By Jane Marshall 

My lungs inflate and deflate in a rhythmic pulse. I’m breathing hard. I’m sweaty. I feel alive.

The scene around me is made up of lush green. I’m treated to a landscape of poplars, mountain ashes, and caragana bushes that have escaped from the nearby neighbourhood hedges to travel toward the wilderness of the North Saskatchewan River. 

My legs are experiencing the tightness of lactic acid, yet they are working well, carrying me up this flight of 201 wooden stairs. Up, down. Up, down. I plan to do these stairs 8 times in order to train my body for hiking.

I’m sweating it out on one of Edmonton’s most famed (and steep!) sets of stairs: the Wolf Willow stairs. And I’m not alone: There is a mother and daughter team training with loaded packs as they prepare themselves for the Skyline Trail, a runner doing laps, and other people doing a single set during their ravine walk. The Wolf Willow stairs are my personal favourite because they are intense. I’ve met loads of nice people training for adventures around the world, including Peru and the Himalayas. There’s a feeling of solidarity, of tribe, as we physically engage with the beauty and intensity of this steep riverbank.

Here are a few suggestions:

Wolf Willow Stairs

Google Map Directions

Stair Count: 201

The steepest, baddest, and I’d say most beautiful stairs in Edmonton. This is the place to seriously train. The best way is to start at the top from Westridge. Walk a short distance to the river, turn right, and you’ll be at the top, looking out to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge. Prepare yourself mentally, then begin your descent.

Alfred H. Savage/Grandview Heights Stairs

Google Map Directions

Stair Count: 252

These stairs are awesome year-round. A favourite route of mine is to park at Snow Valley Ski Club, then run through Whitemud Creek Ravine North. You come out of the trees around Fox Drive, and there, the Alfred H. Savage stairs await. Alternately, park at the Alfred H. Savage Centre and you’ll be at the bottom of the steps.

The City of Edmonton plans to replace the stairs in spring 2020.

Royal Glenora/Ezio Faraone Stairs

Stair Count: 202

Google Map Directions

Park at the Royal Glenora Overflow Parking Lot. These stairs are popular and busy, and there’s a good vibe. They are also less steep than the Wolf Willow stairs, so you may be able to do more laps. At the top you are treated to gorgeous river views.

Etiquette

Stair training seems pretty straightforward. Walk or run up, with a pack or without, then walk or run down. But remember these key things for safety:

  • Keep dogs on leash to protect other runners
  • Stay to the right if you are slower, and pass on the left, just like driving
  • Don’t leave items on the stairs as they may become a tripping hazard

Training outside is good for body and mind. Whether you’re getting ready for a big hike, or just love free workouts, our river valley is a paradise for it all.