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The best parks in Edmonton

Elk Island National Park

The best parks in Edmonton

EdmontonExternal Link Title has dozens of green places to play, relax, and connect with nature. City parks, dark sky preserves, and river valley vistas are all on the menu. Plus, Edmonton is home to the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America, at 22 times the size of New York's Central Park. While there are many incredible parks in the city, here are five of our favourite stand-outs that are made for exploring:

1. Wilderness near the city at Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park, Edmonton, Alberta
Elk Island National Park, Edmonton - credit: Edmonton Tourism

It's just 45 minutes east of Edmonton, but Elk IslandExternal Link Title is wonderfully wild. Spot herds of plains bison, black bears, moose, elk, and a variety of birds at Canada's biggest fully enclosed park. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of shy lynx or gray wolves, too. Hike one of 11 varied trails or spend the day lounging on the beach under the big sky. In the winter, snowshoe or cross-country ski, then look up in wonder at the swirling chorus of light known as Aurora Borealis.  

2. Get active in the Edmonton River Valley

Edmonton River Valley
Edmonton River Valley - credit: Edmonton Tourism

A river runs through it -- that's the winding North Saskatchewan RiverExternal Link Title (to be exact!) which originates from the Canadian Rockies' Columbia Icefield. And you could easily spend a week exploring Edmonton's River ValleyExternal Link Title, North America's biggest urban park at nearly 19,000 acres. Boat, jet ski, paddleExternal Link Title, pan for gold, and fishExternal Link Title for goldeye, lake sturgeon, and northern pike. GolfExternal Link Title or picnic at 20 parks, or hike some 145 kilometres of trailsExternal Link Title. When temperatures drop, take a winter Segway tour through the snowy pathways with River Valley Adventure Co.

3. Dance to folk music at Gallagher Park

Gallagher Park, Edmonton
Gallagher Park - credit: Edmonton Tourism

Gallagher Park becomes a community of charming tents and booths in August during the hugely popular annual four-day Edmonton Folk Music FestivalExternal Link Title, with six stages, concerts, workshops, a beer garden, and craft fair. Fans from around the world celebrate, dance, and picnic in the natural amphitheater on the river valley's southern slopes (a ski hill in winter). Past headliners have included greats such as k.d. lang, Hozier, Van Morrison, Loreena McKennitt, and The Head and the Heart. Killer views of the downtown skyline match the world-class performances.

4. Beautiful blooms and butterflies at the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens

University of Alberta Botanic Gardens, Edmonton
University of Alberta Botanic Gardens - credit: Edmonton Tourism

If you're a fan of exotics, don't miss the University of Alberta Botanic GardensExternal Link Title, with 10,000 plant speciesExternal Link Title on 240 acres. Just 15 minutes outside of Edmonton in DevonExternal Link Title, the showcase includes herbs, special collections of iris, lily, and peonies, a Native Peoples and Japanese garden, ecological and wetland reserve, the new Aga Khan garden, plus nature trails spanning 110 acres. In December, head to the gardens for Luminaria - a beautiful celebration of the season featuring glittering ice sculptures, candlelit trails and live music.

5. Take a walk at William Hawrelak Park

William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton
William Hawrelak Park - credit: Edmonton Tourism

The huge lake with little islands and inviting grassy areas with lots of elbowroom make the 168-acre William Hawrelak ParkExternal Link Title a favourite for everyone. Catch one of several major festivals here (Included the Edmonton Heritage FestivalExternal Link Title, Silver Skate Festival External Link Titleand Freewill Shakespeare FestivalExternal Link Title) or just stroll or cycle, play beach volleyball, take out a paddleboat, read a book on a bench, enjoy a leisurely picnicExternal Link Title, or skate on the lake in the wintertime.


Edmonton is a bustling city of nearly one million, so of course there's plenty to see and do: museums, sporting events, shopping, festivals, and more. But we recommend starting with these beautiful parks.

Plan your vacation at the Explore Edmonton website.