Lethbridge custom home at the end of a gravel driveway

Everything You Need to Know About Gravel Driveways in Southern Alberta

In southern Alberta, the choice of gravel for your driveway is impacted by our region’s diverse climate conditions. From hot, dusty summers to freezing winters, the right gravel ensures your gravel driveway looks and performs at its best. 

This guide will cover factors to consider when investing in gravel for driveways as well as what we recommend as the best driveway gravel for southern Alberta. 

A Quick Guide to Gravel for Driveways

Driveway gravel is designed to be compact, durable, and attractive. Gravel sizes vary, with the best size gravel for driveways being about 1/4-inch to 2 inches in diameter. The choice between rounded (like pea gravel) and angular (like crushed stone) depends on the specific application, local climate conditions, and desired aesthetics.

Benefits of a Gravel Driveway:

  • Effective Drainage: Gravel is more permeable than paved surfaces, allowing water to drain through and preventing pooling and erosion.
  • Durability: Its resistance to wear and weather means it can withstand the pressures of everyday use, especially in rural environments. 
  • Aesthetic Flexibility: Available in a range of colours and sizes, gravel has many options to suit different styles and dramatically enhance curb appeal.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Gravel is often more affordable than concrete, asphalt, or pavers, both in terms of initial installation and long-term maintenance.

Factors That Affect Gravel Driveways in Southern Alberta

If you live in southern Alberta, you know that the weather here can vary between intense summers and frigid winters. That means for part of the year, homeowners are faced with dry or dusty conditions, and for the other part of the year, they might deal with issues related to snow and snowmelt. 

These conditions play an important role in the type of gravel driveway you choose. Not all gravel types can handle our climate and its drastic temperature swings.

Climate Considerations When Choosing Gravel for Your Driveway:

  • Temperature Tolerance: Select a gravel type that remains stable when the ground underneath expands and contracts during freeze-thaw cycles. Choosing angular, fractured gravel that locks together can help maintain a stable surface as it grips better and is less likely to shift under frost heave conditions. 
  • Moisture Resistance: From spring rains to melting snow, excessive moisture can challenge the best of driveways. Use gravel that is known for its drainage capabilities to keep the surface dry and stable.
  • Snow Resilience: When winter throws its worst at you, your driveway needs to be prepared. Consider how different gravels handle being shovelled or plowed. Angular gravel tends to stay in place better under these conditions, keeping your driveway intact and reducing the need for frequent touch-ups.
  • Dust Management: To combat the challenge of dry, dusty conditions, opt for gravel types that are less prone to being blown away or scattered by the wind. Crushed stone and angular gravels can hold their ground better, reducing the amount of airborne dust blown around by our heavy winds.

Other Considerations to Keep In Mind:

  • Soil Type: The soil beneath your gravel, whether it’s clay, loam, or sand, plays a critical role in your gravel choice. Soil can influence the drainage efficiency and structural integrity of your driveway, especially during extreme weather.
  • Traffic: Consider how much traffic your driveway will endure and the weight of vehicles it will support. For driveways that handle high traffic, consider dense, angular gravel that resists shifting and rutting. 
  • Maintenance Expectations: How much time and effort are you willing to invest in maintaining your driveway? Some gravel types might look great but require more frequent care to keep them looking and functioning properly.

The Best Gravel for Driveways in Southern Alberta

With our unique climate conditions, choosing the right gravel involves considering durability, maintenance, and cost-effectiveness. We’ve pulled together a list of our top recommendations for driveway gravel with information on what you can expect from each.

Crushed Stone

Crushed stone is ideal for Southern Alberta’s extreme weather, offering high durability and moderate maintenance. Its angular shapes lock together to provide a stable surface, suitable for high-traffic areas and withstanding freeze-thaw cycles effectively.

Quarry Process (QP) or Crusher Run

Quarry Process, or Crusher Run, is a superb choice for driveways in areas that experience heavy rains or snow. It forms a strong, durable layer that resists washouts and shifting, with low maintenance needs once properly settled.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is perfect for creating attractive, low-traffic areas with its rounded and smooth stones. While it offers a cost-effective and visually pleasing option, it requires regular maintenance to keep it in place and looking tidy.

Jersey Shore Gravel

Jersey Shore Gravel offers a striking golden hue to enhance the curb appeal of any driveway. Best used in moderate to low-traffic areas, it balances moderate durability with relatively easy maintenance.

River Rock

River Rock is valued for its aesthetic appeal, making it ideal for decorative purposes and low-traffic zones. Though it may be pricier and require minimal maintenance, its larger size reduces shifting, making it great for stability and drainage.

A Comparison Chart of the Best Driveway Gravel

Gravel TypeOverall DurabilityDrainageSnow ResilienceDust ManagementMaintenance NeedsInitial Cost
Crushed StoneHighExcellentHighGoodModerateModerate
Quarry Process (QP) or Crusher RunVery HighGoodVery HighExcellentLowModerate
Pea GravelModerateModerateLowPoorHighLow
Jersey Shore GravelModerateGoodModerateGoodModerateModerate to High
River RockModerate to HighExcellentModerateExcellentLowHigh

Gravel Driveway Maintenance Tips

Regardless of the gravel you choose for your driveway, regular maintenance will go a long way to ensuring it looks and performs its best. This is especially true during seasons of challenging weather.

Here are some of our top tips for keeping your gravel driveway in good shape:

  • Regularly top up any depressions or potholes with fresh gravel to maintain a level surface and prevent pooling.
  • Use a landscape rake to smooth and evenly distribute gravel, especially after weather events.
  • If shovelling, angle your shovel up slightly to leave about an inch of space and minimize gravel displacement. Or better yet, use a snowblower set to a high setting to clear driveway snow.
  • Avoid using a snow plow, which will displace your gravel.

Your exact gravel driveway maintenance routine will look a little different depending on the type of gravel you have. If you’re unsure about the best way to take care of your driveway, our team is happy to give you advice and point you in the right direction.