There are plenty of awesome day trips from Edmonton but one of the closest ones is a visit to the Elk Island National Park.

Inside the national park, there are tons of wildlife, hiking trails, and lakes to explore. In this post, we dive into one of the shorter and easier walks you can do there: The Beaver Pond Trail!

It’s a great walking trail if you want to get a little taste of Elk Island and see some of the pretty lakes – and hopefully some wildlife too!

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Everything you need to know about the Beaver Pond Trail

In this post, we dive into one of the many hikes you can do in Elk Island National Park!

The Beaver Pond Trail is one of the shorter hikes in the national park but it’s also one of the trails where you have a good chance of seeing some cool wildlife.

We unfortunately didn’t see much but we did see some bison and a baby coyote when we drove to the trailhead!

Elk Island National Park is one of the smaller National Parks in Canada but this area just east of Edmonton is so fun to explore. Especially since there’s a good chance you will spot some cool wildlife!

Elk Island is so close to Edmonton (only 35 minutes away) and you can easily go for a day trip (or after work for a few hours) to explore this beautiful national park in Alberta!

Don’t forget your Parks Canada Discovery Pass if you have one so you don’t have to pay to enter the park again!

If you don’t have a pass, the entry fee to the park is $8.5 per adult or $16.75 per group.

You can also buy a single-location pass specifically for Elk Island. 

Fun fact: Elk Island National Park is the only fully fenced National Park in Canada!

Practical information about Beaver Pond Trail – Elk Island

Distance: 3.6 km return / 2.23 miles return
Elevation: n/a
Type: Lollipop (basically a loop trail)
Length: 45 minutes to 1.25 hours total
Difficulty: Easy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Beaver Pond Trail

Here’s a picture of the beginning of Beaver Pond Trail

The stand at the Beaver Pond Trailhead

Driving to Beaver Pond Trailhead 

Directions between the entrance of Elk Island and Beaver Pond

Once you get through the entrance of Elk Island National Park it feels like you’re in a whole new part of Canada. The long straight highways are out of sight and the canola fields feel long gone. 

Now you’re in this new biosphere with glassy lakes, rolling hills, and lots of wildlife!

I don’t know if we got lucky or if it’s normal but we saw a bunch of bison as soon as we entered the national park on our way to the Beaver Pond trail. 

A bison chilling in the grass inside Elk Island National Park

The majority of the bison were just grazing on the side of the road by themselves minding their own business. 

They didn’t seem to be bothered by the cars driving by and to be honest, they’re probably quite used to it as Elk Island is quite a popular day trip from Edmonton.

We also saw a baby coyote crossing the road on a quick little detour we took on the Bison Loop Road. It looked so cute!

We want to acknowledge that Elk Island is on the traditional territory of Cree, Nêhiyaw-Askiy, Ĩyãħé Nakón mąkóce, Niitsítpiis-stahkoii, and Michif Piyii.

Walking the Beaver Pond Trail

The Beaver Pond Trail is located right off the main road in Elk Island National Park. From you enter the park till you get to the turnoff is about 20 minutes if you drive directly (without stops to spot wildlife).

The trailhead is super easy to find as there is a big sign guiding you into the parking lot!

At the parking lot, there is plenty of room for cars, bathroom facilities, and a sign with more information about the trail, wildlife, and the national park.

The trail itself is also very easy to follow and doesn’t need much explanation.

You can also see some more information on the Beaver Pond trail here. This site talks about the different animals you can see along the trail as well. 

Mama duck and her ducklings in one of the glassy lakes

We didn’t get to see much on the trail besides a few ducks, frogs, and squirrels but maybe you’ll be a bit more lucky.

What we did see a ton of though was mosquitoes… All the glassy lakes and trees nearby make this place an absolute haven for mosquitos!

If you tend to be the mosquitoes’ favourite meal, make sure you bring some bug spray.

We also saw a ton of mushrooms and wildflowers! So if you’re a forager or a mycologist then you’ll be in heaven since there are so many mushrooms and wildflowers on this trail!

However, keep in mind that it is illegal to collect plants and mushrooms in Canada’s national parks.

Walk around the Beaver Pond Trail

This is where the lollipop starts

The trail isn’t that long so it should only take you around an hour to complete the whole thing.

The trail itself is a lollipop or loop trail and it really doesn’t matter which direction you go. 

There are certain trails or hikes where a direction makes a big difference but on this short trail, it really doesn’t matter. We went counter-clockwise but either way would’ve been good.

There are a few nice viewpoints where you really get to see the biosphere in Elk Island and some of the pretty glassy lakes.

One of the glassy lakes on the Beaver Pond Trail

The true highlight is definitely spotting wildlife which we didn’t really get to see on this walk. Thankfully saw some on the drive up though.

Honestly, this short walk is a nice way to stretch your legs after driving out to Elk Island and to be out in close contact with nature.

Take in the views, enjoy the beautiful nature in this National Park, and hopefully, you get to see some wildlife from the trail!

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Finishing up in Elk Island National Park

The sun is starting to set behind the Astotin Lake

Once you’re done with the hike, there are plenty of other walking trails and activities in the national park you can do. 

One thing we recommend if it’s not too busy is stopping by Astotin Lake (a 5-10 minute drive).

At Astotin Lake, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards or you can just sit on the Elk Island Beach and take in the views of the biggest lake in the national park.

You can also set up a little picnic by the lake and enjoy your lunch or dinner there.

Astotin Lake is a great place to hang out for a few hours if you want to stay and hang out inside the National Park!

You can see the drive from Beaver Pond Trail to Elk Island Beach here.

What to bring to the Beaver Bond Trail

Jo walking on the Beaver Pond Trail

If you’re making a day trip to Elk Island there’s a bunch of stuff you can bring to make the most of your day.

Since we just went for a few hours after work so we didn’t end up bringing too much.

Below, we’ve put together a list of things you might need for the Beaver Pond Trail.

If you also stop by Elk Island Beach, you might want to pack something extra for that such as bathing suits, towels, extra water, and maybe even a stand-up paddleboard if you have it.

Packing list for the Beaver Pond Trail:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes or day trips and even during them when we can. On this trail, there are no spots to fill up your bottle.
  • Sunscreen is good to have especially during the summer months in Alberta. This trail is partly shaded as there are lots of trees but there are also sections where you’ll be exposed to the sun. If you go in the middle of the day, sunscreen may come in handy.
  • We always bring a power bank when we go hiking – just in case. It’s a short hike but still nice to bring a power bank for a day trip.
  • Bring some food or snacks to enjoy during the trip.
  • If there’s rain in the forecast, you can still do this walk. In that case, bring a rain jacket!
  • Bug Spray is also a good idea since there are so many mosquitoes in the area!
  • For safety reasons, you might want to bring a bear spray as well. Black bears do live in this area as well as cougars, coyotes, wolves, moose, and many other animals.

You can check out this great list of hiking gear to get some more inspiration!

The best affordable camera for beginners

The Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera

If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.

This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.

It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.

Before you go to Elk Island National Park

Check the weather near Elk Island

It’s always good to know what the weather is going to be like before embarking on a hike.

You can see the weather forecast for the Elk Island area here.

What’s nice is the fact that the weather doesn’t change that quickly here in the prairies. So what you see in the forecast is usually what you can expect here in Elk Island National Park!

Wear hiking shoes

We usually wear hiking shoes or trail shoes on almost every outdoor adventure we do.

You don’t really need hiking shoes for Elk Island but depending on how much it’s rained in the past, it can get quite muddy. Some hiking or trail shoes might be worth it! 

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

Be bison wise in Elk Island

A bison on the side of the road

This might go without saying but we always like to put stuff like this out there – just to bring awareness in case you don’t know.

When you are exploring Elk Island, you are essentially exploring the animals’ natural habitat and where they live and roam.

Bison are wild animals and can be dangerous and unpredictable so you should always be Bison aware and understanding of the animals.

We’re definitely not experts in animal safety but the Parks Canada website will tell you everything you need to know. You can read a full guide on how to be bison wise right here.

Fun fact: Elk Island is home to the densest population of hoofed mammals in Canada.

Best time to explore Elk Island

Elk Island National Park is open year-round. However, some services and facilities are only open during the summer season.

You can look at the hours of operation on the Parks Canada site for Elk Island here

We recommend going in later Spring through early Fall when the weather is good and the days are a bit longer so that you can stay for many hours and catch a nice sunset as well. 

If you’re looking to avoid crowds then warm, sunny days during the summer holidays (and summer weekends) are probably the best times to avoid since there are tons of people.

However, most people go to the lakes only and don’t actually walk on the different trails.

Many trails such as the Beaver Pond Trail are usually less busy than the Elk Island Beach next to Astotin Lake (the biggest and most accessible lake in the national park).

The board walk by Astotin Lake

Going on a weekday will probably be the best time to go if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.

If you’re visiting from Edmonton, the late afternoon and evening can be quite nice too since it’s a bit more cool and less crowded. It’s a fun after-work activity!

Depending on where in Edmonton you’re coming from, you can get to Elk Island National Park in just over half an hour.

Even if you go after work in the summer, you still have a few hours to enjoy this beautiful park before the sun starts to set!

Where to stay in Edmonton

Edmonton is the nearest city to Elk Island and it’s a popular place to stay while visiting this part of Alberta! 

There are tons of awesome things to do in Edmonton too. Below you can find a few different hotel ideas if you plan to spend a few days in Alberta’s capital, Edmonton!

Luxury: Fairmont Hotel MacDonald

PC: Fairmont

📍 Location: Downtown Edmonton
🌿 Sustainability? Travel Sustainable Level 3+
👉🏼 Check out Fairmont’s prices & availability here

If you want to stay at one of the most famous hotels in Edmonton then this is it. The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald is an iconic landmark and hotel in Edmonton. 

Located right in the centre of the city, this castle-looking hotel has an amazing view of downtown Edmonton and the river valley.

It’s not cheap but staying at a Fairmont Hotel is an experience on its own – and it’s a beautiful place to stay after a day exploring Elk Island!

→ Check out Fairmont on ←

Mid-range: Varscona Hotel on Whyte Ave

PC: Varscona

📍 Location: Whyte Ave
🌿 Sustainability? n/a
👉🏼 Check out Varscona’s prices & availability here

Varscona on Whyte is located in the Strathcona district of the city on the west side of Whyte Ave. 

Located in the heart of the entertainment district in Edmonton you have everything you need nearby. It’s a great place to stay if you want to explore all the trendy and hip cafes and restaurants in the city. 

Varscona is a reasonable price for what you get. The hotel is full of beautiful amenities and an amazing American-styled brunch!

→ Check out Varscona on ←

Budget: Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel by APA

PC: Coast Edmonton Plaza

📍 Location: Downtown Edmonton (North)
🌿 Sustainability? Travel Sustainable Level 3+
👉🏼 Check out Coast Edmonton Plaza’s prices & availability here

Coast Edmonton is the most affordable out of the 3 recommendations and is located right in the heart of downtown Edmonton on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River. 

You’re right in the financial district of the city and close to everything you need. This 4-star eco-friendly hotel has plenty of amenities including a beautiful swimming pool, lounge area, and a whole lot more! 

It’s an affordable hotel in Edmonton if you’re looking for somewhere central and comfortable to stay for a few nights!

→ Check out Coast on ←

Other related questions about Elk Island National Park

What is special about Elk Island National Park?

There are quite a few things that make Elk Island special. The first thing that makes it special is that it’s the first animal refuge in Canada. 

It’s also the only fully gated National Park in Canada that helps keep the animals protected. 

For over a century, it’s been a place people could come and see wild bison, elk, coyotes, and many other amazing animals.

Is Elk Island worth it?

If you’re looking to explore an animal refuge right outside of Edmonton then Elk Island is definitely worth a visit.

There’s a good chance you’ll see some sort of wildlife. It could be anything from bison, beaver, black bears, or even elk.

So much wildlife is roaming inside the park and you may see one up close in your car or from a safe distance out on the trails!

Can you drive through Elk Island National Park?

Yes, you can drive through Elk Island National Park. There are tons of walking and hiking trails but if you just want to drive through the park and potentially see some bison or elk, you can do that. 

If you’re lucky you may see some bison as they are quite used to humans and usually walk and eat near the main roads! 

We do recommend doing some of the shorter walking trails though if you’re able to in order to really immerse yourself in this unique biosphere. 

Can you see Northern Lights from Elk Island National Park?

Yes, you can see the Northern Lights from Elk Island National Park!

If the forecast is good then Elk Island is an awesome place to see the Northern Lights on a clear evening sky!

The Royal Astronomical Society of Edmonton actually meets up here to watch the night show sometimes!

Are there bears at Elk Island?

There’s a good chance you may never see one, but there are in fact bears in the national park. Black bears thrive in this safe and natural space where they can roam around and be as free as they want! 

So yes, you may one day run into a black bear if you get lucky! Remember to keep a safe distance or stay in your car!

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Recap of exploring Beaver Pond Trail – Elk Island

Another glassy lake by the Beaver Pond Trail

Beaver Pond Trail is just one of many awesome walking trails to do in Elk Island. We’ve visited the national park multiple times but usually only spent a few hours at a time there.

You could easily be there all day walking around different trails, checking out the lakes, and playing golf at the golf course. You can even stay for multiple days if you’re into camping.

We hope you enjoy this national park in Alberta and get a chance to see some bison, elks, and other wildlife!

If you have questions about Edmonton, Elk Island, or how to get between the two, feel free to reach out! The easiest way is to message us on Instagram or DM us or leave a comment below

We can’t wait to hear about your trip and see if you explored any of the other trails!

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