Then & Now

The History of St.Albert Trail

March, 2024

How St. Albert Trail serviced the city for more than a century

Back in 1860, the familiar path we now call St. Albert Trail was part of a main shipping route, footpath and horse trail between Fort Edmonton and Lac Ste. Anne. One hundred years later, in 1960, it morphed into a four-lane highway that linked St. Albert to Edmonton. The road has undergone many improvements over the years and, today, the history of St. Albert Trail continues to be written. The original version of this profile, published in T8N’s December, 2015 edition, contained several historical highlights concerning the trail. We’ve added a few more in this latest revision.


In 1806, James Bird of the Hudson Bay Company wrote of the abundance of fish at Lac Ste. Anne, which he dubbed “God’s Lake.” That was no idle accolade, given how critical the fish supply was to feeding the early settlers. In an 1858 journal entry, explorer John Palliser praised the vast haul of whitefish, which he said were “delicious eating [and] are of an average size of four pounds.”

These early shipments of fish by horse cart influenced where the St. Albert Trail would eventually be located. The path proved to be an ideal route from Lac Ste. Anne, accommodating some 30,000 to 40,000 whitefish shipped annually by horse-drawn carts, according to Hudson Bay Company journal entries made in 1860 and 1861. They were a particularly significant food source, especially during the winter to supplement the dwindling supply of buffalo meat.

The trail easily accommodated the transportation of human resources, such as the Grey Nuns who in 1859 arrived in the tiny, St. Albert community to assist Father Albert Lacombe, after travelling 51 days from St. Boniface, Manitoba. Thirty years later, back when Alberta was still a southwestern chunk of the Northwest Territories, the first representative of St. Albert on the North-West Commission opened the initial road from
St. Albert to Edmonton, officially establishing the existence of St. Albert Trail. By 1899, St. Albert received official recognition as a village.


St. Albert achieved town status in 1904, a year before Alberta entered Confederation as a province, and St. Albert Trail’s importance as a connection to Edmonton increased considerably. In 1909, newspaper entrepreneur Raymond Brutinel led a group of investors and businessmen to develop
a proposal for the Interurban Railway to operate between St. Albert and Edmonton along St. Albert Trail. Despite a rather convoluted process of stops and starts, the railway began operating on December 22, 1913. Service abruptly ended on April 1, 1914 with a tremendous fire that consumed the car, barn and contents. It never operated again.

In 1940, workers completed construction on Highway 2 through the town, bringing with it a new bridge over the Sturgeon River. Twenty years later, increasing traffic between St. Albert and Edmonton warranted the conversion of the Trail into a four-lane, graded highway joining the two communities. At that time, St. Albert’s population stood at 3,190 which grew rapidly to more than 25,000 by the time St. Albert was incorporated as a city.


On February 26, 2007, part of St. Albert Trail between St. Albert and Edmonton was renamed Mark Messier Trail, as a nod of thanks to the NHL superstar who made his mark in professional hockey playing for the Edmonton Oilers, a team that benefited from his presence to win five Stanley Cups. When he was younger, Messier lived in St. Albert and played with the city’s Saints franchise in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

In April 2012, the first meeting of the newly-established St. Albert Trail Improvement Plan Committee launched with a 15-month mandate to address several concerns and goals. This Mayor’s Task Force initiative looked at ways to maximize greenery surrounding the trail and make it more aesthetically-pleasing as a way to brand the city. The committee also examined ways that the trail could accommodate all modes of travel and the diverse needs of drivers, pedestrians and surrounding businesses. But they also had to balance those options with approaches concerning cost-effectiveness and user safety.

In the end, the committee drew up 16 recommendations, including implementing a long-term sidewalk strategy, engaging business operators, and building owners to support key initiatives and developing a median rehabilitation strategy.


As St. Albert inches closer to reaching a population of 70,000, St. Albert Trail continues to evolve, with construction that began in 2020. The first phase involved widening the trail to six lanes and widening at Villeneuve Road and Coal Mine Road, as well as building sidewalks. Similar work will continue on the trail adjoining Everitt Drive North and Jenson Lakes Boulevard.

Long-range plans include a proposed Light Rail Transit connection between
St. Albert and Edmonton along the east side of St. Albert Trail, which is still decades away from seeing reality. The project, earmarked at $1.1 billion, involves creating a seven km. line and includes building LRT bridges crossing Anthony Henday Drive, the Sturgeon River, and Sir Winston Churchill Avenue.

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