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Yellowhead Highway Itinerary: Edmonton to Lloydminster

What to See and do Edmonton to Lloydminster

This part of the Yellowhead moves east of Edmonton through fertile farmland across north eastern Alberta through a culturaly diverse region. Vegreville is home to many ethic Ukrainian Canadiaqns since the early 1900s, and Bonnyville-St Paul (to the north) has a large picket of French-speaking Franco-Albertans. This part of Alberta has very productive oil, heavy oil, and natural gas fields.

Yellowhead Highway Overview: Edmonton to Lloydminster portion

Edmonton Area

Surrounding Edmonton, is the #216 the Edmonton Ring Road, officially the Anthony Henday Trail. Head North to St Albert, Namao, and Fort Saskatchewan. Head south on Anthony Henday Trail for Leduc , Nisku, Beaumont, Wetaskiwin, and Camrose. Also to the south of the Yellowhead,  via the Henday,  is the world famous West Edmonton Mall (with over 800 stores and services, which was at one point, the worlds largest shopping mall). South of the city is Leduc and Edmonton International Airport which lies on Highway 2, officially now the Queen Elizabeth II Highway south to Red Deer, Calgary (just 3 hours south), the Main Route of the Trans-Canada, and the United States.

Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, a government centre, and the cenre of central Alberta’s oilfield production and refining. The city has THREE DOWNTOWNS, the municipal downtown around city hall and Churchill Square, the business/retail downtown along Jasper Avenue between 100 and 105 Street, and the provincial government downtown along 107 Street, south of Jasper Avenue.  You can get to these three downtowns from the Yellowhead by taking the St Albert Trail / Groat Road Exit from the west, or take the 107 Street exit from the east.

South of the North Saskatchewan River is both the Univesrity of Alberta campus and the popular Whyte Avenue retail and nightclub district. This area is also where most of the city’s  35 annual festivals (from the International Fringe Theatre Festival to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival) are hosted.

Also on the southside of the North Saskatchewan River and east of downtown are the Refinery District (where the area’s oil production is refined into various products including automotive gasoline, and purified for shipping in pipelines heading east, south, and west), and  Strathcona County. You can get  to and from the Yellowhead Highway (east of the city) from these  areas via the #216 Anthony Henday Trail.

Edmonton -Walterdale Bridge in Fall (Billy Hudy) -sliver
Edmonton -Walterdale Bridge in Fall (Billy Hudy) -sliver

Edmonton to Lloydminster

This segment of the Yellowhead Highway is 250 km (2:30 hrs) and takes you from Edmonton, Alberta’s capital to the Saskatchewan border city of Lloydminster.

Elk Island National Park, just 35 minutes east of Edmonton,  has visitor facilities on the north side of the  highway. The park features rolling hills, glassy lakes, and  a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve. You can find herds of bison, elk, or one of more than 250 bird species that are home in this special place. You’ll need to purchase a National Parks Pass at the gates.

Vegreville, is about halfway between Edmonton and Lloydminster. Take Highway 857south to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a living history museum that showcases the lives and traditions of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada. o visit Vegreville iself, take Hihway 16A just north of the Yellowhead to drive through this town and see the world’s largest Easter Egg, and various Ukrainion shops and cutlural institutions. The highway then continues east, passing through the town of Mundare, home of the famous sausage, and the village of Andrew.

The highway then continues east, passing through the towns of Minburn and Mannville  before reaching the city of Vermillion. Continuing east, the highway just south of the city of Vermillion, at the junction with Highway 41. Vermillion is known for its charming century-old brick buildings, creating a unique atmosphere and shopping area.

Arriving in Lloydminster, a city that lies on both sides of the provinicial boundary, the Yellowhead Highway crosses the Alberta-Saskatchewan border which is marked by Highway 17.  lloydminster is renowned for its booming petroleum industry and the OTS Heavy Oil Science Centre.

Edmonton-River Valley Viewpoint-sliver (Nanette Samol)
Edmonton-River Valley Viewpoint-sliver (Nanette Samol)

History of the Yellowhead Highway:  Edmonton to Lloydminster portion

After World War One (“The Great War”, in those days) a  railway surveyor suggested that the abandoned railway grade would make a firm foundation for a highway. That idea was dopted by the  Edmonton Automobile and Good Roads Association, which began to push for the Yellowhead Highway.  Charles Neiymer and Frank Silverthorne  began the first automobile journey (in an Overland Four) through the Yellowhead Pass in 1922, reaching Victoria 21 days later.

By 1947, heavy oil deposits were discovered around Lloydminster, and expanded the Alberta oil boom from the Edmonton-Leduc area to the eastern edge of the province. This brought a need to upgrade the roads and highways from meeting farmer’ needs to meeting the industry needs of the Oil Patch.

Edmonton’s Yellowhead Trail and the Henday Drive Bypass

The Yellowhead Highway becomes Yellowhead Trail between Edmonton’s westerly border, 231 Street just before Anthony Henday Trail,  and is a busy route across the city until it reaches Anthony Henday Drive in Strathcona County at the city’s eastern border. This route gets a lot of cross-town traffic, and is worth avoiding during morning and afternoon rush hours. Due to heavy congestion, Edmonton outlined a $1 billion plan in late 2016 to upgrade Yellowhead Trail to a controlled-access freeway, eliminating at-grade intersections and constructing new interchanges. Work began in 2019 and is planned for completion in late 2027.

As of mid-2023, Yellowhead Trail east of 50 Street has been widened from two to three lanes, with the interchange at Victoria Trail having been reconfigured. Conversion to freeway standards west of St. Albert Trail is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023, which will see the removal of all at-grade crossings, particularly at 142 and 149 Streets. Access to these streets will be provided by right-in/right-out service roads.

in 2024, work will continue between Fort Road and 50 Street, with the elimination of all remaining at-grade crossings, straightening of the alignment north of the former City-Centre Airport lands, and adding  service roads and interchanges at 127 Street, 121 Street and 66 Street.

A suburban bypass of the route was begun in 1971 as Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) connecting Highway 2 to-from Calgary with Highway 16 West. It was finally completed as a ring road when the northeast leg of Anthony Henday Drive opened in late 2016, providing an alternate route through north Edmonton. The province of Alberta has  since invested $100 million to expand Anthony Henday from four to six lanes (3 in each direction) so the existing 18 kilometre Anthony Henday  expansion will accommodate up to 120,000 vehicles per day.

Route Elevation Chart

Yellowhead Highway Elevation Chart AB: Edmonton-Lloydminster
Yellowhead Highway Elevation Chart AB: Edmonton-Lloydminster

Map of Yellowhead Highway from Edmonton to Lloydminster