Three Edmonton Trails to Discover This Fall with Your Kids

Wilfred Laurier Park

One of the finest hidden gems in Edmonton. I have lived in Edmonton since 2002, and have drove to the Edmonton Valley Zoo and off leash area in Buena Vista Park many, many times. Little did I know, until just this summer, that right there, sitting on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River, was the little-less-travelled, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park.

Imagine William Hawrelak Park, but with less people. Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park functions much the same way as William Hawrelak Park does. You enter in one direction, and drive around circling the park, towards the exit.

Since discovering Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park, I have brought my kids here almost weekly. There are beautiful maintained walking and biking trails that are rather flat (easy walking for little legs), and plenty of room in the center of the park for running, soccer, playing a game of horseshoe on one of the horseshoe pits, or to organize a proper softball game at one of the ball diamonds that the park offers. There are also picnic sites and tables that are available to rent for outdoor parties, a boat launch, and on site washrooms (they’re closed over winter though, FYI).

And it’s growing! Last week when the kids and I were out walking at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park, we noticed a clay pump track for bikers. And according to the City’s website, they are going to be building two playgrounds in the center of the park. Something to look forward to for sure. We also noticed two wooden view-decks that are in the midst of being built – which would be a beautiful spot for family photo’s once construction is complete.

If you have more mature walking company, and are up for a longer walk, the trail system in the park connects seamlessly to Buena Vista Park and if you’re up for it, all the way to William Hawrelak Park. If you’re up for crossing the river, you can easily get to Whitemud Park.

Getting to the park is easy. If you plug in “Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park” into your GPS, it will most likely get you there, just fine. However, if your device will not pick up the park’s location, just get yourself to the zoo – literally, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park is right next door. There is lots and lots of free parking, as this park is quite often accessed by walkers or bikers, and is underutilized to boot, in my opinion.

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Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve

“The leaves are starting to change colours and there is no snow in the forecast! It’s a perfect time to pack up the kids and head to The Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve to explore it in it’s fall foliage.
Getting to The Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve is easy. We exited the Whitemud on 119 street and headed south to Rainbow Valley Road. You have to drive past the Snow Valley Aerial Park and Rainbow Valley Campground to get there, and end up parking in the Snow Valley parking lot. The lot is quite large, with ample parking this time of year. If you have really little ones and don’t want to tire their little legs before you get to explore the trails, park as close as you can to the campground. The trail system through the ravine starts north-west of the parking lot.
You can take my advice, or you can plug it into your GPS – most systems will recognize the location and take you right there. If you can’t find directions via your GPS by searching “Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve”, try punching in “Rainbow Valley Campground” instead. Just remember to park in the north west side of the lot, which is adjacent to the campground entrance.
The trails in The Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve are open year round and are home to Over 150 species of birds, with over 80 of them being breeding species. Throughout the trails you can find information boards, telling explorers what kinds of birds to keep an eye out for.
The trails throughout the ravine are “Shared-Use Paths”, which mean that they are paved, off-street paths made for many activities. You can bike, walk, run, etc., except where otherwise indicated by local signage of course. I pushed my three and one year old in a double stroller and my oldest was on a Strider bike, and we got along just fine. Training wheels and scooters would not work on these paths, as there are granular (non-paved) with rough gravel surfaces.
If your kids are anything like mine, they are going to love the bridges that hang over the creek. According to my 4 year old, they are PERFECT for standing on and throwing rocks into the ravine from. I should add, there are plenty of rocks to pull from the ground to throw into the ravine throughout the entire trail system. Bring a bucket and get your kids to pick their favorite rocks along your walk, to throw into the ravine from one of the three bridges that you will come across.
The Whitemud Ravine Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in our city. The trails are quiet, the bird watching is excellent, and the sound of the ravine is serene. You’ve got to check it out in the fall, when it’s at it’s most beautiful state.
Things to know before you go: There are no bathrooms available, and no garbage cans that we saw either. If you pack a picnic or a snack, make sure you have something to bring your garbage home in. In addition, bring water. This trail has so much to offer, and had my three kids running from start to finish. Lastly, be more prepared than I was. Rubber boots are a must this time of year! The trails are doable in running shoes, but it’s just a bit messier than I had anticipated.

Mackenzie Ravine

Another hidden gem in the center of our City is the Mackenzie Ravine. The Mackenzie Ravine is a stunning 1 KM trail that feeds into the river valley trail system. The trail through the ravine is stroller, runner, walker and jogger friendly as the paths are considered “Shared-Use”, by the City. They are easy to use in the spring, summer, and fall, however they are not cleared in the winter. Although this cannot be guaranteed, the Mackenzie Ravine is busy enough that the trail usually becomes hard-packed and can be used for winter trail running and walking.

This walk is a favorite for my kids (age 1, 3, and 4) because of its length, and the boardwalk. The there-and-back walk that we usually do, is a 2 KM total distance, and in the fall, it can literally take your breath away with its beauty. There’s something majestic about being deep down in the Mackenzie Ravine – the mature variety of Evergreen’s and Mountain Ash that hang over the trail make you forget that you’re in the middle of the city. The best part, if you ask my kids though, would be the raised boardwalk that runs over the ravine.

The Mackenzie Ravine has options though – you can either do a “there and back” walk, which we usually do, or, if you’re up for a longer walk, the end of the ravine leads you right to the North Saskatchewan River, and with two options. You can go right (south) towards Buena Vista Park, with the option of continuing to Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park, or crossing the bridge to William Hawrelak Park. Or your second option, would be to go left (north), and continue your walk through the river valley, up towards Crestwood. Pro tip – if you decide to take this option and continue to travel north, you will find right away that the paths are no longer stroller friendly. If you are pushing a stroller of have little walkers with you, stay in the ravine, or go south.

The entrance to the Mackenzie Ravine is on 146 street, just south of 95 Avenue. There is plenty of parking on 146 street, but if you can’t find yourself a parking spot right outside of the ravine entrance, know there is plenty of parking around the south east corner on Park Drive.

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