Hikes in Elk Island National Park
Tired of listening to horns while traffic lights and skyscrapers cloud your view? We’re exhausted even thinking about the hustle of the city! So why not get away from it all and immerse in the shaded hush of aspen, poplar, and spruce trees? Thankfully, Edmontonians only need to carve out 30 minutes of their day to reach Elk Island National Park, where a small network of trails cater to all ages and fitness levels. There may not be many hikes in Elk Island National Park, but hey, it’s all about quality over quantity, right?
The 8 Greatest Hikes in Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park is a quiet, wild wonderland that boasts various paths for all ages. If you’re short on time or would rather split your time between hiking and one of the other activities offered in Elk Island National Park, you can try out one of the shorter routes, which can last between 30 minutes to two hours, such as the easy Beaver Pond Trail. Amp up your heart rate with the more moderate Moss Lake Trail! And really challenge yourself on the 15.6km Wood Bison Trail that takes you on a loop through an aspen forest.
When you’re walking, be sure to look out for wildlife, such as bison, elk, moose, and beavers! Not sure which hike you want to do here? Take a look at some of the best hikes in Elk Island National Park below.
- Astotin Lake Lakeshore Trail - This 6.4 km out-and-back trail heads out from Astotin Lake Campground and grants stunning lakefront and island views. If you start to feel tired, you can turn around whenever you want!
- Beaver Pond Trail - This easy 3.4 km lollipop trail is another fantastic option for families visiting Astotin Lake Campground! The low elevation gain of 45 m and short distance—it usually takes one to two hours to complete—makes this a fun one for almost all ages and skill levels. Enjoy pond views!
- Islet Lake and Lost Lake Trail - If you’re looking to spend a half or full-day revelling in Elk Island National Park’s blissful forests, meadows, and lakefront views, this 17.1 km is tailor-made for you! This figure-eight route may be long, but the elevation gain isn’t too intense. If you aren’t in the mood to hike a long-distance, you can always turn around at Islet Lake.
- North Cooking Lake Trail - Located just outside Elk Island National Park, North Cooking Lake Trail is a short hike that takes under an hour to walk! The trail leads you to a lake. Spend some time here before turning around and heading back the same way you came. People also love to flock here for birdwatching!
- Hayburger Trail - Pass through marsh areas, meadows, and an aspen forest on the more moderate 11.9 km Hayburger Trail. This half-day excursion may seem long, but the small elevation gain makes it fun for families. Look out for birds in the marshes and meadows.
- Wood Bison Trail - The Wood Bison Trail is one of the most challenging hikes in Elk Island National Park, but only because of the length and not the elevation gain. This is a 15.9 km circuit that winds to Flyingshot Lake.
- Moss Lake Trail - The Moss Lake Trail immediately introduces you to Moss Lake before taking you through beaver dams and marsh areas! This 12.6 km hike is also another excellent option for those staying at Astotin Lake Campground, making it a fun half-day excursion for families.
- Astotin Lakeview Trail - If you don’t want to do the entire 6.4 km of the Astotin Lake Lakeshore Trail, opt for this 3.4 km alternative instead! This route takes you through beaver ponds and marshes before unveiling a lovely 360-view of the lake.
When Is The Best Time To Hike in Elk Island National Park?
The best time for hiking in Elk Island National Park is between May and October, when the weather is warmer! However, you can always look into snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter.
Best Regions for Hiking in Elk Island National Park
You’ll find most hikes heading out from Astotin Lake Campground, so if you’re heading out to the park for the first time, we suggest going to this area first. However, the park isn’t tough to navigate, so you won’t face problems finding any other hikes.
Other Outdoor Activities in Elk Island National Park
The best part about Elk Island National Park is its range of activities! You can go canoe or kayak on Astotin Lake, cycle on paved roads, or try mountain biking. Or, if you’re in the mood to chill, there’s always the option to relax along Astotin Lake’s beach, where there are picnic tables, fire pits, and washrooms. When the weather dips, bring your snowshoes and cross country skis and explore a winter wonderland version of the trail!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to pay to go to Elk Island National Park?
Yes! It costs $7.90 for adults (18-64) to enter, $6.90 for seniors, and kids are free. Families or groups cost $16. However, you can buy an annual pass for $40.06 (adult) and $35.05 (senior). There are early bird deals, too.
What is Elk Island National Park known for?
In 1906, Elk Island National Park became Canada’s first wildlife refuge. Its goal was to protect one of the last elk herds in the area!
Does Elk Island National park have bears?
You’ll find a range of wildlife species dotting the area, including black bears.
Can I take my dog to Elk Island National Park?
Yes! However, they must be under control at all times!
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Best Hikes in Elk Island National Park
Astotin Lake Lakeshore Trail
The Astotin Lake Lakeshore Trail is an out-and-back route that leaves directly from the Astotin Lake Campground in the heart of Elk Island Park. It is great for all abilities, and groups can choose to turn back at any time to shorten the overall distance. You will get great views of the lake and its many islands, including the notable Long Island.
Beaver Pond Trail
If you are staying at the Astotin Lake Campground or have already visited the lake, head to the Beaver Pond Trail for an easy 1-2 hour lollipop trail. This trail is a good option for all abilities and excellent for families. The circuit passes by the pond and makes a loop before returning on the lollipop end of the route.
Islet Lake and Lost Lake Trail
The Islet Lake and Lost Lake route follows a figure eight shape starting at Islet Lake. Many visitors stop at Islet Lake and take in the scenery without continuing on. The trail is largely forested between the lakes and features some lookout shelters, signage, and opportunities for wildlife sightings.
North Cooking Lake Trail
The out-and-back trip on the North Cooking Lake features a quaint lake that is located just outside of Elk Island National Park. If you are passing through the area, this is a great option to stop for some fresh air. The trail is easy to follow and manageable for all abilities.
Wood Bison Trail
The Wood Bison Trail is true to its name and offers the only chance to spot wood bison in the national park. It is a 15.9 km circuit that is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The trail circles around the plains reaching Flyingshot Lake which offers memorable views of the surrounding area. This hike is a must-do for wildlife viewing.
The gentle and relaxing Hayburger trail in Elk Island National Park is a great half day hike for families. The simple terrain is easy to follow as hikers make their way through marshes and meadows great for bird watching. Enjoy this quiet trail in the centre of the park.
Astotin Lakeview Trail
From the campground, the Astotin Lakeview trail follows an interpretive route through marshes and beaver ponds to panoramic views of the lake. If you are staying at the campground or stopping for the day, this is a bucket list trail in the area. It is quick and easy to complete and provides excellent views of the lake and its landmark islands.
Moss Lake Trail
The Moss Lake Trail passes by Moss Lake almost immediately, yet continues on through marsh areas and various beaver dams in the grasslands. There is a shortcut along the way if your hiking party wishes to cut this one short. The trailhead is nearby Astotin Lake, so if you are camping there, be sure to check this route out!
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