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Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton, is known for the West Edmonton Mall, beautiful cityscapes, and great hockey. While it may not be known for hiking, it’s home to a number of awesome trails ranging in length and difficulty, perfect for any backpacker or city-slicker looking to escape to the great outdoors.
If you’re planning a trip to Edmonton, here’s what you need to know about hiking in the area, when to visit, and which trails are the best.
Best season to visit Edmonton
Every season in Edmonton has its perks. The winters are less crowded and offer stunning snowfalls. Summer is hot, perfect for outdoor activities like camping and fishing. Fall and Spring are shoulder seasons, offering the best of both worlds at an often more affordable price, especially true when taking a group tour. But when it comes to hiking, some months are more desirable.
Late spring (May to June)
Late spring is beautiful in Edmonton – the temperatures are moderate and warm, but not too hot or sticky. There is little humidity and the spring rainfall has finally started to subside. In terms of hiking, the conditions are near perfect. Plus, because it’s a shoulder season, you’ll find accommodations, tours, and tourist attractions a bit more affordable.
Early fall (September to October)
September and October are also great for hiking. Again, it’s a shoulder season, so you’ll see more affordable pricing with the added bonus off beautiful Autumnal landscapes. The temperatures are a bit colder than the Spring, but if you bundle up it won’t be a problem. Occasionally these months see snow, but it’s not very common.
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The best hiking trails near Edmonton
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a newbie to the trails, Edmonton has something for you. There are dozens of hiking trails near or in the city that make for perfect day trips and a chance to get out in the fresh air. Whether you’re visiting for a few hours or a few weeks, here are some of the trails you should add to your to-do list.
Elk Island National Park
Just outside the city limits is one of Alberta’s greatest hidden gems – Elk Island National Park. This park offers well-marked and meticulously maintained trails ideal for beginner hikers or anyone looking to enjoy the wilderness with ease. Whether you’re looking to spend an afternoon or a week with nature, this National Park has enough to keep your hiking appetite taken care of. From wetlands to aspen woodlands, this park seemingly has it all.
- Unique features: Bison, the northern lights, places to canoe or paddleboard
- Location: 48 kilometres east from the city centre
- Duration: Trails range from 30 minutes to 5 hours
Devon River Valley
The views around the Devon River Valley are breathtaking, making this one of the most scenic trails to hike in the Edmonton area. Most hikers opt to start their day hike in Voyageur Park, but try to get there early, as it is a popular destination on weekends or holidays. The hike will take you through dense forests and hoodoo-spotted landscapes that are perfect for photography or picnics. During the fall the colourful leaves make this hike an absolute must-visit area.
- Unique features: Great spots for picnics, charming Town of Devon, photography opportunities
- Location:40 kilometres south of the city centre
- Duration: 3 to 4 hours (shorter options available)
See Also: The Ultimate Canadian Rockies Itinerary
The Waskahegan Trail
This trail is a 309-kilometre loop that runs around and through Edmonton. The trail is one of a kind thanks to its inclusion of both public and private land that’s maintained by a team of dedicated volunteers. Because it’s primarily private land, this trail does have stricter rules than most, including no bikes, no animals, and no vehicles. That being said, it’s a great escape for both day trips and overnight backpackers, as the trail has “stopovers” and public campgrounds for spending the night.
- Unique features: Guided day trips, overnight options, wild swans, and hawks
- Location: 0 to 80 kilometres around the city
- Duration: A couple of hours to a few days, depending on the route
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Park
This public recreation area is a hotspot just about any time of the year, thanks to its range of possible activities. Winter brings snowshoeing and the Birkebeiner Ski Festival, while Spring and Summer welcome joggers, hikers, and birdwatchers. The park is home to a mountain of wildlife, from moose, foxes, and lynx – so stay alert and you may spot some. With terrain that was formed by glaciers and boulders from the Canadian Shield, some aspects of this area can be challenging, but the journey will be beautiful!
- Unique features: Fun all year round, lots of wildlife, learning centre at the starting point
- Location: 40 kilometres east of the city centre
- Duration: Options of up to 25 kilometres
White Earth Trail
North of the city sits the White Earth Valley Natural Area – a stunning escape from the city filled with unique wildlife and geocaching adventures. The landscape is diverse, boasting rolling hillsides, open lakes, and dramatic marshes. Home to blue heron, white-tailed deer, northern pike, and black bears, you’ll be sure to have an epic hike that will leave you with stories to tell. The trail isn’t challenging, and usually takes between four to five hours to complete (unless you tackle a geocaching adventure, then you may be there a bit longer).
- Unique features: Great for all ages, a wide range of wildlife, popular for geocaching
- Location: 130 kilometres north of the city centre
- Duration: 17 kilometres
River Valley Trail – Kinnaird Park Highlands
Edmonton’s River Valley Trail system is massive, covering over 160 kilometres of beautiful inner city hiking. If you visit the trail’s official website, you’ll quickly learn that to cover the entire system – Central, East, and West – would take a lot of commitment. The Kinnaird Park Highlands trail is a lesser-known trail suitable for all levels of hikers. Beginning near Concordia University, the path winds through beautiful landscapes of Kinnaird Park and even allows pets to wander off-leash. If you’re looking for hiking within the city itself this is the best place to start.
- Unique features: Pet-friendly, ideal for beginners, stays within the city, includes braille interpretive signs for visually impaired hikers
- Location: Within the city
- Distance: 5 kilometre loops available (the entire River Valley Trail system covers over 160 kilometres)
Tips for Hiking In & Around Edmonton
- Dress in layers. Depending on when and where you start your hike, the weather can change pretty quickly. For instance, starting at 7 am in the shade of the Devon River Valley will be quite a bit colder than 1 pm while hiking in the sun. It’s a good idea to pack clothes that you can layer depending on the temperature.
- Have a good raincoat. Depending on what season you decide to visit Edmonton, you may encounter some rain. While it’s less likely in the dead of summer and much more likely in the spring, it’s always a good idea to embark on hikes with a really nice raincoat. That way if it does start to rain, your day isn’t ruined.
- Look for organized tours. There are lots of hiking groups and communities in Edmonton that offer organized tours through popular trails. When you’re not familiar with the area, this can be a great way to explore without worrying about planning or organization. A simple Google search, review of park or trail websites, or even bulletin boards in sporting stores will offer insights on how to join these tours.
No matter what kind of hike you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Edmonton. From expert trails that push the limit
But hiking in Edmonton is simply one incredible experience in a country full of them. From the rugged, restless, energetic West Coast to the impressively quaint East Coast, and everywhere in between, Canada deserves your thorough exploration. And why wouldn’t you let the experts plan and guide your trip through the True North? Go touring with Costsaver and discover the best of Canada for yourself.