While winter might not seem like the optimal time to be travelling in Northern Alberta, you might be surprised at how many fun things there are to do. With snow, crisp temperatures and stunning scenery, Fort McMurray is a fantastic place to visit in the wintertime. Fort McMurray is a small city located approximately 435 kilometres northeast of Edmonton and is nestled in the boreal forest. From gazing at the northern lights to exploring the countryside on a snowmobile to lacing up your skates, there is no shortage of fun winter activities to do in Fort McMurray.
Winter Activities to Do in Fort McMurray: Ice-Fishing
The Wood Buffalo region that Fort McMurray is located in is known for its ice-fishing. The season typically lasts from December to April, and there are several different locations to choose from. On average, whitefish and perch are the most commonly caught fish, although if you are up for the challenge, you can also find pike, walleye, trout, and burbot(ling).
It’s important to remember that weather conditions can change at any time, so if you are planning on going ice-fishing, make sure you pay attention to the forecast and dress appropriately. Additionally, always remember to check the ice to make sure it’s thick enough to walk on before venturing out onto any lakes or rivers.
Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing
Fort McMurray has a fantastic trail system running through the city and region that’s the perfect setting for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Whether you’re looking to venture out for a couple of hours or make a full day of it, getting outdoors and exploring the gorgeous landscape in and around Fort McMurray is a great way to spend a day in the winter.
Try snowshoeing the Abasand Trails and working your way into the valley that flanks the Horseshoe River, or hit over 28km of groomed cross-country ski trails along the Birchwood Trail System.
Northern Alberta is a snowmobiler’s paradise, making Fort McMurray the perfect location for anyone looking to explore the hundreds of kilometres of trails surrounding the city. There are numerous signed trails in place that have been organized by a local group, the McMurray Sno Drifters, who have partnered with Fort McMurray to create an ideal snowmobile adventure.
There are a number of different staging areas available that made unloading your snow machine easy and make the trails super accessible. Just remember to purchase a trail pass from a member of the local club and abide by all bylaws and rules.
Lace-Up Your Skates
If you’re looking to do some skating in Fort McMurray this winter, then you won’t be disappointed. The city has a number of different indoor and outdoor skating rinks that offer endless hours of skating and family fun. If you’re looking to make a day of it, head over to the Gregoire Lake Provincial Park and enjoy a game of shinny on the lake. Again, always remember to check the ice to ensure it is a safe thickness before lacing up your skates.
See the Northern Lights
There really is nothing more spectacular than seeing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in action, and Fort McMurray is the perfect place to get a glimpse. The city is located within the auroral band that roughly centers on the 65th parallel. This means that locals can typically see the Northern Lights on most clear nights from October to March.
Patience and persistence are key when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights in action, so it’s a good idea to dress warmly and bring something warm to drink while you wait. The best times to view the Northern Lights are around midnight, and you want to have a little light pollution as possible for optimal viewing.
Fort McMurray really is the perfect place for anyone looking to spend some time outdoors this winter. Whether you are lacing up your skates for a game of shinny or sitting under a blanket of stars with some hot chocolate while waiting for the Northern Lights, travelling to Fort McMurray in the winter is definitely a must!