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, over 73 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! PDF map of trails.
- Fort Centre Park Loop in downtown Fort Saskatchewan is a 4.2 km loop trail rated as moderate. It is popular, of course, because of its central location and it affords great views to the river & access to the Farmer's Market and other popular venues.
- Turner Park Trail is a 2.4 km loop down by the river, Turner Park and the campground. Very popular, so you are likely to encounter others on your travels.
- West River's Edge Wetlands is a bigger trail loop of 6.9 km. 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.
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 22 km from Strathcona Science Provincial Park to Fort Saskatchewan. You can find section by section information on the trail, including parking, trail type and length here - https://thegreattrail.ca/explore-the-map/. *Allow the website access to your location and 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. Love this site!
- The Running Room - Route Maps [Sherwood Park & Strathcona Science Park]
All photos are copyright @ explorestrathconacounty.com or have been used with permission. Please get in touch for purchase or permission to use.