Locals know that there’s no shortage of outdoor havens in the Greater Edmonton area. From river ecosystems and accidental beaches to an extensive network of hiking and biking trails, Edmontonians have plenty of opportunities to get outside. I’ve raved about some of Edmonton’s best day hikes before, but what if you don’t have a car? Thankfully, the city’s transit system and Parkbus has you covered, so even without your own set of wheels, the great outdoors are still within reach.
1. Elk Island National Park
Located to the east of the Edmonton City Centre, Elk Island National Park is one spot you don’t want to miss. Grab your friends and spend the day exploring (and bison searching) on the park’s numerous trails, ranging from short and easy boardwalk loops to longer and more challenging tracks. Bring a picnic lunch to hang out on the beach after your hike, or rent a paddleboard on-site to float on the lake.
How to get there: Elk Island National Park is now accessible via Parkbus, an initiative supported by MEC that helps transport Canadians to their next outdoor adventure. And for 2018, it’s a free day trip shuttle! Be sure to make your reservation online to guarantee a spot.
Good to know: The shuttle is free, but if you’re over 18 there’s a $7.80 national park entrance fee.
“When we pick up people from the park, it’s great to see everybody’s smiling faces and hear all the stories from passengers on board as we make our way back to the city.” – Alex and Boris, Parkbus co-founders
2. Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park
A giant aquatic ecosystem right on the western edge of the Edmonton and St. Albert city limits? You got it! Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park is home to some of the best bird watching in the area, as well as an 8km lake and an interpretive boardwalk and wildlife viewing area. The best part is that it’s totally accessible via the Enjoy Centre stop on the St. Albert Botanical Loop.
How to get there: The St. Albert Botanical Loop is a hop-on, hop-off free transit loop touring some of the best botanical themed locations in the area, and runs on Saturdays in summer. There are plenty of buses from Edmonton to the St. Albert Centre Transit Exchange where you can join the loop (check out the ETS Trip Planner to plan out your day).
Good to know: The bus also stops at the St. Albert Farmers Market and the Enjoy Centre, two great places to spend some time after a morning of nature. More info is available on the Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park site.
3. Red Willow Trail System
The City of St. Albert has some really well organized trails and parks of its own. The Red Willow Trail System boasts over 85km of recreational use trails that link all of the city’s neighbourhoods and parks, many of which run along the Sturgeon River. The trails are multi-use, so you could also bring along your running shoes or your bicycle to start exploring.
How to get there: The Edmonton Transit system runs regular buses to the St. Albert Centre Transit Exchange. Download ETS’s easy-to-use mobile app, ETS Live to Go, for quick trip planning.
Good to know: The Red Willow Trail System is open and maintained year-round so brave hikers can get some steps in even on a brisk winter day.
4. Kinnaird Park Highlands Hiking Trail
How could I leave out the stunning North Saskatchewan River Valley? Famous for its well trafficked multi-use trails, this network of parks and paths – extremely accessible with public transit – is just waiting for adventures to be had. The area features about 160km worth of trails in total; the Kinnaird Park Highlands trail, a 4.3km inner city loop, is a great place to start.
How to get there: Kinnaird Park is accessible via a simple one-bus ride from the downtown Edmonton MEC store. Take the #2 heading east on 104 Avenue for less than half an hour. The bus will drop you off at 79 Street and 112 Avenue, which is just a short walk from the entrance of the park.
Not owning a car is no reason to miss out on experiencing some of Edmonton’s natural attractions, and whether you’re a seasoned or novice hiker, there is something for everyone in this pocket of Alberta.
Tips before you go
Stay safe and be prepared. Check out the weather before you leave, tell a friend where you’re going and when you plan to return, and bring first aid supplies and proper clothing. For more tips, check out day hiking for beginners and how to plan for overnight hikes.