By Jane Marshall

Travel Alberta Video:

Less than a 1 hour drive east of Edmonton is a protected wilderness just waiting for you to explore. Elk Island National Park is a place to roam with bison and enjoy the outdoors. Go for the day, or have a camping weekend.

See Free Roaming Bison

Did you know that Elk Island is responsible for saving bison from extinction? The park is home to a conservation facility aimed at preserving this species that was once tens of millions strong across Alberta. Bison roam free in the park, so when you’re put hiking, keep your eyes open to spot these majestic animals.

Parks Canada recommends:

“Try the Bison Loop Road at dawn, dusk, or on overcast days.”

Bison crossing
Photo by Edmonton Tourism

Cool Bison Facts

  • Around 400 plains bison and 300 wood bison roam the park
  • Wood bison are the largest land mammal in North America, weighing between 680 - 1,100 kg (1,500 - 2,500 pounds)
  • Bison are about the same weight as a small car

Want to learn more? Try a behind the scenes tour and see the park’s bison handling corrals.

When? October 1, October 15

Time: 2-4pm

Cost: $20 per person

Register: 780-922-5790

(Registration is STRONGLY recommended)

Click here for more information: Bison Eye View

Bison watching
Photo by Parks Canada/Scott Munn

Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

This preserve encompasses 300 sq km, including Elk Island National Park and neighbouring Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. While Edmonton has about 1 million people and lots of light, just drive east into the park for encompassing darkness. Take advantage of great dark sky programming at Elk Island; drink hot chocolate, warm up next to a campfire, and gaze at the galaxy while a park interpreter helps you understand the sky.

When?  Fridays , September 28 and October 5, 12, 19

Time: 9 - 10pm

Cost: $15 per person

Register: 780-922-5790

(Registration is STRONGLY recommended)

Click here for more information about Gateway to the Stars

Hiking at Elk Island National Park

Elk Island is a great place for hiking. Trails take you through beautiful forest, open meadows, and to lakes. Parks Canada has a great trail list. Check it out and choose your desired length and difficulty.

oTENTik in Elk Island National Park by Parks Canada

Canoeing and Kayaking

Take your boat to Astotin Lake. You can canoe around the islands on Astotin Lake or paddle to Beaver Bay for a picnic rest stop. It’s a soothing, silent way to experience the park. Paddling is quieter than footsteps!

Map of Astotin Lake

Want to stay overnight? Try an oTENTik (comfort camping without a tent). Or winter camp at Astotin Lake Campground