1) Escape the city lights and gaze upon the splendour of a starry night.

Stars shine over Elk Island National Park

Get a front row seat during the next meteor shower and make memories that will last a lifetime. Visit after dark and enjoy the beauty of an unspoiled night sky. Elk Island National Park is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve celebrating a sky free of city light pollution. Lie down on a blanket and experience the milky way, the northern lights or simply count the stars with the kids who will be thrilled at being up past their bedtime, all while staying warm beside a cozy campfire.

2) Become part of the herd! View wildlife from every vantage point.

Rule of thumb: Visitor raising thumb to cover a bison. This method indicates visitor is at least 100 m away from the animal.

Explore the park by foot, bike or car and be on the lookout for wildlife! Bison and other mammals are most active at dawn and dusk when females travel with their young. Beyond bison be ready to glimpse deer, elk, coyotes and the countless birds that call Elk Island National Park home. Take a visitor guide along to help identify different animal tracks and stay a safe distance away from wildlife.

What’s a safe distance? Use the rule of thumb. Hold your fist straight out in front of you and extend your thumb. Cover the animal (who is standing sideways) with your thumb. If the animal is totally covered, you are about 100 metres away, which is a safe distance. If your thumb does not cover the animal, retreat slowly.

Hike tip: take Hayburger Trail to see plains bison or Wood Bison Trail to see wood bison.

Cycle tip: pair up with a motor vehicle to navigate through a bison herd gathered on the road or roadside.

Drive tip: when driving by wildlife stay in the vehicle. Watch for a few moments, take a quick photo, and move on.

3) Explore the many islands of Astotin Lake.

A couple paddles their canoe across Astotin Lake.

Astotin Lake has something to offer all year round! Watch the sun sparkle off each cascading paddle stroke while paddling along secluded bays and protected shorelines, listening to the echo of waterfowl hunting down lunch. Once the lake freezes, lace up and glide around Archer Island or play a game of hockey while breathing in the crisp winter air. There is no better way to spend a day!

4) Share a picnic with family and friends.

A young boy roasts a marshmallow with the help of Parks Canada interpreters.

Don’t forget the marshmallows! Nestle into a peaceful lakeside picnic spot with a crackling campfire, good food and great company. The Astotin Lake Recreation Area offers picnic shelters and tables, fire pits and wood, drinking water and washrooms to make each picnic enjoyable and comfortable. Take time to visit the Living Waters Boardwalk, golf course, interpretive theatre, hiking trails and then complete a memorable day spent in nature with a breathtaking sunset.

5) Get inspired! Discovery nature, history, and culture.

Three visitors listen to a park interpreter share the cultural significance of bison hides to Indigenous peoples.

Join a park program or borrow a discovery kit to learn more about the history of bison conservation, how to identify animal tracks or study a beginner’s guide to the solar system. Take the adventure a step further by tracking down one of the eight geocaches hidden throughout the park. Drop-in programs and discovery kits are free with paid entry.