It has higher densities of hoofed mammals per square kilometre than any other wild area in the world, except for the Serengeti Plains of Africa. Visitors can see over 40 species of free-roaming mammals including plains bison, wood bison, elk, moose, deer, beaver, and muskrat. Over 250 species of birds live here, making it a good place for birdwatching. This is one of the last remaining large areas of natural aspen parkland, one of the most endangered habitats in Canada, that is undisturbed by agriculture and other human activities.
Open year-round, park visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, golfing, picnicking and overnight camping.
The park protects the Southern Boreal Plains and Plateaus Natural Region - a transitional zone between the aspen parkland to the south and the boreal forest to the north. Elk Island National Park is knob and kettle topography rising 30-60 m above the surrounding plains of Alberta.
Elk Island National Park is an island, not in the geographical sense, but in terms of its landscape of small hills and depressions surrounded by flat plains. When the glaciers retreated from the area, they left debris clustered around chunks of ice that formed the knobs, while the melting ice made shallow ponds or kettles. These are eutrophic ponds, meaning they have a very poor oxygen supply, but they contain rich accumulations of nutrients, making them an excellent habitat for plants and wildfowl. The park has more than 250 lakes, ponds and wetlands over 20% of its surface area.
Astotin Lake, near the park’s north end is 3.9 km long, almost 3.1 km wide and 0.5-10 metres deep, the park-s largest body of water.
The climate of the area is generally temperate.
Elk Island National Park is approximately one hour from Edmonton city centre, via Highway 16 East (Yellowhead). It is open 365 days a year.
Fees and permits
Daily/Annual (December 1 to March 31)/Annual fees:
- Adult $7.80/$31.40/$39.20
- Senior $6.80/$27.40/$34.30
- Youth and children under 18 free
- Family/group $15.70/$78.50/$78.50
Parks Canada Passes
The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada places that typically charge a daily entrance fee It provides faster entry and is valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Prices for 2018 (taxes included):
- Family/group (up to 7 people in a vehicle): $136.40
- Children and youth (0-17): free
- Adult (18-64): $67.70
- Senior (65+): $57.90
The Cultural Access Pass: people who have received their Canadian citizenship in the past year can qualify for free entry to some sites.
- 1 Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, Highway 16 (25 minutes east of Edmonton, and 3 km east of the National Park entrance). Daily May long weekend to Labour Day, 10AM–5PM. This award-winning provincial historic site showcases Ukrainian settlement in East Central Alberta. There are over 30 historic buildings including three churches, a fully-functioning grain elevator, blacksmith shop, and sod hut, all enlivened by costumed interpreters. Weekends are busier, however the crowds can be worth it with more interpreters on hand and often more things going on. Adult $10.
Buy, eat and drink
Everything is available in nearby Edmonton.
During the summer, the park offers a semi-serviced campground. Hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, gasoline, groceries, and other services, are available in communities surrounding the park. 
To reserve a campsite in the park, visit the 24-hour Internet service at www.pccamping.ca or dial toll free +1-877-737-3783 (+1-877-RESERVE) (12 hours/day), TTY: +1-866-787-6221. If you are calling from abroad, the international number is +1-450-505-8302.
Safety for visitors:
- Safety first - view wildlife from a safe distance and vantage point.
- Remain in your vehicle to view wildlife on roadways.
- Slow down when wildlife are near the roadside.
- Observe the 60 km/h speed limit on the Elk Island Parkway.
- At all times, maintain a distance of 100 metres from moose, elk, deer and bison.
Visitors are discouraged from bicycling on park trails in wet spring weather conditions and during the rut (breeding season for ungulates) from late July through to the autumn.
- Become familiar with the natural hazards of the park, be properly equipped, and well prepared (knowledge, skills, fitness) for wildlife viewing activities such as hiking, walking, and cross-country skiing.
- Report aggressive wildlife to Parks Canada staff. Check with Parks Canada staff for information and safety warnings. Respect area and trail closures. Trails and areas are occasionally closed due to aggressive wildlife, poor trail conditions, on-going management activity, or other hazards. Entering a closed area is an offence under the National Parks General Regulations.
Safety for the wildlife:
- Do not feed the wildlife. Poor health and premature death can result from wildlife consuming food other than their natural food supply. It is forbidden to feed, touch, or attract wild animals with food or bait.
- Resist the temptation to pick wildflowers, cattails, berries, mushrooms, or any other plant item. Plant matter and natural objects such as antlers and bones are part of the natural food supply for wildlife.
- Dogs and other domestic animals must be kept leashed and under physical control at all times when in a national park. Loose domestic animals present a hazard to wildlife, as they are prone to chase and molest wildlife; they also present a public safety hazard.
- It is an offence to lure, disturb, chase or molest wildlife in a national park; penalties can range as high as $5000 or six months in jail.
|Routes through Elk Island National Park|
|Edmonton ← Sherwood Park ←||W E||→ Vegreville → Saskatoon|