Get into fall with a Northeast Alberta road trip
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Lakes and trails in abundance set the stage for an amazing fall road trip in Alberta’s northeast. With autumn weather that is often warmer and more predictable than in the mountains, fall is a great time to get after some adventures east of Highway 2, with a loop through Athabasca, Lac La Biche, Bonnyville/Cold Lake, Vermilion and Métis Crossing.
Eastern Alberta may not have the larch forests you'll find at higher altitudes further west, but the boreal forests pop with their own rich orange, red and yellow foliage.
Head for northeast Alberta, #NEAB, and check out all these great adventures.
Hit the road for adventure in #NEAB
Big clear lakes, beautiful boreal forest and sprawling prairie make the #NEAB road trip a no-brainer for fall adventure! Paddle, hike, bike or motor your way through northeast Alberta, at your own pace.
Approximate driving times/distances
To make the most efficient loops, you can start by going north, and work your way east, then south; or, in reverse order starting southeast and working your way north and west.
- Edmonton to Athabasca: 150km, 1h45m
- Athabasca to Lac La Biche: 96km, 1h
- Lac La Biche to Bonnyville/Cold Lake: 148km, 1.5h
- Bonnyville/Cold Lake to Vermilion: 166km, 1h50m
- Vermilion to Métis Crossing: 161km, 1.5h
- Métis Crossing to Edmonton: 114km, 1h20m
Either direction, you can see that the driving distances are short and the payoffs are big. So let’s hit the road! Here’s a northeast Alberta history road trip itinerary to keep your blood pumping and your body moving in the great outdoors.
Day 1: Athabasca
No better way to get into the swing than kicking things off in Athabasca! With golfing and paddling on the doorstep of town, you can launch right into some epic fall adventures.
Athabasca is waterfront on the Athabasca River from which it gets its namesake, and central to town is their boat launch. If space is limited in your car, it’s easy to get a rental kayak or SUP via Paddle Ur Way Rentals, and if you’re looking for a guided experience, check out Paddle Athabasca.
The golf experience stays lush into the fall in this cool, humid northern destination - and you can take your pick from a full 18-hole round at Athabasca Golf & Country Club, or mix it up. Soccer golf? Fling golf? Disc? Par 3? Rocky Lanes Fairways gives you the option of all kinds of non-traditional golf experiences, for those who just want a kick at it. (I mean, how many times have you thought about kicking a soccer ball down a fairway? I know I have.)
Extended stay option: if you’re seeking a real wild, natural experience, Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures offers multi-day backcountry trips to a classic lodge up near the Grand Rapids, where bears, moose, deer and other wildlife abound.
Day 2: Lac La Biche
With over 150 lakes across the region, Lakeland Provincial Park and large provincial recreation areas in every direction, your only dilemma in Lac La Biche is too many choices: hike, paddle, quad, horseback, bike, there’s lots of ground to cover in all directions and plenty of trails to get you there.
At the centre of it all is Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, Alberta’s only provincial park set entirely on an island. Osprey nest there in the old growth and pelican fish nearby and rest ashore in secluded spots. You can stay in a tipi or a cabin, or tent it. For a paddle, all you have to do is head to McArthur Park, where Off Road Rentals has watercraft for rent.
And while it sounds like a pun, simply the best way to describe a visit to Christy Creek Honey is you’ll get a buzz: a natural one, from being (safely) around a busy colony of bees, tasting fresh honey and all of it in an idyllic farm setting.
Extended stay options: go backcountry in style with Off Road Rentals Elinor Lake Campsite, or take a self-navigated multi-day backcountry paddling trip on Alberta’s only backcountry lake circuit, the Lakeland Canoe Circuit.
When you’re ready, head on to Bonnyville, an hour and a half east of Lac La Biche.
Day 3: Bonnyville
As the morning mist rises off the water, head out onto the lake for some fishing. Cold Lake, in the MD of Bonnyville, is renowned for its excellent fishing. With its deeper, colder depths, fish are especially abundant here. Drop a line with Anglers Fishing Tours, or Weaver’s Bent Rods, and you’re bound to find a few. These local guides have an eye on the waters and they have fishing holes for any weather and any day of the week.
From there, hit the hiking trails at Muriel Lake. You'll pass through gently wooded boreal forest rich with birch and poplar colours, before arriving at the Muriel Lake Lookout, with a commanding view of the lake itself and the prairie beyond. And you can top it all off with a locally crafted brew or cocktail at Cold Lake Brewing and Distilling, with its own commanding view of Cold Lake from their rooftop patio.
Nature stays and B&Bs are also a Bonnyville area specialty. If you want to be closer to the outdoors you can camp at Rocky Meadows Country Getaway (be sure to have some homemade pie from their guest shop!), or glamp at 350 Farms. Or, enjoy the comfort of the indoors with an outdoor woodland oasis at Hamilton House B&B.
Day 4: Vermilion
Literally verging on the edge of town, Vermilion Provincial Park is a surprising oasis on the prairies. You can camp on site or just drop in for a day of hiking, biking and paddling.
Before you rock up, be sure to stop in at Burnt Rock Adventure Co. to stock up on any gear or technical apparel, or watercraft rentals. The outdoors shop is on Main Street in the old Vermilion Standard newspaper building, and the two storey mid-century space has been lovingly restored. Or, for a little more power, you can pop around the corner to Baddock's Power Products for e-bike rentals.
The park also has a $2 mini-golf course, or you can get in a round of the full golf experience at Vermilion Golf and Country Club. Then, hit the town for a bite or some apres, art and retail therapy.
Lastly, make the 1.5 hour drive up to Métis Crossing for a final day (or two) of cultural experiences at Alberta’s premiere Métis heritage site.
Day 5: Métis Crossing
Established on the original site of the Victoria Métis Settlement, Métis Crossing combines the comforts of the new world - with a stay at the Lodge (opened in 2022) - and traditions that span centuries. Meet bison, learn about life as a Métis trapper, paddle a voyageur canoe, learn Indigenous crafts and see what life was like on a Métis settlement in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
With its signature experiences, preserved heritage site and cultural gatherings, you can tailor your experience here to fit one day, two or more.
More #NEAB road trip inspiration
Want to connect to Alberta’s history and culture? Check out this history-themed northeast Alberta itinerary to complement your outdoor experiences, and find more things to do in northeast Alberta.