Alberta's Iron Horse Trail is a work in progress. Some heavy ballast and soft sand remain, making short segment of the trail a challenge. Voluntary trail passes available at "TRAIL FRIENDLY" businesses help fund the necessary upkeep and work required along the trail.

There are many staging areas to make your starting point as you head out on foot on Alberta's Iron Horse Trail. Whether you're out for a stroll, or a serious hike, you have the opportunity to see up close the beautiful flora/fauna and wildlife along the way.

Not sure what you saw? Check out our Trail Wildlife page to help you name the bird, or the tree that you saw along the way.

Many areas are easy walking, other are a bit more of a hike or a traverse. Plan ahead

Weather conditions

Great friend of the trail, Marion Michaels, and Sheila Thompson
Hiking at Abilene Junction.

There are several ways to hike Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail (AIHT)

1.  Choose one or more of the many scenic sections along the trail.  

Northeast branch: 

  • Cold Lake Marina to the Beaver River trestle ( 10  km)
  • Bonnyville to the Moose Lake trestle ( 15 km)   
  • Mallaig to Boscombe Hall ( 9 km)
  • Boscombe Hall to Abilene Junction ( 7  km)

Southeast branch:  

  • Abilene Junction to St. Paul (19 km)  
  • St. Paul to Elk Point (35 km)  
  • Elk Point to Lindbergh (17 km)  
  • Lindbergh to Heinsburg (18 km)

Western Branch:  

  • Abilene Junction to Ashmont ( 6  km)  
  • Ashmont to Spedden ( 10 km)
  • Spedden to Vilna ( 14 km)  
  • Vilna to Smoky Lake ( 40 km)

Nearby Provincial Parks and Other Trails

Three provincial parks are adjacent to the Trail with have many kilometers of hiking trails and excellent camping facilities. 
As well, most communities have beautiful hiking trails. 
See town websites for details.

  • Cold Lake Provincial Park 
  • Moose lake Provincial Park 
  • Whitney Lakes Provincial Park

2.  Section Hiking

Each of the three branches of AIHT is about 90 km long.  You may want to choose to hike one branch of the Trail and either make one multi-day hike or several shorter hikes.  Numerous campgrounds and three provincial parks are situated along the way.  This is a great way to experience everything AIHT has to offer. You can walk at whatever pace you choose during the season that appeals to you most, enjoying spring wildflowers or fall colors as the case may be. Section hikes can be divided into manageable sections and completed at your convenience over the course of one season, or over several years.

3.  Through Hiking

The most challenging prospect is hiking the entire trail in one go.  This would require lots of planning and preparation and has never been attempted, although AIHT is a young trail – in existence for only ten years. 

Thank You to Keen Canada for their generous donations to trail building across Canada


*AIHT is built on an abandoned rail bed, and as such is plagued by loose gravel in some places.  Hiking on the grass to the side of the trail should alleviate most problems.  
*AIHT is, in part, a wilderness trail, and wild animals have been spotted.  Acquaint yourself with the dangers of wild animal encounters and take the all usual precautions.  The following animals have been seen from the trail:

  • bear
  • cougar
  • fisher
  • badger
  • beaver
  • coyotes
  • moose
  • deer

Hiking with Dogs
Dogs are permitted on AIHT, but they impose additional responsibilities on hikers who bring them along. If you want to hike with your dog, be considerate of others (and your dog) by keeping your dog controlled at all times. People hiking with dogs should be aware of the impact of their animals on the Trail environment and their effect on the Trail experience of others.

  • Keep your dog under control at all times.
  • Do not allow your pet to chase livestock or wildlife
  • Leash your dog around water sources and in sensitive areas.
  • Be mindful of the rights of other trail users not to be bothered by your dog.
  • Be especially careful of horses on the Trail as they can get very nervous around dogs.

Report My Trail Completion

When you complete a branch of Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail, report your hike report your hike to AIHT . 
You will earn a certificate and hiker patch. 
The greatest rewards in hiking are the personal ones—the memories, photographs, the sense of accomplishment, and the deeper appreciation of the landscape and history of northeastern Alberta. 

Please keep us informed of your hiking experiences so we can continue to improve the Trail for others. Talk to us!

When you finish each branch of the Trail, let us know here at the website. AIHTHikerApplication . The information collected through these applications helps AIHT keep accurate records and up-to-date Trail statistics. 

When you return your completed application, your name will be added to our roster of AIHT hikers. We will send you a certificate of recognition and a hiker patch. We work with volunteer help to process the applications as quickly as we can, but please allow up to 12 weeks to receive your certificate and patch.
Our recognition policy:
• Gives equal recognition to thru-hikers and section-hikers. 
• Operates on the honor system. 
Our recognition policy does not consider sequence, direction, speed, or whether one carries a pack

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to register?

No. There's no formal registration system. But, let friends and family know where you are hiking, when you plan to return and what your itinerary is.

What kind of equipment will I need?

This will depend on how far you plan to hike and how many days you will be on the Trail.  Take some time to read about hiking equipment, or consult a camping /outfitter shop.

Do I need to carry maps?

It is a good idea to download sectional maps from the website.  The Trail is easy to follow but, only maps can give you a full picture of the distance you will be hiking and, in an emergency, maps are your best source of information on how to get off the Trail and find help.

How do I get food and supplies?

Hikers can resupply at most of the small towns along the way.

How much does it cost?

There is no charge for using AIHT.  However, you can become a member of our trail association, or make a donation to the trail at the website.  There is a small shipping and handling cost attached to registering your Trail Completion for non-members.

          ***AIHT wishes to acknowledge information gained from the Appalachian Trail website in preparing our hiking documents.

Emily McDonald and sled dogs.

Hiking on the Trail.

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