Chances are if you look up the Edmonton River Valley on any tourism information site, you’ll find a reference to the trail networks size in comparison to New York City’s Central Park. It spans twenty-two times the size and intricacy compared to the city that never sleeps major attraction, so it’s a compelling stat that draws attention but does nothing to explain the gift and vibrancy of trail running in Edmonton.
Space is finite and green space is of limited quantity for any urban space lest it be swallowed up by parking lots and shopping developments. Ask any person that has moved to, visited, or spent any time in Edmonton, and they will communicate what Edmontonians easily forget; this is not commonplace, nor normal. We have over one hundred and fifty kilometers of recreational trail system veins unravelling and zipping back up again and arguably the best way to experience them is through the simple act of running.
There’s a feeling that’s hard to describe when you leave your door and spend some time in the river valley insulated from the intrusions and sounds of city life. Hard to describe perhaps because the proximity to the hustle and bustle is jarring against the world still in its near natural state. This helps to define one of the trail systems most significant contrasts in relation to say Central Park. On most routes, you can run from point A to point B and then on to Point C without repetition. It’s not an enclosed loop if you don’t want it to be. Sometimes it’s seemingly never ending.
Here’s a few of my favorite running routes amongst the many that the Edmonton River Valley has to offer. (Distances are approximate)
Kinsmen Park to Fort Edmonton
- Difficulty Level: Moderate to Hard
- Distance: 10.5 km.
A clearly defined trail that moves westward starting from the Kinsmen Park and winds through several major Edmonton parks -Emily Murphy, Hawrelak, Buena Vista, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and then finally to Fort Edmonton. One of the best ways to take in trail running in Edmonton.
Fort Edmonton Park Trail
- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Distance: 4.7 Km round trip
Running parallel to the historical interpretation park, the first half is an easily accessible paved path that gives way to wonderful views of the River Valley and then moves to the unpaved bottom half that run parallel to the river. No matter what direction you choose to run the trail at one point you’ll be confronted first with the view of the Edmonton Talus Dome art installation and then the choice to repeat or to make the connection beyond to the Whitemud Park.
- Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate
- Distance 6.3 Km. Round trip
Starting from the Park located at Fox Drive this trail winds but never inclines to Rainbow Valley Road. Always an excellent choice if you want to run repeats there and back or connect further on to the variant trails that offer different levels of difficulty and access.
Emily Murphy Hill
- Difficulty level: Hard
- Distance: 400m
While technically only a portion of a loop. Its distinction as a route is secured by its frequent use as an interval workout. Starting from the entry to Emily Murphy Park to the top minutes begin to feel like hours, meters feel like kilometers as the incline steepens but luckily in this prolonged world the hill engenders the sense of accomplishment also doubles.
Mill Creek Ravine Trail
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
- Distance: 10.6 km
Roughly 10.6 kilometers of trail running in Edmonton includes both paved and unpaved trails that varies in difficulty degree by whichever entry way you choose. Entering near Mill Creek Pool parking lot leads to the smooth flat, paved multi-use trail. Entering on Connors Road promises a steady uphill climb. Bonus, or perhaps deterrent, is the frequency of off leash dog walkers that frequent the area. Watch out for Coyotes as well.
Gold Bar Park
- Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate to Hard
- Distance: Varies by loop.
Perhaps best known as prime cross-country skiing terrain in winter this trail network offers a variety of easy, moderate and hard loops and distances that connect to Goldstick, Rundle and beyond. Whether looking for a short easy route, or a hilly seemingly never-ending slog Gold Bar has it all.
By David Falk – Running Room