Best Hikes and Walks in Edmonton
Nature is calling! Hear the hoot of a wise old owl, the chitter chatter of a chipmunk or the splash of a beaver in a nearby stream as you explore North America's largest stretch of urban parkland. The city maintains over 150 kilometres of pathways and trails that wind through the North Saskatchewan River Valley. Many of these trails are paved and intended for mixed use, meaning cyclists are welcome (although a few of our favourites are foot traffic only). You can also head 45 minutes east of the city to Elk Island National Park where the bison roam and the prairie sky extends as far as the eye can see.
What are you waiting for? Start exploring!
Let local adventurer, Connie Smart, be your guide to some of the city's best hikes and walks. Then read on for many more trails to discover!
Take your cardio game to the next level and embark on a 1km trail with approximately 200 steps to conquer. The Wolf Willow Stairs are a favourite spot amongst local fitness enthusiasts - and there's little doubt as to why. This towering staircase is definitely a challenge but the views make the climb worthwhile! Make sure you take a moment to catch your breath at the top of the steps and snap a photo of the awe-inspiring river valley below.
With a starting point near Fort Edmonton Park and the John Janzen Nature Centre, a walk through Whitemud Park can be just the beginning of a day full of outdoor activity. The trailhead is found south of the Alfred H. Savage Centre, which is a good spot to stop for water and a bathroom break. The trail runs through Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve and is foot traffic only, no bicycles allowed. The full trail distance is 6 kilometres - however, the halfway point at Snow Valley is a natural turnaround point.
On the north shore of the North Saskatchewan River, and not far from downtown Edmonton, is Government House Park. This park is a favourite for locals who like to picnic, run, or cycle. Running along the river before turning up into MacKinnon Ravine, this 2.5 kilometre (5 kilometres with return) trail features an increasing incline further into the route and some magnificent river valley views along the way.
Want to explore Edmonton's trails but aren't sure where to start? Look no further than Hawrelak Park. Home to many summer and winter festivals, it's an easy choice if you’re not a big hiker or if you have young kids in tow. Take a gentle stroll around the lake after a picnic, or head to the forest trail on the west side of the park for something a bit more challenging. On non-event days, parking is a breeze, making this an accessible spot to start your adventures.
Start off this walk at a nearby downtown coffee shop and get yourself a warm drink to-go, then head to the Instagram-worthy 100 Street Funicular, which gives easy access by way of two elevators into the river valley trail system. Next, you’ll cross the historic steel low-level bridge and dip back under the bridge to start off on the trail next to the river. Most of the south side path winds its way through beautiful tree covered trails, encountering two tiny neighbourhoods nestled off of Scona Road. This route is the perfect mix of city and nature!
The 186-hectare Terwillegar Park in southwest Edmonton makes a nice spot for a picnic or leisurely nature stroll in the summer, and the right terrain for cross-country skiing in the winter. For a more structured route, walk or run the perimeter of the park, starting at the parking lot, for a total of 6.5 kilometres and a nice view of the river. Terwillegar Park is an off-leash dog park, meaning your best furry friend can get in on the action too!
Also a part of Twin Brooks District & Nature Park, this hidden gem of a trail is located in the city's southside. A little rugged in some parts, Mactaggart Sanctuary Path is a 2.3 kilometre loop that is best used from May until October. You'll feel like a true adventurer navigating the various terrain, while spotting wildlife tucked away between the trees.
Kinnaird park is a great place to bring your pup, with on/off-leash areas, stairs and river access. This is also where the famous river valley swing is located, so keep your eyes peeled for this local landmark. You'll find yourself surrounded by trees as you navigate one of the most beautiful hikes in the city. Keep your eyes peeled for various species of birds as you explore this picturesque 4.3 kilometre loop. Note, there is a fairly steep hill on the way down near the end of the trail, so wear a good pair of shoes!
Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park is not only a great spot for stargazing (it's a dark sky preserve after all), but is the perfect place to watch grazing bison in the distance. Camp beside the lake and spend the afternoon hiking through the variety of trails (lucky for you, there are options for all skill levels).
An easy 3.5 kilometre hike through Aspen forest and sedge meadows, the Beaver Pond Trail is a great route for viewing birds in the summer and grazing animals in the winter. Interesting fact: beavers that you may spot on this hike are the result of reintroduction by park staff in the 1940s, as the fur trade had previously eliminated the original beaver population.
For the more ambitious hiker, try the Tawayik Lake Trail which leads past the lake, through aspen forests and meadows. This difficult trail is 16.5 kilometres and will take 4 to 5 hours to complete for most. When you access the trailhead, on Tawayik Lake Road, keep your eyes peeled for the bench commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1984.