The Beaver Hills area lies east of Edmonton in the Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake moraine, a geomorphological feature that encompasses 1572 km2 (607 mi2). The hummocky “knob and kettle” terrain of the moraine forms a patchwork of depressional areas, many of which support wetlands and small lakes.
Terrain and soil conditions limited the extent of past agricultural clearing and the area remains extensively forested with aspen and in some areas, spruce woodlands. Land use in the area is administered by municipal, provincial and federal agencies. The Beaver Hills lie within five counties (Strathcona, Leduc, Beaver, Lamont, and Camrose).
There are several federal and provincial protected areas located entirely within the Beaver Hills, including Elk Island National Park, the Ministik Bird Sanctuary, the Cooking Lake–Blackfoot Recreational Area, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park and a number of smaller provincial natural areas. Nearby, there are other ecologically significant areas that are ecologically linked to the Beaver Hills. Beaverhill Lake, a designated RAMSAR site (a Wetland of International Importance), lies to the east and the North Saskatchewan River is within 5 km to the northwest.
It is the combination of local geomorphology, hydrology, and climate that has created the unique natural ecosystem of the Beaver Hills. Its poor agricultural capability helped prevent extensive clearing, and helped retain its natural features. The resulting biodiversity and natural greenspace stand in contrast to the surrounding agricultural, urban and industrial lands, in which natural habitat has been reduced to smaller discontinuous patches. The Beaver Hills are truly a distinct feature on the regional landscape.