A natural wonder and one of the most important American Bison conservation sites in North America, Elk Island National Park is a must see for RV lovers who are in Alberta. Situated in the Beaverhills area, Elk Island National Park is the largest fully enclosed park in the country with an area of 48,000 acres (194 square kilometres).
The area is known for its aspen thickets, easy access to water and it has provided shelter for wintering herds of elk, bison and moose for thousands of years. There are also over 200 archaeological remains of campsites and stone tool-making sites from First Nations people who used to visit the area in and around the park. The history of conservation in the park dates back to 1906 when five men from Fort Saskatchewan put forward $5000 to set up an elk sanctuary, calling it Elk Park. Elk Island Park was later granted federal park status in 1913 and became known as an official National Park in 1930.
The park has a near endless supply of activities for visitors to enjoy, including gazing at the clear starry sky, touring behind the scenes at a bison handling facility or spending the afternoon having a blissful picnic at one of the many picnic areas. RV campers will also be able to stay at the park with Astotin Lake Campground providing 75 primitive sites suitable for RV's all year round. Peak season in Elk Island National Park runs from May until October.
Elk Island National Park is in a very easy to access location around 35 minutes east of Edmonton. Access to the park can be made from the north on Range Road 200 road, the west from Elk Island National Park Access Road or from the south via Yellowhead highway. This is the easiest and most common way for visitors to enter the park as the highway is the most direct route from Edmonton.
Once you enter the park, the roads will be easy to navigate and there should be no obstacles that will damage your RV such as overhanging trees. If you like, you are able to drive from the lowest access road all the way to the north of the park as all of the parks roads eventually link up together.
During the winter time the park is prone to heavy snowfalls and winter storms. During this time you may not be able to access the park so call ahead to the park office if you plan on coming in winter to make sure that the park will be open during your chosen dates.
There is plenty of parking available at Elk Island National Park.
Unfortunately there are no public transport options that will take you to Elk Island National Park.
Astotin Lake Campground is the only campground within Elk Island National Park that is suitable for RV camping. The campground overlooks a pristine marsh and is recommended by visitors as the perfect place to watch sunsets and starry skies. It is also in a great location being walking distance to the beach, soccer field, playground, golf course and theatre.
The campground has 75 primitive campsites that are suitable for RVs to use. Each site also has a picnic table, fire pit and raised gravel camping area. Other amenities within the campground include accessible washrooms with showers, a shared kitchen shelter, potable water taps and an RV dump station. The campground is also pet friendly and you should be able to get cell phone service on all of the major networks.
Astotin Lake Campground is open from mid-May to Thanksgiving Day. You can check into your campsite at 2:00pm and check out is 11:00am. If you arrive after at the campground after the kiosk is closed you can follow the self-registration procedures posted on the bulletin board to register and set up for the night.
Experience the old timely ways of the past by grabbing some snowshoes and discovering the winter wonders of Elk Island National Park. Snowshoers are permitted to explore any trail available within the park boundaries. The park staff recommend that if you decide to go snowshoeing to please preserve the trails for other users by snowshoeing beside the existing ski tracks, not on them. If you do not have your own pair of snowshoes you are able to rent some from the park office on Saturday and Sundays only.
Elk Island National Park has a number of trails available for visitors to explore that feature varied lengths that wind through the different habitats located within the park. In total there are 11 different trails that are as long as nine miles with difficulty level ranging from easy to difficult. If you are looking for a challenge we recommend taking on Wood Bison Trail. This trail features aspen forest and is great for viewing moose, elk, wood bison and birds. It is quite long at around nine miles and will take you between four and five hours to complete.
Once the winter rolls around and the park starts to freeze, ice skating is one of the most popular winter recreational activities. Ice skating is a great way to experience the winter from a different perspective, but remember to pack a thermos because it will be cold! The ice skating area in Elk Island National Park can be found at Astotin Lake Area. Here you will have access to a skating track that leads you along the shoreline before taking you out and around Archer Island. You can also play pond hockey on the lake as a rink is maintained by park staff. If you do want to go skating, make sure to pack your own skates as none will be available for rent.
Elk Island National Park is an absolute paradise for picnickers during the summer. You can find picnic tables at most trailheads along with Astotin Lake Recreation Area, Beaver Bay Picnic Area and Tawayik Lake Recreation Area. If you have a big group there are also picnic shelters available at Astotin Lake Recreation Area and at the Tawayik Lake Picnic Area, along with a special pavilion that is the oldest picnic shelter with a chimney in the national parks system. These shelters are non-reservable so we recommend getting to them early in the day if you want to use one of them.
Elk Island National Park also has something on offer for the golfers. You can find a nine-hole golf course located in the Astotin Lake Area that is open during the summertime. You can bring your own equipment or it can be rented from the pro shop. If you are hungry after your day on the greens, the club house also offers simple meals for you to enjoy. Golfing fees do not include the Park entrance fee. For more information on fees or to reserve a tee-off time, contact the clubhouse during hours of operation.
For those who love boating, you need to check out Astotin Lake within Elk Island National Park because it is a perfect place for a peaceful paddle. During the summer many flock to the lake to have some fun on the water with kayaks, canoes and other boats all common sightings. Swimming in the lake is not encouraged and motorized boats are not allowed. If you want to join in on the fun but don't have your own watercraft you can rent a canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board from the park office.