Edmonton, located in Northern Alberta, is still not as far north as Canada's top aurora watching spots. However, it does enjoy frequent northern lights displays that appear on average of about 90 nights per year. Northern lights that are caused by geomagnetic activity are usually observed from September to April. Time around spring and autumn equinoxes is when "solar storms," causing aurora borealis, happen most often. To know the right time, check with the aurora forecasts of the University of Alberta or the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The University of Alberta monitors the Edmonton area for geomagnetic activity to make the most precise prediction. To capture the elusive lights dancing in the sky you have to get away from the big city to avoid light pollution and hope for clear skies.
Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve
Luckily, you can reach a designated dark skies preserve in just 45 minutes by car from Edmonton. Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve occupies 116 sq mi(300 sq km) just east of the city. It features such scenic areas as Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, both of which offer a stunning backdrop for aurora. The preserve is holding the annual Star Party in September, and maybe you can see the beautiful natural phenomenon when it's still warm and while being in a company of fellow stargazers.
Athabasca and Fort McMurray
As you go north, your chances to see aurora borealis increase. That's why FortMcMurray located in northeast Alberta, is known to be one of the best aurora watching spots in the country. And the trip there is worth a 4.5-hour drive from Edmonton. Fort McMurray is nestled between boreal forests and the Athabasca oil sands. You can stay there or go further north to Wood Buffalo National Park, the world’s largest dark-sky preserve. Lake Athabasca, located near Wood Buffalo National Park in about 140 mi (223 km) north of Fort McMurray, is another perfect destination for a northern lights chase due to the beautiful scenery and reflections in the water.
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve, located west of Edmonton, is one of 17 designated Canadian dark sky preserves. With 4,247 sq. mi (11,000 sq. km) of wilderness around, stargazing can be a fantastic experience. Old Fort Point, Lake Annette, Pyramid Lake, and Maligne Lake are the most scenic places to enjoy the dancing lights display. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held in the park every fall. You may find it well worth a 3-hour trip from Edmonton.
When is the best time to see aurora borealis in Edmonton?
From September to April, during spring and autumn equinoxes, when solar storms are more frequent, is the best time to see aurora borealis in Edmonton. Auroral forecasting is available from the University of Alberta and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The University of Alberta provides the most precise forecast. On average, 90 nights per year have geomagnetic activity that results in northern lights. Show more
Where is the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve located?
With an occupation of 116 square miles (300 square kilometers), Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve is situated east of Edmonton. Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area provide a stunning aurora borealis backdrop. Visitors can easily access the designated dark sky preserve within a 45-minute drive from Edmonton. Show more
What is special about Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve?
Designated as one of the 17 Canadian dark sky preserves, Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve is located west of Edmonton, with 4,247 sq. mi (11,000 sq. km) of surrounding wilderness. The park is an exceptional destination for stargazing, with stunning locations like Old Fort Point, Lake Annette, Pyramid Lake, and Maligne Lake. A Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place in the park every autumn. Show more
Why do you need to get away from the city to see the northern lights?
The northern lights can only be viewed clearly in very dark surroundings, without any light pollution. Urban light pollution interferes with aurora borealis visibility. Going somewhere far from urban areas without light pollution tremendously improves the chances of admiring the northern lights display. The Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve is perfect for peaceful stargazing and located just a 45-minute drive away from Edmonton. Show more