Outdoor Activities in Edmonton to Cure the Winter Blues
Winter and early spring in Edmonton, AB means falling snow and chilling temperatures. But that doesn't mean you have to be stuck inside! Alberta's capital city may be known for its sophisticated food, arts, culture, and sports scenes, but it's also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts — especially in the winter. From moderate outings such as ice skating and wildlife viewing to more heart-pumping activities including snowmobiling and dog sledding, Edmonton truly has something to get everyone outside and in the fresh air.
With many areas still dealing with COVID-19-related restrictions, one of the very best things you can do for your overall health is get outside and enjoy The Great Outdoors. Just 20 minutes of fresh air almost immediately reduces stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and boosts your mood. So next time you feel a bout of the Winter Blues creeping in, bundle up in layers and head outside to counteract it. We guarantee that at least one of these things to do in Edmonton in winter will help to boost your mood.
Don’t have equipment? Don’t let that stop you. There are several great places to rent gear for winter adventures in Edmonton.
Cross Country Skiing around Edmonton
Also commonly referred to as Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing is one of the best winter activities Edmonton has to offer. Not to take anything away from Canada's many world-class ski resorts, but there's nothing quite like strapping on your skis and exploring away from the crowds. Edmonton has several fantastic places for cross-country skiing, whether you're a rookie or a veteran.
- River Valley: AKA the largest urban park in Canada, River Valley is technically comprised of 20 distinct parks. There are also several well-groomed cross-country ski trails for every experience level.
- St. Albert: This picturesque community adjacent to Edmonton has an extensive network of Nordic ski trails. The St. Albert Nordic Ski Club goes to great lengths to keep the trails maintained and there are multiple access points in the city.
- Wilderness areas and national parks: Strathcona Wilderness Centre, Elk Island National Park, and Clifford E. Lee Natural Area are all incredibly beautiful places to try cross-country skiing.
- Ski on a golf course: Where else can you literally ski on a golf course? In the winter, the Stony Plain Golf Course becomes an adventurer's playground with well-groomed trails.
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area is a diverse 97-square-kilometre park offering year-round outdoor recreation. The park has numerous small lakes and ponds and about 170 kilometres of multi-use trails. Because it's so large, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot is divided into four sections, each with its own staging area. No matter your preferred outdoor pastime, you'll find plenty of things to do in Edmonton in winter here. Keep in mind that the park does not offer onsite equipment rentals so you’ll need to bring in your own gear. If you don’t own your gear, no problem! Companies like Totem Outfitters and River Valley Adventure offer reasonably priced rentals for most equipment you might need!
- Cross-country skiing: Cooking Lake-Blackfoot has 185 kilometres of trails, including groomed, ungroomed, and track set. There are trails for every difficulty level, and many have warming huts along the path. Nordic skiing is such a big deal here that Cooking Lake-Blackfoot hosts one of the most anticipated Edmonton winter festivals, the annual Canadian Birkebeiner ("Birki") Ski Festival.
- Dog sledding: Nothing says classic Edmonton winter attraction like dog sledding. It's permitted at the park, but only on the designated Blackfoot Lake Staging Area.
- Fat biking: With so much to explore, fat biking is an excellent way to (literally) cover a lot of ground in Cooking Lake-Blackfoot. Bikers should take care to stay off ski tracks and yield to horses where their paths cross.
- Skating: Enjoy Edmonton outdoor skating at the scenic rink in the Waskahegan Staging Area.
- Snowmobiling: Snowmobiles are allowed at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot, but only on specific trails. You may use them in open fields when there's a minimum 30 centimetres of snow, which the park indicates with signage.
- Snowshoeing: The beauty of snowshoeing is that it can be done almost anywhere with snow! At this park, snowshoe on frozen lakes and ponds (take care to ensure safety), through open fields, and on hiking and equestrian trails.
Victoria Park ice skating
Edmonton's Victoria Park is much more than an ice skating rink. Visitors can skate in fresh air under the starry sky, yes, but they can also skate through the IceWay, a colorful path that winds through canopies of trees. Bright multi-colored lanterns illuminate the IceWay, making it resemble a kaleidoscope. The best part? Edmonton outdoor skating at Victoria Park is totally free.
Elk Island National Park from Edmonton
Many people consider Elk Island National Park one of the best parks in all of Alberta. That's really saying something, since the province is home to several powerhouse national parks, including Banff and Jasper. Elk Island is an important refuge for elk and once-nearly-extinct American bison. However, it's also a year-round hub of outdoor activity with particularly magical attractions in the winter.
- Cross-country skiing: With more than 11 named multi-use trails to explore in Elk Island, cross-country skiing is one of the best things to do in Edmonton in winter.
- Stargazing: Bundle up, bring a blanket, and enjoy a spectacular sky free from light pollution. Elk Island is one of the best spots in the Americas for viewing the Northern Lights, and winter is prime time.
- Wildlife viewing: Since the park is less crowded in the winter and the trees have shed their dense canopies, it's much easier to spot bison, elk, and moose. Just be sure to keep your distance from these wild giants.
- Snowshoeing: Experience Elk Island the way our ancestors did — on snowshoes! Rent a pair from the Astotin Lake Campground kiosk to explore on your own or take a guided Snowshoe and Stargaze tour.
- Skating: One of the park's unique activities is Edmonton outdoor skating. Skate the 1-kilometre loop or play hockey on the rinks on Astotin Lake.
YEG ACC Ice Wall
Ice climbing is a big deal in Alberta and the Ice Wall is easily one of the most popular winter activities Edmonton offers. The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Edmonton Section built the Ice Wall for those who are curious about climbing and veteran climbers alike. Even people with no climbing experience are encouraged to visit, so try something new for date night or family time. Choose from introductory courses, beginner lessons, or drop-in bookings. Equipment rentals are also available onsite. Advance booking is required.
Whether you're an Edmonton local or a visitor, why not turn your winter wonderland weekend into a staycation? Coast Hotels has several Edmonton hotels, each with distinct offerings. Check our deals page for residents-only rates and special winter packages. We can't wait to see you soon.