Canadian land, in combination with the freshwater areas, is approximately 3,855,174 square miles (9,984,670 square kilometers). That is a lot of hiking. More than just the quantity, Canada’s vast mountains, lakes, forests, and wildlife offer inescapable opportunities to witness the sublime natural beauty.
If you are planning to go hiking in Canada, this article should help you discover the best hikes in Canada. Some of the hiking trails may take days or weeks while some may take only one day. Irrespective of how long you will be on the trail, ensure that you are well-prepared before grabbing your hiking backpack and heading out.
Where to Go Hiking in Canada
1. The Great Divide Trail
Crossing the Continental Divide Trail more than 30 times between Alberta and the British Columbia, the Great Divide hiking trail stretches for approximately 1,200 breathtaking kilometers. The hiking trail starts at the Waterton Lake National Park and ends to the north in the Kakwa Provincial Park.
Passing through 5 National Parks, 3 wildland parks, 8 provincial parks, 2 special management areas, and 2 wilderness areas, the trail for hiking in Canada has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife viewing. Other highlights include diverse vegetation, iridescent glacial waters, snow-capped peaks, and panoramic vistas which occupy almost every turn.
While exploring the Great Divide is rewarding, you will need to be prepared to handle all the challenges. Outside the parks, the Great Divide Trail varies from the well-developed trail to unmarked cross-country routes where your navigation skills, a hiking GPS, and a good compass come in handy. In the cross-country wilderness routes, cellphone reception is usually non-existent.
Packing enough backpacking food and hiking snacks are essential considering that resupply points are remote and far apart. Resupplying is generally possible every 4 to 9 days. Some of the most popular jump-off points include Waterton, Jasper, and Blairmore.
Distance: 1,200 kilometers
Duration: 8+ weeks
2. The West Coast Trail
Wandering through old-growth forests, along the coastline, through rocky headlands, up and down more than 100 ladders, and on sandy beaches, the 75 kilometers West Coast Trail has a lot to offer. Part of the Pacific Rim National Park, based at the edge of the Vancouver Island, the hiking trail allows you to enjoy uninterrupted views of the quirky wildlife that calls the Canadian wilderness home. On the beaches, you might be able to enjoy some spectacular views of passing whales.
When the sun is shining, the West Coast Trail makes one of the best hikes in Canada. If it is raining (it does rain frequently), you may have to deal with above-the-knee mud on slippery boardwalks which take you through the rainforests and hypothermia-like conditions. Wearing the best mid-layers and hiking water shoes can help reduce the negative impact that the rainy conditions may have on you.
Most hikers take approximately 6 to 8 days to complete the entire trail. Specified campsites do exist along the way – these ensure that everyone has a place to set up their tent and enjoy a good night’s sleep before continuing the trek the next day.
Distance: 75 kilometers
Duration: 6 to 8 days
3. Bruce Trail
A lovingly maintained and scenic route, the Bruce Trail traverses approximately 900 kilometers through South Ontario. Leading from Niagara Escarpment to the Georgian Bay, you should expect everything from vineyards and mixed forests to lakeside cliffs and quaint townships.
The routes existing on the hiking trail are properly marked. This means that the chances of getting lost in the wilderness are incredibly low.
You should expect to find numerous waterfalls along the hiking trail, where rivers and streams flow over the Niagara Escarpment. If you have your hiking camera with you, you can use your landscape photography skills to capture Niagara Falls, which is by far the most famous water feature you will find on the trail.
While it is impossible to complete the entire hiking trail in less than a month, you can decide to explore shorter segments. The shorter segments can be explored in a couple of hours to 7 days.
Distance: 885 kilometers
Duration: 30+ days
4. Sunshine to Mt. Assiniboine Hiking Trail
Traversing 2 provinces, from Alberta to British Columbia, the 54-kilometer Sunshine to Mt. Assiniboine trail is one of the best hikes in Canada. The trail features varying landscapes, including alpine meadows, lakes, and mountains. Along the way, be sure to watch out for quirky wildlife – you may be able to view mountain goats, elks, and bighorn sheep.
The trail for hiking in Canada does require some planning. Since the trail traverses 2 provinces, hikers are often forced to deal with 3 organizations to get the necessary passes. In addition to the paperwork, you will need to be prepared to deal with the associated fees, bothersome bears, and some pesky insects.
If you intend to explore the whole trail, you may need to spend a couple of nights in the wilderness. You will need 3 to 5 days to hike the entire trail.
Distance: 54 kilometers
Duration: 3 to 5 days
5. Canol Heritage Trail
The Canol Heritage Trail, a 355 kilometers rugged alpine path, weaves its way through vast rivers, thicket, and canyons deep within the Mackenzie mountains. The trail starts at the Macmillan Pass on the eastern edge of the Yukon Territory and ends on the Norman Wells in the Northwest territory.
Most of the hiking trail follows an old industry road which has not been maintained since 1945. While the path is generally not very difficult to follow, using a compass requires a large amount of correction due to the proximity of the magnetic north.
If you would like to explore the Canol Heritage Trail, you have to be prepared to survive in the remote wilderness conditions. Along the trail, you will have to cross at least three rivers, deal with grizzly bears, and mosquitoes. To avoid conflict with the bears and mosquitoes, consider bringing pepper spray (or bear repellant devices) and bug spray respectively.
Distance: 355 kilometers
Duration: 14 to 22 days
6. Waskahegan Trail
Hidden in plain sight, Alberta’s Waskahegan Trail encompasses over 40 routes ranging from 5 – 15 kilometers long. The routes have a lot to offer. From the elk to bison and the numerous farmer’s cattle, wildlife is always just around the corner. The views through Alberta’s countryside make the whole walk enjoyable, from the start to the finish.
To complete the entire trail, you will have to pass over 186 miles (300 kilometers) of public and private land. Most of the trail’s routes are meticulously maintained by volunteers – this reduces the chances of getting lost while enjoying one of the best hikes in Canada.
Typically taking more than 2 weeks to complete, the trail features public camping areas. For people who prefer to sleep in a comfortable bed and shower using running water, good accommodation does exist in nearby towns, including Edmonton.
Distance: 300 kilometers
Duration: 14+ days
7. East Coast Trail
Starting at Cape St. Francis on the Avalon Peninsula, the East Coast Trail runs south, tracing the rugged Atlantic coastline to Cappahayden. The whole 265 kilometers of the main hiking trail is well-marked and well-maintained. If, however, you are quite adventurous, you can consider exploring the “under construction” portion – this should give you an additional 275 kilometers to explore.
Some of the East Coast Trail’s highlights include offshore leviathan whales, fluttering puffins, impressive lighthouses, and icebergs. If you are particularly lucky, you may be able to spot the southernmost Caribou herd during your hiking trip.
For people who would like to enjoy the Newfoundland hospitality, B&B stays should be ideal accommodation options. If you prefer your solitude and you are well-prepared to handle a night in the wilderness, you can set up your backpacking tent and enjoy sleeping under the stars.
Distance: 265 kilometers
Duration: 32 days
8. Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
There are numerous breathtaking and interesting ways to explore the Rocky Mountains – it is hard for us to recommend just a single way. However, after doing our research, one thing we have discovered is that the “Plain of six glaciers” hiking trail delivers some scenic bang for a very moderate buck.
The hiking trail starts at Lake Louise. An uphill climb past the turquoise lake will take you through a valley featuring a panoramic crescendo of waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains. Along the way, you should be able to spot wildlife too.
Tea houses complement the hike. You will find the tea houses at the Plain of Six Glaciers lookout point and the end of your hike.
Being a 14.6-kilometer hike, you won’t have to worry about accommodation. Someone with average fitness should be able to complete the entire hike in just 5 hours.
Distance: 14.6 kilometers
Duration: 1 day
9. North Boundary Trail
Connecting the Jasper National Park located in Alberta and the British Columbia’s Mount Robson Provincial Park, the North Boundary Trail requires a minimum of 10 days to explore. The 180 kilometers of scenic, rugged, and mountainous backcountry make it possible for all outdoor enthusiasts to have fun.
The overall elevation is a thigh-busting 2,688 meters. However, scaling this altitude is worth it. Notably, the Berg Lake section is the most scenic of all the other sections of the hiking trail, forming a beautiful end to the challenging endeavor.
On your way to Berg Lake, you should watch out for beautiful vistas, occasional horse traffic, and wildlife. If you are hiking in the spring or early summer, you should expect some creek crossings.
Distance: 180 kilometers
Duration: 10+ days
10. Sea to Sky Trail
Running from Squamish to D’Arcy and punctuated by the Calcheak Suspension Bridge and the Brandywine Falls, the Sea to Sky hiking trail follows traditional Squamish First Nation’s trade routes. Although some parts are still under construction, the fact that the trail lies in one of the most scenic areas in British Columbia makes it one of the best hikes in Canada.
The 180 kilometers of the hiking trail may take close to 2 weeks to complete. If you do not have this amount of time, you can always opt to explore shorter sections lying within the main hiking trail. Most of the shorter trails pass along numerous lakes and rivers.
While some of the Sea to Sky routes are confusing, you should be able to find routes featuring occasional map boards and plenty of signs. If you do not have a guide, choosing the routes featuring signs is always the smart option.
Duration: About 14 days
Distance: 180 kilometers
Globo Surf Overview
If not knowing the best hikes in Canada has been holding you back, this article should help you choose the trails you would like to explore. Most of the trails for hiking in Canada require multiple days to explore. If you do choose to spend more than a day in the wilderness, ensure that you are well-equipped. Also, be sure to observe the leave no trace principles to keep the environment safe.
For people who prefer to spend just a single day in the wilderness, you should find a couple of trails ideal for you in this article. Also, some of the longer trails can be explored in sections.
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- 10 best hiking trails in Canada, Covermore.com.au