About The Trails and Strathcona Wilderness Centre within the Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere

The area provides the public with the opportunity to enjoy recreation and experience spending time in an internationally recognized public space within a UNESCO Biosphere. The Beaver Hills is only the second Biosphere in Alberta, 18 in Canada and within 30 minutes of 1 million urban residents.

What do you see in this space? How do people in the community enjoy it?:

  • A portion of Strathcona County lies within the Beaver Hills moraine, which was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in March 2016. The moraine is an island of boreal forest within the aspen parkland, supporting a high diversity of wildlife. The Biosphere is a lived in and working landscape
  • The Beaver Hills is a model of sustainable development and stewardship and offers many opportunities for recreation and to experience nature
  • The Beaver Hills Biodiversity Trail combines traditional interpretation tools with features to educate and experience biodiversity, culture and the story of the land. The 2 kilometer trail traverses a beaver engineered landscape, representative of the moraine
  • The Strathcona Wilderness Centre is a multi-use area that has a variety of activities offered year-round including the use of 14.5 kilometers of trails that can be used for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and disc golf. The public, regional schools and a range of community groups use the public space across all seasons
  • Strathcona Wilderness Centre amenities include a lodge, picnic sites, limited overnight campsites and a cookhouse. In addition to seasonal cross-country ski and snowshoe rental and lessons

Events and Festivals:

  • Strathcona Wilderness Centre Open House (September 25, 2016)
  • The Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival and Viking Feast (February 10-11, 2017)
  • World Snow Day: The Beaver Hills Bioblitz (2017 TBA)

Historic or Heritage Features:

  • Traditional indigenous use of the Beaver Hills began 12,000 years ago, predominantly along its watercourses and within its sheltering forests. Seasonal use bison and other food sources was supported within this distinct landscape
  • The fur trade in the 1800’s heavily impacted the Beaver Hills – which is reflected in the Cree name a-misk wa-chi “place rich in beaver”
  • As the fur trade waned, European families homesteaded in the area, the forests continuing to sustain human residents as a source of food and building materials. Agricultural use continued and communities grew and became prosperous
  • Recreational use began in the 1880’s, growing and changing as transportation opportunities expanded to deliver the surrounding population to the Beaver Hills

Memorable or Unique Characteristic(s):

  • UNESCO Biosphere
  • The Beaver Hills is only the second Biosphere in Alberta, and only 18 in Canada within 30 minutes of 1 million urban residents
  • Great space for residents to enjoy recreation


  • The Beaver Hills Biodiversity Trail opened on September 9, 2016. The trail is built on land purchased by Strathcona County as part of the Legacy Land Program.  It complements the nature-based programming at the Strathcona County Wilderness Centre, and will conserve habitat

Faits rapides

Additional Comments:
The Beaver Hills Biosphere designation was achieved through multi-stakeholder collaboration between many partner organizations. Strathcona County has been a member of the Beaver Hills Initiative since it formed in 2002, working to address development and land use planning within the moraine. The Beaver Hills Initiative has grown to over 20 member organizations, including Strathcona County, Lamont County, Beaver County and Leduc County, as well as provincial and federal government, local residents, indigenous organizations, NGOs and academia.

Map: http://issuu.com/strathcona/docs/biodiversity_trail_map_8x11/1?e=1370214/38443527

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0aYii_4A-c

Submitted by: Stacy Fedechko