When you can’t make it to the mountains, there are a few hidden gems not too far from Edmonton that can still give you that outdoorsy fresh air fix. If you head out of the city in almost any direction, there are some great hikes near Edmonton that will do the trick.
2020 has been the summer to explore a little of your own backyard, and I was surprised to find that there are hundreds of kilometres of trails to discover, all within an hour from Edmonton.
Here are my favorite day hikes around Edmonton, plus a few bonus hikes within Edmonton’s River Valley system that are often overlooked (but shouldn’t be).
Before you head out, be sure to inquire about trail conditions.
Many low spots in these parks can be temporarily flooded due to spring runoff or heavy rain. And always bring bug spray.
Double check your day hike packing list and hit the trails!
Devon Voyageur Park
Devon is only 30 minutes south of Edmonton, and its main outdoor attraction, the Devon Voyageur Park, is situated right along the North Saskatchewan River.
If you’re looking for suggestions for hikes near Edmonton besides Elk Island National Park, the trails in Devon are my number one recommendation! At about the same distance as EINP from Edmonton, you get way more challenging hikes and views.
Devon River Valley Trail
The best hike here is the Devon River Valley Trail which is about 3kms and will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your speed and whether you stop for some photo breaks (pro tip – just say you’re taking a photo instead of catching your breath 😉 ).
You get great views of the steep river valley cliffs, and the best part is climbing the Legs of Fire Stairs – very appropriately named! You can find many trail sections here that are relatively steep and moderately challenging.
The last time I hiked in Devon, my crew and I just decided to make our way to the famous stairs and wandered through the different trails in the woods. We encountered boardwalks, steep gravel and dirt trails and some great paved spots with little lookout perches.
Overall we spent about 2 hours navigating through some up and down terrain for a total of about 6kms. On our way back to the parking lot we followed the river’s edge and saw many people who had claimed some nice little private sandy beach coves along the river for some evening fishing and picnics.
We will definitely pack some lawn chairs and end our hike this way next time we’re out.
For a longer hike not far from Edmonton, this one is about 12 kms round trip. This trail starts at Prospector’s Point, which is right near the big bridge that crosses the North Saskatchewan River to get to Devon. Aptly named, you might even catch people panning for gold flecks here.
For a great day trip idea from Edmonton, park here, do the 6km trail where you’ll end at the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens. Explore the stunning floral showcase for an hour or two, and then make the trek back to Devon.
If you’re planning to hike with your dog, I would stick to the trails within Voyageur Park. Dogs are not allowed at the U of A botanical gardens, and since it’s an out-and-back trail, there’s not much of a destination at the end if you’ve got your pooch with you.
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
For more underrated hikes near Edmonton, the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Recreation Area offers tons of variety. It’s easy to access from the Anthony Henday onto Highway 14. The entire area is massive, with 4 staging areas to explore. There are over 100kms of trails here, and many are shared use for hiking, biking and equestrian.
However, certain trails are just for hiking and biking, in case you have dogs with you and don’t want to chance encountering a horse.
We’ve explored the trails a few times and never encountered anyone on the trails, only in the parking lot or trailhead areas.
These are great hiking trails near Edmonton if you want minimal interaction with others (the perfect hiking spot to be physically distanced from others).
Islet Lake Staging Area
I love the Islet Lake area as a great starting point for tons of trails. We trekked for several kilometres and found many sections were slightly hilly with some incline.
You won’t get tons of elevation gain, but the rolling hills are often enough and will get your heart rate up.
You’ll be meandering through woodland forest where some trails have a little gravel, but most are just hard packed.
The whole area is a very popular spot for cross country skiing in the winter. The trails are well-marked, with lots of signage and there are lots of outhouses, shelter huts and picnic tables along the way.
Dogs are also allowed on-leash. This entire area is an amazing spot for wildlife viewing, including trumpeter swans, which are the largest and rarest swans in the world.
The trails at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Recreation Area are a perfect hiking alternative to Elk Island.
A lot of the same terrain, same distance from Edmonton, similar wildlife (except bison) and no park fees since it’s a provincial site.
Bonus tip – if you’re up for an evening hike, on Tuesday nights (in the summer) you will pass by the Deville Community Farmer’s Market.
Pick up some snacks on the way out or fresh produce on your way home for dinner! You’ll pass right by.
Miquelon Lake Provincial Park
This is another scenic spot for hiking, and well maintained since it’s a provincial park. It’s located 65 kilometers southeast of Edmonton and not too far from Camrose.
Since it’s only about 45 minutes from the city, Miquelon is one of the more popular choices to go camping near Edmonton.
Overall there are about 20kms of maintained gravel or dirt trails, with a back-country feel.
Miquelon Lake Loop is about 9km, and you’ll find some old and abandoned structures along the way, as part of this land used to be privately owned and has since been donated for public use and is now a provincial park.
If you’re visiting in the spring or after a couple days of rain it will likely be quite muddy so be prepared.
Have lots of bug spray on you at all times. Keep an eye out for wildlife everywhere – the trails are named after many animals seen in the area.
Hint – Make a day out of it by starting in Camrose with coffee at some of the cute downtown cafes, or head into Camrose after your hike for some hard ice cream at Mirror Lake or a cold pint at Battle River Brewery.
Bonus tip – visit on Fridays on the summer to shop at the Miquelon Lake Farmer’s Market, open from 4-8 pm.
Elk Island National Park
This area is probably the most well known in the capital region for hiking near Edmonton. While there’s not much elevation gain here, there’s over 80kms of trails to explore.
Despite the flat terrain, the mixed forests and marshes and meadows aplenty do make for some beautiful scenery in their own way. The quiet stillness makes you forget you’re only 30 minutes from the city.
Plus, the free roaming bison are a sight to see in themselves.
Beyond hiking, it’s a great spot for lake activities like canoeing or kayaking, perfect picnics and bird watching. A lot of people are quick to write off Elk Island for hiking trails near Edmonton, but what makes it really stand out is the lack of light pollution being so far from the city making for perfect stargazing conditions.
It’s part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, so you know it’s legit! Plan a late afternoon hike, pack a picnic for dinner, see if you can spot some bison at dusk, and stay for nightfall on a clear night and wait for the sky to sparkle.
Trails that have the best chance of viewing bison are the Hayburger Trail to see plains bison or the Wood Bison trail to see wood bison. Yes, there are two different kinds of bison at this park!
The wood bison are most recognizable by the much bigger hump between their shoulders. Wood Bison is also the longest hike here – you’ll clock about 15 kms.
For a trail that’s considered a little more ‘challenging’ than most, try the Amisk Wuche Trail. It’s short (averaging about 40 minutes), but one of the only trails in Elk Island with some moderate inclines along the way.
The shorelines trail along Astotin Lake does offer nice views if you’re looking for something other than just meadows and marshes.
Riverside Nature Trail
This trail is located on the outskirts of Edmonton, just north of Sherwood Park and follows the river toward Fort Saskatchewan (you can make it in 11.5 kms).
Although It’s not the most visually or physically exciting trail on this list, it’s hard packed gravel and nice and wide, so there’s lots of space for groups or if you’ve got your dogs.
While there are only a few viewpoints of the river, it’s a very underutilized trail if you’re looking for a spot not far from the city but far from others.
This is also a great spot for wildlife viewing, as many trail users have reported seeing pelicans, eagles and deer.
Keep an eye on the Riverside Nature Trail, as there are plans to build a pedestrian bridge across the river to connect it to the east end river valley trail soon!
This means that when the bridge is built, you can follow the trails through the entire river valley from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan, all connected!
I can tell you that that will be the ultimate hiking trail in and around Edmonton.
As an added bonus, there are a few low spots where you can walk down to the river. Bring some chairs and your fishing rods and find a beach inlet to hang out and catch the evening sun facing west.
Hard Luck Canyon
If you feel like venturing out a little further from Edmonton for a hike, travel 2 hours west on Highway 43 to Whitecourt.
In the middle of town, watch for signs to turn south to visit Hard Luck Canyon (about 20 minutes, the second half is a gravel road).
From the parking lot, it’s a 5 minute flat hike through the forest on a hard packed gravel trail, with interesting interpretive signage taking you back in time as you get closer to the canyon.
You’ll walk down some stairs to a small bridge which presents your first view of the expansive canyon walls. Then keep heading down the steep stairs to get to the canyon bed and creek and check out the waterfall.
The small creek runoff from the McLeod River provides a few spots to dip your toes on a hot day.
It gets busy here on sunny weekends, but you could easily spend an hour or more enjoy the water and the view, or be in and out in 20 minutes if you’re passing through the area.
Be sure to take the loop trail back to the parking lot to get an extra view of the canyon.
If you have kids with you, Hard Luck Canyon is a great spot for a day trip from Edmonton.
Spend some time here and then visit the Whitecourt Rotary Park where you can go bring tubes for the river slides and splash around at the spray park.
Bonus Lesser Known Hikes Within Edmonton
East End River Valley Trail
This trailhead is located up by the Quarry Golf Course, and is one of the most recently completed trail projects by the River Valley Alliance to eventually connect the entire river valley system from Devon all the way to Fort Saskatchewan.
The trailhead starts with either stairs or a downhill paved path, and goes for about 10 kms, with another hill in the middle and one at the end.
We were here on a sunny Saturday afternoon and only ran into a few people.
Some may not really consider this spot a hike, since it’s freshly paved asphalt, but there are some rolling hills with nice river valley scenery, so it made the list!
MacTaggart Sanctuary to the Wildlife Underpass
This is a beautiful little ravine hike within southwest Edmonton. There are a few trails within the MacTaggart area, some a little more difficult than others, so it’s a great spot to get a little warmth in your legs.
You can follow the trails for about 3.5 kms until you hit an unused gravel road, which is actually labeled as 142 street.
Follow the road south toward the Anthony Henday and then walk downhill along the first path toward whitemud creek where you’ll find the wildlife underpass.
A neat little area to check out and take some photos, and then the steep hill climb on the way back will get your legs and lungs fired up again.
I’ve got my eye on a few more hiking trails near Edmonton to check out soon, so be sure to subscribe to my email list if you want to be notified when I update this post!
Want to discover more Alberta hidden gems? Check out these posts to read more:
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