Parks, Nature & Trails
This region has an abundance of natural spaces that often go unrecognized. The great thing about that - no crowds! Some spots are more frequented than others, of course, but if you want to get out and be alone in nature, you can often do just that. Kayak, canoeing, hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities are plentiful. On an important migratory pathway, Strathcona County is a bird watcher's paradise.
Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower. - Hans Christian Andersen
Beaver Hills Biosphere
In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Beaver Hills a Biosphere Reserve. It's pretty amazing - there are only 686 designated Biosphere Reserves in the whole world!
"What the heck is a biosphere?" you ask...
"Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are special places...science for sustainability support sites...strictly protected ecosystems" - UNESCO Read more.
The Beaver Hills Biosphere encompasses an area of 1572 square kilometers and includes many of our beloved local areas: Elk Island National Park; Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area; Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village; Ministik Bird Sanctuary; Strathcona Wilderness Centre; Miquelon Lake Provincial Park; Golden Ranches; Hicks Property; North Cooking Lake Natural Area; and Sherwood Park Natural Area.
National Parks & Recreational Areas
- Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. Immediately south of Elk Island National Park, this 97 square km area is a fantastic spot for nature lovers and an important staging area for horseback riding and cross country skiing. The Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival takes place here.
- Elk Island National Park. Established in 1906 as Canada's first wildlife sanctuary, then in 1913 as a National Park, Elk Island is an amazing treasure just 15 minutes east of Sherwood Park. Go at dusk or dawn, during the month of June for the best viewing opportunities of the little red bison calves. Canoe & kayak rentals, golf, hiking trails, camping and cabins are all available in the park.
- Strathcona Science Provincial Park. The 'science park' opened in the early 1980's and sadly, was abandoned in 1988 in the midst of an economic recession. The science pavilions were shut down & the archaeological dig was suspended. Today it is graffiti covered, a sad reminder of Alberta's glory days. It remains a fantastic river valley venue for the nature-minded, however, and the mountain biking and walking trails are excellent. Jog, walk, bike across the pedestrian bridge for access to all of the City of Edmonton parks.
Local Trails - Walk, bike, run...
Sherwood Park boasts 287 km of paved trails...that’s really incredible for a small urban centre. Fort Saskatchewan also has a cool trail system, with 75 km of trails, mostly along the river, so the scenery is beautiful. And Rural Strathcona County enjoys world-class trails in beautiful natural areas. They're all great...but we've tried to capture the best of our regional trails here for you.
This Provincial Recreation Area (PRA) is an amazing little gem right in our backyard, completely unspoiled by development and tourism, featuring 97 square km of forest, pastures and wetlands. It borders Elk Island National Park and wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful as many of the trails are quite remote with remarkably low human traffic. Local farmers & conservationists have done a fantastic job preserving this area, an important part of the Beaver Hills Biosphere.
- Blackfoot Staging Area. Access to 12 different trails + equestrian trail access. Most trails are multi-use.
- Central Staging Area. Equestrian trail access and access to 5 different trails.
- Islet Lake Staging Area. Note* no equestrian trail access. Access to 5 different trails.
- Waskehegan Staging Area. Access to 18 different trails (from easy to difficult, 0.1 km up to 25.5. km trails), Equestrian trail access, picnic, firepit areas and toilets.
Fort Saskatchewan Trails
Fort Saskatchewan has over 400 hectares of parks and recreational areas, with 75 km of paved trails and amazing river valley trails! Here's the link to PDF map of trails.
- Alderson Loop is an easy 3.3 km through residential, past Pryce Alderson Park which includes a spray parks for the little ones.
- Bridgeview Trail easy 0.9 km along the river, just off downtown.
- Chabot Park Trail - 3.7 km along the river, an easy walk and popular in the winter for cross country skiing.
- Heritage Precinct Loop wanders past the heritage buildings downtown and the river on the other side. Some hills, 1.2 km.
- North 10K Loop is 10k through older residential areas, the Ross Creek Nature Area and the Fort Heritage Precinct.
- Pineview Loop meanders along the river and through older residential. 6.6 km if you do the whole loop.
- Ross Creek Trail through nature and a trestle bridge, access to the Ross Creek Mountain Bike nature trail.
- South 10K Loop is 10k through residential and commercial, with a section running along the river.
- Turner Park Trail is a 1.1 km down by the river, Turner Park and the campground. Great spot for a walk and a picnic.
- West River's Edge Wetlands is a bigger trail loop of 5.1 km, passing by the fish pond, pavillion and off-leash dog park. It has expanded and now leads right out to Strathcona County and Sherwood Park for the more ambitious.
Riverside Nature Trail
Riverside Nature Trail is 5.5 km in total, with 2.7 km winding along the river. It makes up part of the Strathcona County Regional Trail, a 22 km stretch of trails. It winds through the trees for the first bit of the riverside trail, then opens up to some great views. It is a pet & bike friendly trail and if you keep going, it will take you all the way to Fort Saskatchewan! Bird watchers love the nesting pair of bald eagles that inhabit the trail. Mountain bikers rate it as an easy trail.
Sherwood Park Trails
We've had the opportunity to explore most of the walking and bike trails through Sherwood Park and they are lovely, easy strolls or bike rides. Most are wandering through or bordering residential neighborhoods, with thoughtful features like exercise equipment, informational signage, benches and lots of great opportunities to view birds and other wildlife. You can pretty much travel from one end of the Park to the other on the trail system.
Also known to some as "Reg Grey Trail", this trail is set inside a densely forested natural area, literally just a minute south of Sherwood Park. When you need to get back to nature, it's a terrific spot to walk or run (bikes not allowed), a quick 2.7 km trail loop. It's an easy hike, good for kids, and dogs on leashes are permitted. It isn't paved, so it might not be a great spot for those with mobility issues.
History fans will enjoy coming across the Old Edmonton Trail and the survey markers of the trail (about 1/2 way). The Old Edmonton Trail was the route travellers took through the area in the early 1900's to get between Edmonton and Cooking Lake.
Also known as the Great Trail, the Trans Canada Trail has Canada connected from coast to coast. It is the longest recreational trail in the world. It passes through our part of the world starting in Lamoureux (across the river from Fort Saskatchewan), through Fort Saskatchewan, down to Sherwood Park, then west over to Strathcona Science Provincial Park, and across the pedestrian bridge to Rundle Park in Edmonton, down to Devon and then beyond. You can literally walk or cycle the trail all the way from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan. The section in Strathcona County is called the Strathcona Regional Trail and is a 22 km stretch from Strathcona Science Provincial Park to Fort Saskatchewan and is an important part of the Edmonton area river valley experience.
The entire Edmonton area trail system runs 88 km from Devon to Sturgeon County. Get out and trek the trails - River Valley Alliance Trail Treks
You can find section by section information on the trail, including parking, trail type and length here by exploring the map. If you allow the website access to your location, it will give you exact route details. It's awesome!
Links to learn more...
- AllTrails - Photos, trail reviews and crowdsourced data for local trails and trails world-wide
- Fort Saskatchewan Nordic Ski Club - Great resource for local cross country ski trails and events
- River Valley Alliance - Non-profit group dedicated to connecting and preserving the trails for generations
- Trailforks - Crowdsourced reviews, photos and data based on the trail activity of your choice
- The Running Room - Route Maps [Sherwood Park & Strathcona Science Park]
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