A winter walk on the wild side

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Enjoy all this snow on a winter walk in the woods. Come explore life on the edge,  just west of Edmonton, has some pristine natural areas to explore.

Pembina River Provincial Park

Walk the wide trails at Pembina through snowy woods overlooking the deep gorge and frozen river winding below. The park is just over an hour west of Edmonton along the Yellowhead.

Check out this cool video of the park in winter (and some happy dogs frolicking, which is always fun).

Clifford E Lee Sanctuary

Nature preserves are less developed than other parks because of the delicate eco-systems they protect – this is a very good thing if you are on the lookout for wildlife. The Clifford E Lee Nature Sanctuary is 20 minutes south of Spruce Grove on RR 264 and throughout the year, you’ll be able to see and hear a huge number of birds including loons, ducks, eagles, owls and songbirds. Keep an ear out for winter finches on your snow walk.

Walk (or run if you’re under 10 and can’t help it) over the boardwalk along the marsh and follow deep snow trails through trembling aspen parkland and jack pine forest. In the summer, you’ll find clearings of spring wild flowers, but right now, with all this snow, it’s a great place for constructing a snow fort and following animal tracks.

Wagner Fen

Wagner Natural Area, between Edmonton and Spruce Grove, is mostly wild except for a few trails and short boardwalk. The most unique feature here is the treed fen – a peat wetland surrounded by tamaracks and black spruce. The groundwater that springs up here travels northward to Big Lake and the peaty fen acts as a big filter that cleans the water as it goes.

As you travel over the rolling terrain through aspen, willow and poplar forests, look for squirrels and deer tracks. In summer, the trails are lined with wild orchids, shrubby Labrador tea and colourful wildflowers. Northern pocket gophers peek out of tunnels and the open field is aflutter with silver-blue butterflies (especially in June and early July). In winter, deep snowy hollows are homes for snowshoe hares (can you see their trails and tracks in the snow?) and you can pause on the boardwalk to listen for chickadee-dee-dees.

Download a detailed Marl Pond trail guide (pdf) from the Wagner Fen homepage – it’s got a checklist of all the plants, animals and birds you may see.