Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Last updated on February 6, 2023
Road-trippin’ to Alberta’s far north is a rite of passage for any traveller. Not only does the population grow sparser the farther north you go, but the forests get thicker, and any outdoor adventure becomes more exciting. Think pristine camping conditions, epic snowmobiling in winter, and of course the chances of viewing northern lights increase the farther you go. For those reasons, and to serve many industries up north, the trip from Edmonton to Fort McMurray is an increasingly common one.
In 2016, Highway 63, which connects Edmonton to Fort McMurray, was twinned, which has meant a vast improvement in safety statistics along this otherwise tricky route. Long-term plans from the provincial government include creating a divided highway the entire length to accommodate the heavy traffic.
Because it connects to the Athabasca Oil Sands, it is a busy stretch of road with a lot of industrial traffic. Most are driving just to get there, few are stopping along the way and making the most out of this Alberta road trip! For those of you with some time on your hands, we’ve got some ideas of things to do along the way, which you’ll find below.
About the Route from Edmonton to Fort McMurray
In good conditions, it will take just under five hours to drive the 436 km between Edmonton to Fort McMurray. You will start out on Highway 28A, then onto Highway 28 and finally, Highway 63 will get you to your destination. Remember to always account for extra traffic when leaving at peak times, and be especially aware of conditions on this route when driving in winter (check here). The road is straight and flat most of the way and adequately maintained.
Just Arrived in Edmonton?
Do you want to get a good night’s sleep before beginning the drive north? We’ve got two good hotel options for you below.
Four Points by Sheraton Edmonton Airport is a comfortable hotel that is only 5 minutes from the airport. It has free wifi, an indoor pool, and a hot tub.
Best Western Plus Sherwood Park Inn & Suites is a great choice for those who want to get a jump on the drive. Conveniently located just outside of Edmonton but near the Anthony Henday, you’ll be in and out in no time. But while you’re there, enjoy this highly-rated hotel with an indoor pool and fitness center.
Edmonton to Fort McMurray by Car
If you are beginning your journey by flying into Edmonton International (YEG), add at least 30 minutes to your drive as the airport is beyond the southern city limits. When you land at YEG, you will find plenty of options for car rentals.
- We recommend booking in advance to avoid the hassle, and use RentalCars.com, to search all the agencies for the best rate.
- Turo (think Airbnb for car rentals) is also an option in the area. The Edmonton International Airport is a frequent pick-up/drop-off point.
Please be mindful of driving conditions, especially in winter. While Alberta’s highways are in great shape and well-maintained, snowstorms can wreak havoc for days at a time, and construction can slow things down in summer. Learn more about Alberta’s road laws and driving guidelines. In addition, check current road reports before you leave.
Edmonton to Fort McMurray by Bus
There are a few options for buses that make the drive from Edmonton to Fort McMurray (and vice versa) daily. The trip by bus is roughly 5 1/2 hours.
- Cold Shot offers almost-daily departures at a current cost of $70 one-way.
- Red Arrow makes the trip on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, departing Edmonton in the early evening. The current cost is $94 one way.
Edmonton to Fort McMurray by Other Options
- Taxis or Uber might be an option – they should be easy to find in Edmonton – but given how far the trip is, it may be difficult to find someone who wants to drive that route. (Not to mention, it will be super expensive.)
- Consider Poparide.com. At the moment of writing this article there weren’t any cars available on this route but make sure you check near your travel date. Poparide charges per seat so you have an opportunity to meet other visitors or better yet, locals.
- Direct flights are also available with both WestJet and Air Canada.
Fun Things to do Along the Way
This is a substantive trip with long stretches of highway and few stops along the way. If you want to break up the drive (and especially if you are bringing the kids!) we have a couple of fun suggestions:
- Jurassic Forest (Gibbons) – Located near Edmonton, this is a fun one for the kiddos, and is home to huge statues of dinosaurs. The hiking trails are beautiful plus there are worthy educational exhibits that you get to check out.
- La Biche River Wildland Provincial Park – This one involves a detour but is definitely worth it for a nice slice of nature. La Biche River Wildland Park protects an undisturbed native boreal forest landscape that consists of wetlands and dense forests of poplar, aspen, spruce, birch and fir. The area provides a habitat for black bears, lynxes, wolverines, woodland caribou, moose, and beaver.
You may even consider an overnight camping stay to break the long drive up. This provincial park is accessed best through Poachers Landing Provincial Recreation Area approximately 27 km east of Athabasca (take highway 55, 28 km north on Range Rd. 194A, 1 km east on Township Rd. 690, and 2 km on an access road).
Upon Arrival in Fort McMurray
If you would like to get some useful information on Fort McMurray attractions and more, visit their tourism website.
Where to Stay in Fort McMurray
There is a wide range of options in the city to fit many budgets.
- Best Western Plus Sawridge Suites: This highly-rated hotel offers an in-suite kitchenette in every room, plus a sauna and fitness centre on-site. You’ll most certainly appreciate the free underground parking if visiting in winter.
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Fort McMurray: This more affordable option still racks up high ratings. A hot tub, sauna, and fitness centre are all on offer, and it’s close to many local amenities.
- Airbnb – Looking for a unique stay with a taste of the local life in Fort Mac? There are plenty of options for a Fort McMurray Airbnb stay.
If you plan on spending some time enjoying Alberta’s capital city before heading north, check out our complete guide of the best things to do in Edmonton.Also! Don’t forget to download our free Road Trip Alberta bingo cards so that you can tick off some sights along the way!