Learn how to enjoy a family camping trip in Elk Island National Park with our comprehensive guide. Learn about the top activities, campgrounds, and advice for your journey.
Elk Island National Park is a natural wonderland located less than an hour east of Edmonton, Alberta. It is home to several bison, elk, deer, beavers, birds, and other wildlife and beautiful views of lakes, woodlands, and meadows. If you’re searching for a fun-filled family holiday, camping at Elk Island National Park is a great option. Here are some tips on planning and enjoying a family camping trip in this great park.
Choose Your Campsite
Elk Island National Park offers three different camping options for visitors: Astotin Lake Campground, Astotin Lake Group Camping Area, and Oster Lake Backcountry Campground. You may choose the campground that best meets your interests and needs because they all include facilities and features.
- Astotin Lake Campground: This is the park’s most popular and convenient campsite. It has 75 unserviced sites for tents and RVs and ten oTENTik units that cross between a cabin and a tent. Additionally, there are restrooms, showers, fire pits, picnic tables, playgrounds, and a camp store at the campground. The Astotin Lake Recreation Area is nearby, where you may go swimming, boating, fishing, playing golf, and hiking.
- Astotin Lake Group Camping Area: This campsite is ideal for large families or friends who want to stay together. It can accommodate up to 100 people and has 15 power sites for RVs. The group camping area also has washrooms, showers, fire pits, picnic tables, and a kitchen shelter. It is near the Astotin Lake Campground and the Astotin Lake Recreation Area.
- Oster Lake Backcountry Campground: This campsite is for those who want a more rustic and secluded camping experience. It is a hike-in tenting-only site about 8 km from the nearest parking lot. The campground has eight areas with fire pits, picnic tables, a pit toilet, and a bear-proof food locker. The Oster Lake Trailhead, from which you may access a number of hiking routes, is close by.
Pack Your Essentials
Camping in Elk Island National Park requires some preparation and packing. You may need different items and equipment depending on the season and the campsite you choose. Here are some general essentials that you should bring for your family camping trip:
- Tent or RV: If you are staying at the Astotin Lake Campground or the Oster Lake Backcountry Campground, you must bring your tent or RV. Ensure it is sturdy, waterproof, and spacious enough for your family. If you stay at the Astotin Lake Group Camping Area or rent an oTENTik unit, you will not need to bring your shelter.
- Sleeping bags and pads: You must bring your sleeping bags and pads for your family. Choose ones that are suitable for the weather and temperature of the park. Consider getting pillows, blankets, or air mattresses for extra comfort.
- Cooking and eating utensils: For your family, you must carry your own utensils for cooking and dining. This contains can openers, cutlery, cutting boards, plates, and cups. You could also bring a stove, barbecue, or fire starter to prepare your food.
- Food and water: Ensure you pack an ample supply of nourishment and hydration to sustain your family throughout the camping excursion. Opt for uncomplicated meal options that are easy to prepare, stow, and transport. To enhance your provisions, consider perusing the Freshco Flyer for Scarborough to score deals on snacks, beverages, condiments, spices, and more, tailored specifically for your camping needs. Safeguard your edibles from wildlife by securely sealing them within airtight receptacles or coolers.
- Clothing and footwear: Your family will need to pack clothes and shoes that are suitable for the weather and park activities. Depending on the temperature, you should pack layers of clothing that can keep you warm or cool—also, pack hats, sunglasses, gloves, scarves, jackets, etc. Also, pack waterproof and sturdy footwear for hiking and exploring the park.
- Personal and hygiene items: You must bring your own personal and hygiene items for your family, such as toiletries, towels, sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, medications, etc. Consider bringing some entertainment items, such as books, games, toys, etc.
- Other items: You may need to bring additional items for your family camping trip, such as a flashlight, a map, a compass, a camera, binoculars, a phone charger, etc. Consider bringing extra batteries, matches, ropes, duct tape, etc., for emergencies.
Follow the Rules and Regulations
It is necessary to abide by a few laws and restrictions when camping at Elk Island National Park in order to maintain the park’s natural and cultural treasures and to guarantee the security and enjoyment of visitors. Here are some of the main rules and regulations that you should follow:
- Respect the wildlife: Elk Island National Park is home to many wild animals that are part of the park’s ecosystem and heritage. You should respect nature by keeping a safe distance from them, never feeding or approaching them, and storing your food correctly. Additionally, you should be aware of the risks of coming into contact with bears, wolves, coyotes, or bison in the park and take the necessary precautions.
- Leave no trace: Elk Island National Park is a place of beauty and wonder that should be preserved for future generations. You should leave no trace of your visit by disposing of your waste correctly, recycling or packing out what you bring in, using designated fire pits or stoves for cooking, and avoiding damaging or removing any natural or cultural features.
- Obey the signs and regulations: Elk Island National Park has various signs and rules meant to guide and inform visitors about the park’s features, activities, and services. You should obey the signs and regulations by staying on the marked trails or roads, respecting the speed limits and parking rules, following the campground rules and etiquette, and paying attention to any alerts or closures.
Have Fun and Explore
Camping in Elk Island National Park is a beautiful chance for your family to have fun and go on adventures. The park offers many activities and attractions that suit different interests and ages. Here are some of the things you can do in the park:
- Hiking: Elk Island National Park has over 80 km of hiking trails that range from easy to complex. Hiking may be done in various environments, including lakes, marshes, meadows, and woodlands. You can also spot different wildlife and plants along the way. Some of the popular hiking trails in the park are the Amisk Wuche Trail (2.5 km), the Beaver Pond Trail (3.5 km), the Hayburger Trail (16 km), and the Tawayik Lake Trail (16 km).
- Boating: Elk Island National Park has several lakes ideal for boating. Bring your non-motorized watercraft or rent canoes or kayaks from Astotin Lake Campground. You can paddle on Astotin Lake or Oster Lake and enjoy the scenic views and wildlife sightings. You can also join guided canoe tours offered by Parks Canada staff during the summer.
- Fishing: Elk Island National Park allows fishing on Astotin Lake or Oster Lake with a valid national park fishing permit. You can fish for northern pike or yellow perch from shore or a boat. During the summer, you can also learn about fishing techniques and regulations from Parks Canada staff.
- Golfing: Elk Island National Park has a 9-hole golf course open from May to October. Golfers of all skill levels may play on the course close to the Astotin Lake Recreation Area and enjoy a challenging and beautiful game. You can rent golf clubs or carts from the golf course or bring your equipment.
- Stargazing: Elk Island National Park is one of the best places in Canada to stargaze. Thanks to the park’s clear, black skies devoid of light pollution, you can view hundreds of stars, planets, constellations, and even the Milky Way. You can also join guided stargazing programs Parks Canada staff offer during the summer and fall.
- Learning: There are several chances to learn about the history, culture, and natural beauty of Elk Island National Park. You may go to the visitor centre, where there are interactive games, exhibits, and displays that illustrate the history of the park and its inhabitants. You can also join interpretive programs, guided walks, or special events offered by Parks Canada staff throughout the year. You can also explore the park’s heritage sites, such as the Ukrainian Pioneer Home or the Elk Island Cemetery.
Camping in Elk Island National Park is a memorable and rewarding family experience. Following these tips, you can plan and enjoy a family camping trip in this amazing park. Have fun and explore! 😊