Elk Island is one of five national parks in Alberta. Belle the Berner and I spent a day at the park after a work trip to Edmonton, and it was worth the extra stay. This park is only 30 minutes from the city, so I couldn’t say no to that! There are plenty of trails to explore in the area, but with a heat warning on, we could only manage a shorter Elk Island hike. So, that’s where Amisk Wuche came in!

Dragonfly on Elk Island hike
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Dragonfly on the Amisk Wuche Trail.

Amisk Wuche isn’t the only Elk Island hike I planned to enjoy on a recent trip to Edmonton. Bella and I started with the 16-km Wood Bison Trail, but the heat warning really slowed us down. After about 4 km on that trail, we turned around and found something a bit more doable in the heat. So we opted for the significantly shorter Amisk Wuche!

About Amisk Wuche Trail

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Pink wildflowers along the trail.

Location: Elk Island National Park, near Edmonton, Alberta
Distance: 3.2 km loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 50 metre gain
Time: Approx. 45 min – 1 hour
Dog-friendly: Yes, but must be kept on leash.
Features: Amisk Wuche is the Cree name for Beaver Hills, which makes sense as I spotted 4 beavers on the trail! This short hike in Elk Island is perfect for nature lovers and would keep the attention of children. The length is perfect for families looking for a shorter jaunt. The trail winds through aspen, birch, and spruce forests, with boardwalks crossing over marsh and beaver ponds. There’s plenty of aquatic and bird life here, too!

Finding the Trailhead

Amisk Wuche Elk Island hike
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Helpful information about Amisk Wuche from Parks Canada.

The Amisk Wuche trailhead is very easy to locate along the main road through Elk Island National Park. After turning left off of the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16), continue north on the Elk Island Parkway for about 15 km. Right away, you’ll pass the Visitor Centre on your right where you can stop for a washroom break. Continue north past the Bison Loop Road, Tawayik Lake, and Hayburger Trail. The trailhead will be on your right near the Astotin Lake Recreation Area. There are signs on the road.

If you don’t have a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, you can purchase a day pass at an automated pass machine near the park gates. This pass works for all national parks in Canada.

Read more: Biking in Edmonton: The Beautiful River Valley Trails

Elk Island hike at Amisk Wuche
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Amisk Wuche information posted at the trailhead.
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Toilet and picnic table at the trailhead.

A Short Elk Island Hike

Elk Island hike through forest
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Amisk Wuche starts off through a birch forest leading to boardwalk over marshland. There are several benches along the trail to sit and watch wildlife. Shortly into the trail, I saw an American Coot (not a duck!) swimming with two babies in the pond.

The trail routes in and out of forest and wetland, and is very easy to follow with yellow markers. This 3.2-km loop took us less than an hour, but could take longer if you enjoy bird watching. And the beavers could keep you entertained for a while. However, keep in mind that there’s little accessible water on the trail. We visited on a hot day, so I brought extra water and Bella’s bowl.

While there are stretches of boardwalk over the marshland, the roots in the forest may make this trail difficult for strollers or wagons. But I think this would be an enjoyable jaunt for young children who love the forest. Especially if you spot a beaver… or two… or three!

Read more: Devon River Valley Trail Near Edmonton, Alberta

Elk Island hike boardwalk
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Sturdy boardwalk over the marshland.
Elk Island hike bench
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Take a seat and watch life happen in the wetlands.
Elk Island hike pond views
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Nice view of the pond.
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Watch your step when it’s wet. When it’s dry, you’ll fly on by!
Elk Island hike forest marker
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Very easy trail to follow.
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Lots of roots on this trail.
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Great trail for dogs, but they must stay on leash.
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Long stretch of boardwalk near the end of the loop.
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A nice shaded spot.
Elk Island hike bench views
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Need a break? Here’s a bench.

Perfect Hike for Nature Lovers

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There’s lots to see on Amisk Wuche Trail.

Amisk Wuche may not be a long excursion, but it’s a great trail for nature enthusiasts. Especially if you want a shorter and easier day. As you’ve seen, there are many benches and lookout points along the way to search for wildlife in the wetlands and ponds. You may want to bring binoculars along to get a closer look.

Read more: 5 Easy Hikes for Rocky Mountain Rookies (Plus a Bonus!)

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American Coot (not a duck!) with two babies.
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Papa beaver building the dam.
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Mama beaver (I think!) with kit in a pond.
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Lots of pink wildflowers near the trail.

Things To Do in Elk Island National Park

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Elk Island National Park entrance.

Aside from Amisk Wuche, there are many other things to do in Elk Island Park. My original plan was to hike the Wood Bison Trail, but 16-km was too long for Bella on a hot day. There’s also the 12-km Hayburger Trail that might pique your interest.

We spent some time at Astotin Lake Recreation Area. There are picnic tables, shelters, washrooms, and drinking water accessible to the public. You can also rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP for $20-30/hour. I took a quick drive through the campground, where there are 75 non-serviced campsites (including oTENTik) located near the lake. I’d tent here in the future!

Elk Island is known for its free-roaming wild bison. There are generally 300 wood bison and 400 plains bison in the park. Sadly, I didn’t see any bison, as they were likely staying cool in the shaded forest. We even drove around the Bison Trail Road, but not a bison to be seen. Hopefully you have better luck than I did (!).

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Paddlers on Astotin Lake.
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View from the lookout at Astotin Lake.
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Astotin Lake lookout.
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Relaxing in the shade at Astotin Lake.

Know Before You Go

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Selfie on the Amisk Wuche Trial.

There are five national parks in Alberta: Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, Wood Buffalo, and Elk Island. You’ll need your Parks Canada Discovery Pass to access Elk Island, or day passes are available at park entrance.

If you’re bringing your canine companion along, remember to keep them on leash on Amisk Wuche. Many different animals are living along the trail and dogs can disturb them. Don’t forget to pack out that poo, too.

On a really hot day, you may need to refill your water bottles. There’s no safe drinking water available at Amisk Wuche, but there are at least two taps at Astotin Lake: one on the beach, and another beside the washrooms.

If you’re hoping to see wild bison, you might have better luck in the morning or evening—especially on a hot day. Otherwise, you may need to hike Hayburger or Wood Bison Trail to catch a glimpse.

Have you visited Elk Island National Park? Were you lucky enough to see bison? What about the Amisk Wuche Trail? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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