STAGING AREAS - Article as seen in St Paul Journal (click here)
Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail provides a continuous trail corridor through the most historic region in Alberta. Twenty staging areas and rest stops in rural communities large and small ensure that visitors’ needs are met. The friendly locals are available to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask! Three provincial parks, many campgrounds and lots of motels, hotels and B & Bs allow you to explore AIHT for hours, days, or weeks.
Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail is an unsupervised backcountry trail. Plan accordingly and use at your own risk. Explore Alberta’s longest and oldest continuous trail and experience a ‘legacy to discover’. You will come away with a fuller understanding of rural northeastern Alberta and a plan to return again soon.
Staging areas include maps, washrooms, picnic tables, off loading ramps and lots of parking. They are often close to businesses where you can stock up on supplies.
Although the trail begins 20 kilometers to the west, the gateway to Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail awaits you in the charming town of Smoky Lake. The staging area is located at the “tee” intersection of Main Street and Railway Avenue. Traveling east from Smoky Lake, you will enter the White Earth Valley with its numerous trestle crossings over the White Earth River.
Traveling through expansive farmland, wetlands, and boreal forest, you will come to an impressive trestle at the hamlet of Bellis. Next stop is the Village of Vilna. Further to the east, is Spedden. Ashmont hosts a major equestrian staging area allowing wagon trains and trail rides an excellent starting point.
Called “Mile Zero” on the trail, Abilene Junction is the centre of the three trail branches moving southwest to Smoky Lake, northeast to Cold Lake and southeast to Heinsburg.
In Mallaig enjoy a stop at the charming staging area. The it is Glendon. . Further east lies Moose Lake. The next staging area is at the hamlet of Ardmore. The city of Cold Lake lies short kilometers beyond and offers all services and amenities. Immediately east of the city is Cold Lake Provincial Park.
Next is the town of St. Paul which offers all services. A full service campground is available at the St. Paul staging area. Note the spectacular gateway to the staging area – a tribute to Alberta’s centennial and the rich history of the region.
Carry on to Elk Point which, in 2009, rebuilt its former train station as an EcoCentre and Tourism Office. All services are available. Lindbergh offers a welcoming staging area to take a break before setting out on the final stretch which follows the North Saskatchewan River past Middle Creek and on into Heinsburg. Take the county road north from Middle Creek to access to Whitney Lakes Provincial Park. Heinsburg provides a beautiful start or finish to Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail. Visitors are reminded of the trail’s railway roots with their Railway themed park.
Pictured in header: Elk Point Staging Area with gazebo and Elk Point Trail Riders warm-up shack.
Pictured to the right: Heinsburg Railway Park makes a great place to launch your Iron Horse Adventure