Mountain Equipment Company Logo

The Edmontonian guide to winter hikes

January 13, 2017

Found in Activities, Travel and places

Winters in Edmonton can get pretty cold, with plenty of snowfall blanketing the city. That said, a crisp, white Edmonton landscape offers lots to explore for hikers who don’t mind the frost. Check out these trails for some winter hiking inspiration, along with a few tips on how to make winter hiking easier in Alberta’s capital.

Miquelon Lake Provincial Park

Less than an hour away from Edmonton, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park has several trails that are well-suited for anyone who’s new to winter hiking. For something short and simple, try the 0.6-km out-and-back trail by Grebe Pond. With a great view of the pond, you just might spot some wetland wildlife along the way. Or if you prefer a longer route, you can walk the 3.7-km Shoreline Path. What’s handy about this trail is that it connects with a few campgrounds, so you can turn a day trip to Miquelon Lake into an overnight stay.

William Hawrelak Park

William Hawrelak Park in Edmonton, Alberta

Besides hosting events like the Silver Skate Festival, William Hawrelak Park features lots of open areas that are perfect for winter hiking. Try the Emily Murphy Link, a 1.5-km trail that connects with Emily Murphy Park – this route offers gentle, flat terrain so it’s a nice choice for a relaxing route. Or choose between the Perimeter Loop trail (2.6km) and Inner Loop trail (2km) to get a clear shot of the frozen lake as you make your way around the park.

Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park in winter

Home of the bison traffic jam, Elk Island National Park offers plenty of scenic winter hiking trails. If you’re hoping to do some wildlife watching, winter is a great time to visit as the fallen leaves allow hikers more visibility to see the famed bison and other animals. Check ahead on snow coverage so you can decide which gear – like snowshoes and traction devices – you’ll need to pack.

Once you’re at the park, enjoy a walk on the Shirley Lake Trail, a 12.5-km loop that leads you through aspen forest and meadows, and past shallow lakes and ponds. Along the way, you might spot some waterfowl, elk or bison so remember to bring binoculars. If you’d rather take a shorter route by Shirley Lake, the 5-km Simmons Trail may be a better fit for you. From the Shirley Lake Trailhead, you’ll make your way through rolling hills and into a few open areas, which are top-notch spots to watch beavers and muskrats. Afterwards, you can warm up with a tasty beverage like butter tea or lentil soup.

What to wear winter hiking

Close-up of hiking boots in snowshoes

Before you jump outside, make sure you’re wearing the right layers to stay warm without overheating as you start moving. Some tips:

  • Start with a base layer and look for seamless or flat-seamed garments that won’t rub against your skin when you put on a backpack.
  • Add a mid-layer for insulation. Some options? A down or synthetic puffy jacket or a gridded or light-loft fleece layer.
  • Put on a breathable, protective outer shell as your top layer. Look for waterproof, windproof fabrics to keep you shielded from snow and cold gusts. If you do start to feel overheated during your hike, it’s easy to unzip your top layer without getting too chilly.
  • Wear hiking boots to keep your feet comfortable and dry.
  • If there’s fresh snow or icy terrain, be sure to pack traction devices or snowshoes to get better grip on the ground.

For more tips on what to wear, check out our guide to clothing layers or visit the MEC Edmonton or MEC South Edmonton Common stores to chat with friendly staff in the know.

Photo credits: ellobo1 / Getty Images, Kurt Bauschardt, 2009fotofriends /

Recent articles