When Edmontonians want to get away from it all and retreat back to nature, Elk Island National Park is often their first port of call. Just 45km east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16), it's convenient for weekend getaways (making the campgrounds quite popular). The park – entirely fenced – contains the highest density of wild hoofed animals in the world after the Serengeti; many come here to see the resident wild bison. It is also a Dark Sky preserve.
The wood bison live entirely in the quieter southern portion of the park (which is cut in two by Hwy 16), while the plains bison inhabit the north. Most of the infrastructure lies in the north, too, around Astotin Lake. Here you’ll find a campground, a nine-hole golf course (its clubhouse has a restaurant), a beach and a boat launch. Four of the park’s 11 hiking trails lead away from the lakeshore through trademark northern Albertan aspen parkland – a kind of natural intermingling of the prairies and the boreal forests.
Note that some of the park's campgrounds close from early October to May. The opening hours of the visitor center vary seasonally; from July to August it's often open later.