Less than 35 minutes east of Edmonton lies a year-round oasis where bison roam freely, sun glistens off lakes and ponds, and stars light-up the night sky; Elk Island National Park. This gentle wilderness of aspen woodlands, prairie meadows and pockets of wetland is a wildlife-watchers paradise; free roaming bison, elk, deer, moose, and more than 250 bird species call this place home.
A short drive to Elk Island National Park rewards visitors with countless recreation opportunities; hike or bike over 80 km of trails, rent canoes and paddle around the islands on Astotin Lake, take in a free program, or borrow a geocaching kit and enjoy a nearly 200 square kilometre scavenger hunt. Fun doesn’t end as the sun begins to set; stay warm by a fire and look into a sky filled with stars and dancing Northern Lights. Without the glow of city lights around you’ll see more than you knew existed!
With so much to do why not stay the night? Book a campsite and bring your tent or RV to the Astotin Lake Campground, or pack a backpack and make the 4 km hike into Oster Lake Backcountry Campground. If you want the experience of camping but need a few more creature comforts, oTENTik’s are available at Elk Island! oTENTik’s are a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin; bring a sleeping bag and discover the joys of camping without any fuss.
Camping Reservations for Summer 2023:
Elk Island National Park campground sites and oTENTiks are available to reserve starting on March 30, 2023 at 8:00am MDT.
To reserve a campsite, please visit http://reservation.parkscanada.gc.ca or call 1-877-737-3783 (1-877-RESERVE)
Summer Updates for Elk Island:
- Parkbus is now operating, bringing visitors from downtown Edmonton to Elk Island on Saturdays. See details and reserve a spot here.
- The Elk Island golf course and restaurant are closed for the 2023 season.
- The Elk Island website keeps the interpretive programming schedule pretty up to date: https://parks.canada.ca/pn-np/ab/elkisland/activ/decouverte-tours
Elk Island special events:
Learn-to Camp Overnight Camping Events, @ Rainbow Valley Campground
- July 8-9
- July 22-23
- August 12-13
Ready to spend a night under the stars? Join us for a Learn-to Camp overnight experience, where you will learn everything you need to know to plan your own camping adventure.
Learn-to Camp overnights are family friendly weekend events designed to teach anyone the fundamentals of camping in the great outdoors. You’ll spend Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning taking part in hands-on workshops such as: how-to pitch a tent, how-to build a campfire, how-to use a campstove and much much more! Tent, foam sleeping pads and camp stoves are provided. To register for an Learn-to Camp overnight event in Edmonton please call 1-844-365-2646.
Parks Day, July 15, 2023, 12pm – 4pm
Celebrate Parks Day with the staff and special guests of Elk Island National Park on July 15th from 12pm to 4pm. Activities highlight the important role parks play in protecting ecosystems and habitat for species at risk. Event is free with valid park entry.
Astotin Lake Recreation Area 12 pm to 4 pm
Visit the BioBlitz Basecamp at the Bison Pies interpretive table near the stage to learn more about the Bioblitz citizen science project! Meet the Learn to Camp team for camping tips and learn more about Elk Island National Park with other special guests. Performances by special guest Peter Puffin’s Whale Tales! on the stage at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm
Mud Lake Parking Lot 12 pm to 1:30 pm
BioBlitz: Join Bennett Grappone, a researcher from the University of Alberta, on a short walk to observe and record the diversity of beetles in this grassland, and learn all about beetles!
See event details on the Elk Island special events calendar [link TBC].
Milky Way Days, Sunday September 3, 2023, 2-9pm
Details forthcoming, there will likely be guided stargazing interpretive programs as in past years.
We will do a bit more promotion for this as the last “summer” event, it would be great to do something with the radio show if possible!
Family Day, Monday, February 19, 2024, 12-4pm
Details forthcoming, usually we have hot chocolate, open the Astotin theatre and host interpretive programming.
Elk Island priority messaging for summer:
- During summer, visit on weekdays, or if visitors choose to come on weekends, come before 11am or during evenings to avoid crowds and traffic
- All things water safety – wear a life jacket, create a trip plan, boat sober, plan for the weather. We promote AdventureSmart messaging – they are an official Parks Canada collaborator: https://www.adventuresmart.ca/water-safety/
- Keeping the park clean, using designated trash bins. Black bear activity is increasing a lot in Elk Island in recent years, so this is becoming more important than ever.
- Bison safety: https://parks.canada.ca/pn-np/ab/elkisland/securite-safety/bison
- Protecting wildlife by obeying traffic laws: respect the posted speed limits, parking only in designated parking lots, observing wildlife from the safety of your vehicle and not exiting the vehicle within 100m of bears or bison.
For the most up-to-date information on visiting Elk Island National Park please see: https://parks.canada.ca/pn-np/ab/elkisland