On the south bank of the Athabasca River and surrounded by total wilderness, this town of 9,500, 287 kilometers (178 miles) west of Edmonton , makes an ideal base for a couple of days’ exploration. It’s also only 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Jasper —but before speeding off to the famous mountain parks, take time out to explore Hinton’s immediate vicinity.
In town, don’t be put off by the unappealing location of the Natural Resource Interpretive Park, behind the Canadian Tire store on the west side of town—much of the park is out of sight in the valley below. Up top you’ll find a lookout, a 154-ton dump truck, and panels describing local industry, while a trail leads down to a small arboretum and through an area of wetlands.
On the campus of the Hinton Training Centre (1176 Switzer Dr., 780/865-8200, Mon.–Fri. 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.) there is a small museum dedicated to the history of forestry, including a display on wildfire management. Adjacent is a 1922 ranger cabin. The museum is also the starting point for the Interpretive Nature Trail—a 1.6-kilometer (one-mile) path that winds around the perimeter of the school, passing various forest environments, Edna the erratic (a huge boulder carried far from its source during the last Ice Age), and a viewpoint with magnificent views of the Athabasca River Valley and Canadian Rockies.
The tourist information center (Gregg Ave., 780/865-2777, daily 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m. in summer, weekdays 9 a.m.–4 p.m. the rest of the year) is on the south side of the highway surrounded by gardens in the middle of the commercial strip. It’s impossible to miss. Most of the best this region has to offer lies outside of Hinton, and in this regard, the staff does a wonderful job of supplying information on hiking, fishing, and canoeing opportunities that would otherwise be easy to miss.