Family fun in Alberta in 48 hours or less

Family fun in Alberta in 48 hours or less

A Perfectly Laid-back Day at Elk Island National Park

A Guide to Adventure and Relaxation

Sunset on Astotin Lake at Elk Island National Park. Credit: Travel Alberta


Elk Island National Park, located just 35 kilometers east of Edmonton, offers a perfect blend of adventure, wildlife, and natural beauty. Whether you’re looking to hike, picnic, or simply enjoy the serene landscapes, Elk Island is the ideal destination for a family day trip. Here’s how to make the most of your day at this beautiful park.

Morning: Arrival and Wildlife Watching

Start your day early to maximize your time in the park. The entry fee for a family is $17.50, which grants you access to all the park’s facilities and attractions.

8:30 AM – Wildlife Loop

Drive through the park’s scenic roads and keep an eye out for bison, elk, moose, deer, and a variety of bird species. Elk Island is renowned for its successful bison conservation program, and you’re almost guaranteed to spot these majestic creatures grazing.

9:30 AM – Astotin Lake Area

The Astotin Lake area is perfect for wildlife watching and offers beautiful views of the lake. Take a leisurely walk along the shoreline and enjoy the tranquil morning atmosphere.

Canoeing on Astotin Lake. Credit: Travel Alberta / Roth and Ramberg

Late Morning: Hiking and Exploration

10:00 AM – Hike the Shoreline Trail

Trailhead: Astotin Lake Recreation Area

Distance: 2.5 kilometers (round trip)

This easy and family-friendly trail offers stunning views of Astotin Lake and its surrounding wetlands. Keep your camera ready for potential wildlife sightings and scenic vistas.

11:30 AM – Picnic at Astotin Lake Recreation Area

Pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch at one of the many picnic tables available in the area. The recreation area also features fire pits if you prefer to cook your own meal. Remember to bring marshmallows for roasting!

Afternoon: Activities and Relaxation

12:30 PM – Canoeing or Kayaking on Astotin Lake

Rent a canoe or kayak from the Astotin Lake Recreation Area and spend some time paddling on the serene waters. This activity is suitable for all ages and provides a unique perspective of the park’s natural beauty. Rental Information.

Bison, Elk Island National Park. Credit: Brendan Van Son @brendanvanson

2:00 PM – Visit the Bison Loop Road

Take a drive along the Bison Loop Road for another opportunity to see bison up close. This short, one-way loop is a prime spot for observing the park’s bison herd in their natural habitat.

3:00 PM – Explore the Living Waters Boardwalk

Trailhead: Near the Astotin Lake Recreation Area

Distance: 0.6 kilometers (round trip)

This short boardwalk trail is perfect for families with young children. It offers educational panels about the park’s wetland ecosystem and provides excellent opportunities for birdwatching.

Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park. Credit: EEDC.

Late Afternoon: Relaxation and Sunset

4:00 PM – Relax at the Astotin Lake Beach

 Spend some time relaxing on the sandy beach at Astotin Lake. Kids can play in the shallow water while parents relax and take in the beautiful surroundings.

5:30 PM – Early Dinner at the Park

Bring a portable BBQ or use one of the park’s fire pits to cook an early dinner. Enjoy a meal surrounded by nature before the evening activities begin.

Evening: Stargazing and Departure

7:00 PM – Stargazing at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

Elk Island National Park is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, making it an excellent location for stargazing. Bring a blanket and find a comfortable spot near Astotin Lake to watch the stars come out. If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights.

Star gazing under the northern lights at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve in Elk Island National Park. Credit: Travel Alberta / Curtis Comeau

9:00 PM – Depart for Home

After a day full of adventure and relaxation, head back home with wonderful memories of your time at Elk Island National Park.

Tips for Visiting Elk Island National Park

Bring Binoculars: For better wildlife viewing.
Pack Essentials: Sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water.
Dress in Layers: The weather can change quickly, so be prepared.
Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from all animals and do not feed them.
Leave No Trace: Pack out all garbage and leave the park as beautiful as you found it.


Elk Island National Park offers a perfect blend of activities for a memorable family day out. From wildlife watching to hiking and paddling, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Plan your visit today and experience the natural beauty and tranquility of this incredible park.