seven hunters were camping on the lake one winter and spotted the head and antlers of a deer caught in the ice.
Upon reaching the deer, the hunters began to chop away at the ice surrounding it. As it turns out, the animal was still alive. The deer broke free from the ice and swam to shore. The hunters fell through the ice and drowned.
It is said that the Indigenous hunters continue to haunt the lake today, with a huge fissure (the path of the deer) appearing in the ice during winter each year.
Meet the resident pelicans on Haunted Lakes
Have you ever paddled with pelicans before? I hadn’t until our early morning canoe trip on Haunted Lakes!
American white pelicans can be found on some of Alberta’s freshwater lakes during the April to October breeding season. Haunted Lakes has a resident ‘pod’ of pelicans, who can often be spotted from shore.
It felt very special to be able to paddle alongside these huge birds. And I never guessed I’d have this kind of experience in the middle of Alberta!
Launch your canoe or kayak from the Haunted Lakes campground (if staying overnight) or the day use area. Motorised boats are not permitted on the lake.
Hike to the Red Deer River at Kuhnen Natural Area
Escape into 65 acres of nature at Kuhnen Natural Area, a quick drive south of Alix.
A short, easy trail leads 500m from the parking area to several lookout points over the river, with plenty of interpretive signage and benches along the way.
The trail continues another 1km to the shores of the Red Deer River (3km total return distance). The path becomes more narrow as it travels through a marshland area and then steeply downhill. The wide and peaceful Red Deer River finally appears, lined by grassy banks and clay cliffs.
The upper section of trail (1km return) is very family friendly and accessible. The latter part, down to the Red Deer River, features uneven surfaces and overgrown foliage. The path becomes very slippery after rain, due to the bentonite clay it sits on.
This is the second piece of property gifted to Lacombe Country by the Kuhnen family. The first is located in Blackfalds, south of Lacombe.
Take a side trip to Mirror
The tiny hamlet of Mirror sits just ten minutes drive north of Alix, making for a fun side trip when in the area.
In recent years, Mirror has been best known as the home of Gracie D’s, one of the most unique antique shops around. More than a dozen themed buildings contained thousands of collectibles and antiques. The owner advised us, however, that Grace D’s was sadly closing up at the end of July 2023, shortly after our visit.
The Mirror Market, another antiques store, continues to operate just down the road in the old curling rink.
Another reason to visit Mirror is to check out the small District Museum (admission by donation) and brightly painted caboose railway car. The latter sits right on Highway 50, welcoming visitors to town.
Mae’s Kitchen is a reliable pick for lunch or an early dinner while in Mirror. Think generous portions of classic Canadian dishes but with a little less guilt, since the fries are air fried rather than deep fried! Be sure to try (or take home) a slice of homemade fruit pie.
Where to stay in Alix, Alberta
We stayed at the Haunted Lakes Campground, which features 16 well spaced sites (plus overflow spots) situated between the lake and the highway. The golf course is immediately adjacent, with the town of Alix less than five minutes drive.
Half of the sites are located right on the lakefront, offering unobstructed water views and access. I was pleasantly surprised by how private and shaded the sites were; it felt more like a provincial park than a private campground.
On the downside, there is a little noise from the highway (but not too much) and there are no showers. Prices are very reasonable, however, with powered sites being $25/night on weekdays and $30/night on weekends.
Another great local camping spot is Alix Campground. The location is simply fabulous, with the lake, sandy beach and roped swimming area a literal stone’s throw away. Alix’s shops and eateries are less than 10 minutes walk up the street.
The campground hosts 11 powered sites plus additional tenting space. There are showers and flush toilets plus a playground and covered cooking area. The prices are very reasonable too – $35 for powered sites, $25 for tenting. For families, this is an easy choice!
Not camping? The Alix Inn has ten guest rooms, each uniquely decorated (with some themed rooms available).
This motel style property has an on-site coffee shop, so no need to leave the property to get a proper java fix in the morning! Breakfast is also available.
Other Alberta posts you may find helpful for trip planning:
Stettler, Alberta: Best Things to Do & Where to Eat
19+ Fun Things to Do in Lacombe: Your Guide to Central Alberta’s Most Happening Little City
Unique Places to Stay: Charming Inns of Alberta
Pigeon Lake Ice Golf Tournament: Alberta’s Most Unique Winter Event
11 of the Best Things to Do in Sundre, Alberta
Hiking the Kananaskis Valley from Mount Engadine Lodge, Alberta
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada