Less than 50 kilometres from Edmonton is one of Canada’s smallest national parks. But when it comes to animal conservation, it has a big impact. 

Responsible for the protection of large herds of both plains and wood bison, Elk Island is Canada’s largest fenced national park. Open year-round, the park’s 11 trails cover more than 80 kilometres of mostly flat landscape, making the wetlands, lakes, large aspen woodlands and prairie meadows easily accessible.  A wildlife lover’s paradise, it’s easy to spot elk, whitetail deer, moose and hundreds of species of birds, so grab your binoculars and get out the door. 

photoDavid Webb

Hayburger Trail

Length: 12.2 km loop

Time: 3 - 4 hours

Named after a family who homesteaded here, this trail has an interesting history. It winds through mossy black spruce bogs (watch out for quicksand), open aspen forests and meadows, where your chances of seeing plains bison are high. Dawn or dusk is the best time for wildlife sightings.

How to access the Hayburger Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

photoKeemera

Simmons Trail

Length: 5 km loop

Time: 1 - 2 hours

This challenging trail, named after Ellsworth Simmons, one of the park’s creators, leads through lovely woodlands. It’s the perfect fall stroll to see the vivid orange and yellows of the aspen forest, as well as one of the best paths in the park to watch beavers and muskrats.

How to access the Simmons Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway or the Tawayik Trail parking lot.

Read more: Parks Canada

photoKeemera

Shirley Lake Trail

Length: 12.5 km loop

Time: 3 - 4 hours

This trail travels through meadows, aspen forests and past several lakes, meaning you’ll likely see ducks and other waterfowl. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, moose and bison on this trail.

How to access the Shirley lake Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

photoKeemera

Moss Lake Trail

Length: 13 km loop

Time: 4 hours

There are lots of rolling hills on Moss Lake Trail, so you'll get a cardio workout as you pass through mixed forests and grasslands. Lakes are also plentiful along the way, making this another great spot to view the work of the busy beaver.

How to access the Moss Lake Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

 photoKeemera

Amisk Wuche Trail

Length: 2.5 km loop

Time: 1 hour

If you’re a boardwalk lover, this is the trail for you. Amisk Wuche is Cree for the Beaver Hills. Here, you'll have close-up views of the wetland habitat. The trail is easy but diverse, leading across boardwalks, through forest and along an elevated ridgeline, which offers lovely views.

How to access the Amisk Wuche Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

photoDavid Webb

Lakeview Trail

Length: 3.5 km loop

Time: 1 - 2 hours

Take your binoculars on this one! A significant portion of the trail goes along the shoreline of Astotin Lake. Stop at the shoreline viewpoints. The other side of the loop passes beaver ponds.

How to access the Lakeview Trail trailhead: From Sandy Beach near the Pavilion or the North Astotin Lake parking lot.

Read more: Parks Canada

photoKeemera

Beaver Pond Trail

Length: 3.5 km loop

Time: 1 - 2 hours

You will notice that beavers are abundant in Elk Island Park, but this is only because they were re-introduced into the Park in the 1940s after being eliminated in the mid-1800s. Along this trail, you will see plenty of evidence of beaver activity, whether it’s old dams which they’ve moved on from or their current living quarters.

How to access the Beaver Pond Trail trailhead: From Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

 photo

Living Waters Boardwalk

Length: 300 m loop

Time: 30 minutes

Walk on water on this short, easy trail which takes you along the shoreline to a small headland, then onto Astotin Lake on a floating boardwalk. Perfect for small kids who will love the close-up views of pond life.

How to access the Living Waters Boardwalk: Behind Astotin Theatre in the day use area.

Read more: Parks Canada

 photoDan Krauss © 2016

Tawayik Lake Trail

Length: 16.5 km loop

Time: 4 - 5 hours

This trail shares a segment with the Shirley Lake Trail, then takes you on a large loop around the Tawayik (means “halfway” in Cree) Lake. At the southernmost point of the trail, a narrow land bridge between Little Tawayik Lake and Tawayik Lake is the ideal spot to look for bison.

How to access Tawayik Lake Trail trailhead: Take Tawayik Lake Road from the Elk Island Parkway.

Read more: Parks Canada

 photoKeemera

Shoreline Trail

Length: 6 km

Time: 2.5 hours

This lovely shoreline hike gives you amazing views of the water. Watch for the picnic table sign, as this rest area on a small peninsula is the perfect place to eat your lunch and listen to the birds.

How to access the Shoreline Trail trailhead: From the golf course parking lot in the Astotin day use area or along the Administration Road

Read more: Parks Canada

 photoDavid Webb

Wood Bison Trail

Length: 16 km loop

Time: 4 - 5 hours

Located on the other side of the highway, this longer, more difficult trail starts in an aspen forest and then loops around Flyingshot Lake. To keep things interesting, you will also come upon a series of boardwalks, some good ridge views and a path through the grasslands. If you want to see the wood bison (the larger and rarer species), you won’t want to miss this trail.

How to access the Wood Bison Trail: From Yellowhead Highway. Find the parking lot across from the South Entrance leading to the Visitor’s Centre.

Read more: Parks Canada

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