Exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada is a perfect weekend getaway from Edmonton. With the park being new to us, we spent our time discovering the best things to see and do in Sundance Provincial Park. Eager to try camping with our dogs for the first time, we chose Emerson Lakes Campground in Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada because it was close enough to home that we could easily make the drive back if needed, yet far enough away to be an adventure. With lakes, hiking trails and hoodoos there were plenty of activities to keep us entertained.
This is a popular area for activities such as hiking, horseback riding, fishing, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, camping and cross-country skiing. Its unique geological features including eskers, hoodoos, old growth forest and rare plant species. When exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada, it is important to know that the park is made up of two separate areas, Sundance Valley, and Emerson Lakes. Each area has unique features and different recreation opportunities, and both are worth exploring.
Sundance Valley is a must-see area when exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada. On the northern end of the valley is the Wild Sculpture Trail Network. This hiking trail network leads adventure seekers through old growth forests to the spectacular Sundance Hoodoos, otherwise known as the 'Hoodoos of the North'. This section of the park also has a few lakes, sweeping views across the valley and backcountry campsites.
The southern tip of the park is where the Marl Fen is. A fen is a peat filled wetland that takes thousands of years to form. Hence the need for protection as it is an ecosystem that cannot be easily restored once destroyed. Marl Fens are rich in biodiversity. Sundance Provincial Park's Marl Fen has twelve species of orchids, five species of carnivorous plants and numerous other rare plants.
The second area of the park worth exploring in Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada is Emerson Lakes. Made up of a chain of five lakes this area is quite pretty. This part of the park is a popular spot for camping, fishing, and boating. Additionally, there are 7km of hiking trails around the lakes and a picnic area next to the Athabasca River.
We have always wanted to camp with our dogs. However, one of them doesn't travel well in cars. We decided to see if we could get him to set a new personal record for time in a car, hopefully without getting sick. His record up to this point was one hour. At three hours and with park access on a gravel road, this as sure to be a test. Fortunately, all went well. The dog set a new personal record. Thank goodness. We made it to Emerson Lake Campground without incident and were ready to begin exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada.
Camping at Emerson Lake in Sundance Provincial Park Alberta was a perfect spot to take our dogs camping for the first time. It is a small campground on a lake and is connected to hiking trails that we could walk the dogs on. Our plan was to take them for a good long hike to wear them out, hoping that they would sleep through the night. We brought long leads to use on the hike and to keep them from wandering when we were back in the campsite. Our dogs are big boys, so we packed up the 4-person tent and brought extra bedding for them. We are happy to report, that they were good boys and slept well in the tent.
Emerson Lake Campground is the only front-country campground in the park. It is a pretty campground nestled in the eskers on the edge of the lake. Emerson Lakes is a small campground with fifteen well treed and un-serviced campsites. There are picnic tables, vault toilets, a boat launch and dock. Best of all there is free firewood. Campers should plan to bring their own water though. Emerson Lake Campground is popular area for fishing, paddling and standup paddle boarding. There is a lake side day use area within the campground. Making this beautiful little campground a perfect place to set up basecamp when exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada. Slightly off the beaten the path, Emerson Lake Campground is about 70km northwest of the Town of Edson. Approximately 50km of this is on gravel roads.
Non-motorized and small electric boats are permitted.
One of the reasons we picked Emerson Lake to camp at with the dogs was the 7km trail network connecting a chain of five lakes that is accessed from the campground. We ended up hiking about 4km of the trails. The small lakes are very pretty, and the trails do offer nice views of them. The lakes are separated by eskers making the hike hillier than one would expect for the region.
Camping and hiking in bear country requires a few precautions. Like, keeping a clean campsite, making sure that food, toiletries, and dishes are all safely stored in your vehicle. Never bring food or toiletries into your tent. While hiking, make noise on the trails by talking or breaking out the camp songs from your childhood like The Happy Wanderer. 'Val-deri, Val-dera. My knapsack on my back'. Bears are typically timid and will leave before you ever spot them. Never-the-less, be sure to bring along bear spray just in case.
I mistakenly thought that when it was promoted as having maintained trails it meant, well...that they would be maintained and signed. As such, I wasn't overly worried about having a good quality map and thought that the map I pulled off the internet and the photo I took of the map at the trailhead would suffice. At times during the hike, the trail was easy to follow. It also occasionally narrowed to barely being a trail. And sometimes, it disappeared completely. We didn't get lost during our adventure. However, I was thankful that at least one of us had the sense to put a GPS based trail map app on their phones. Despite the lack of recent trail maintenance, the hike past the Emerson Lakes was pretty. Perhaps, it just needs a few more people to use it. The lesson I learned, to invest in good maps and a GPS app especially when you have a challenging time finding quality information online.
Accidentally spraying yourself and those around with bear spray tops the list of 'How NOT to Hike in the Woods.' Take it from me, be careful where you put your bear spray. As the Emerson Lakes Trail was not well maintained, there was quite bit of downfall. As such we found ourselves climbing over, around, or underneath the trees that fallen across the trail. This is when I learned a valuable lesson, the hard way. I will spare you some future pain so that you can learn this same lesson, but the easy way
Thinking I had safely tucked by bear spray safely into an outer pocket on my backpack I venture confidently forward. Although I wondered if I should have worn my bear spray around my waist for easier access. Long story short. The answer is yes, I should have put my bear spray somewhere else...but not for what you are thinking.
As I was ducking underneath a tree that had fallen across the path, I caught my bear spray on a branch. And, ripped off the safety SETTING OFF the bear spray! Yes. I bear sprayed us. Yes. It was horrible. However, now I understand why bears hate it so much. We cut the hike short and headed back to camp to get cleaned up. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until you have washed your hands really well. And then, wash them again. Bear Spray burns and lingers for some time, especially on fabrics. So, this is one experience that you can live over again, a few more times just to make sure the lesson really sinks in. Thankfully, we were all fine and were able to enjoy the rest of the day relaxing at our campsite.
The Sundance Provincial Park Picnic Area is five minutes down the road from the Emerson Lakes Campground. This day-use spot is located by a big bridge on the banks of the Athabasca River. It is a small and basic picnic area with one table and a boat launch to access the river. When exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada be sure to plan a visit here. It is a nice place to hang out and enjoy the river, to go boating or even fly fishing.
The Wild Sculpture Trail system is made up of three trails, the Skyline, Hoodoo and Lake Trails. The trails lead past Sundance, Beaver Lakes, and provide various vantage points to enjoy the Sundance Hoodoos and views of Sundance Valley. Combining all three trails is 8km. We chose to hike the Lake and Hoodoos Trails which was just shy of 3km. The trails are single track and easier to follow than the one around Emerson Lakes. The trails were well signed.
Having lived in Alberta all my life, I was surprised to learn that there were 'Hoodoos of the North'. For the most part when people think of hoodoos in Alberta, they think of the world-famous ones in Alberta's badlands near Drumheller. In this case, the hoodoos are in the foothills in an old growth fir and spruce forest. So, when I came across information about the Sundance Hoodoos, I knew that it was a place that I needed to experience. The Sundance Hoodoos are visually striking sandstone formations formed by erosion that look like sculptures.
Spending a weekend exploring Sundance Provincial Park in Alberta Canada made a fantastic little adventure. Emerson Lakes Campground is a beautiful spot that was a great destination to bring the dogs for their first camping experience. Despite our challenges hiking, we enjoyed finding some of the other Emerson Lakes and really enjoyed discovering the Sundance Hoodoos.
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.
Very informative article! Definitely somewhere I would love to explore. Those hoodoos are cool.
Oopsie on the bear spray! I am often worried about that happening.
I had a friend ask me once "Is it like bug spray, do we spray it on ourselves?" lol)
It is a pretty spot and with great fishing, although the people we met struck out.
Ha ha ha....how did you respond to your friend's question?
Ha! Well I belly laughed for a minute until I realized she was serious and just staring at me. To which I responded "Nooooooooooo" and explained to her it's mase and how we do not want that on us. I did give her a bit of credit being a city girl, that Bug Spray - Bear Spray sure sound similar. And I was very glad she asked before assuming hahaha
I did chuckle a bit on the bear spray incident. I could easily see that happening. I love how you wrote about, taking in some humour in the situation. Well done. The photos rock as usual.
Wow! Camping with those two great creatures you call dogs. I've seen many dogs in my life but not two that size. I imagine they require a fair amount of attention. Loved your bear spray story. Why are lessons learned always like that? Beautiful area!
Yeah, they are our horse dogs I guess they do demand a lot of attention in the form of cuddles and regular adventures. I'm not sure that I feel the same way about the bear spray incident. I have always been a hands on learner so maybe this was bound to happen eventually. However, this was one lesson I could have done with out
Wow - your photo of Emerson Lake is out of this world beautiful! That must have been a truly magical morning. We had the exact same thing happen with our bear spray on the TCT. It got all over the side of Sean's backpack when it went off, and until we could wash it off (almost 2 days later) we started chocking and crying every time we went near the bag. I will never use bear spray on a real bear unless there is absolutely no other option left!
Thank you. It was such a beautiful and enchanting morning.
Phew, it's actually a relief to know that I'm not alone with the bear spray thing. I am a bit afraid of washing that pack. It is currently outside underneath some snow....