Whether it’s to engage in mountain biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, nature enthusiasts simply love Canada’s incredible terrain and scenery. And no outdoor activity is more popular among Canadians than good old-fashioned hiking.
But with thousands of kilometres of hiking trails across the country, it can be hard to know where to start. Below, we list the eight best hiking trails in Canada so you can lace up your boots and get out there in no time.
From beautiful bluffs to amazing waterfalls to cloud-scraping mountains, Canada is filled with amazing geological figures—each better for hiking than the last. Ready for the hike of a lifetime? Check out these eight top hiking trails in Canada.
With over 75 km of hiking trails to explore, the West Coast Trail — a legendary backcountry trail — is a multi-day backpacking adventure for just about any seasoned hiker.
Make sure to come prepared, though. You’ll climb more than 100 ladders, slosh through thick mud, wade through fast-flowing rivers, and endure whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Notably, the West Coast Trail makes up a portion of first-nation traders' ancient trail and paddling paths. This led to a large number of ships passing through the area, and countless shipwrecks to go with it. This earned it the nickname “The Graveyard of the Pacific.”
The West Coast Trail is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Ucluelet, BC, and is open yearly from May 1 through September 30, so make your plans now.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of Canada’s best national parks, and it is also home to a top hiking destination, the Skyline Trail. This trail is filled with incredible sites, including rolling hillsides, cliffs, wetlands, and the seemingly endless ocean.
The Skyline Trail is a relatively easy walking trail, as it’s mostly flat and includes a boardwalk to protect you and the delicate vegetation in the conservation area. The wildlife is also plentiful, as you can whale watch from the Gulf of St. Lawrence viewpoints or even catch moose, bald eagles, and bears meandering through the park.
You can choose from two hikes on the Skyline Trail: a 6.5-km out-and-back hike or the full 8.2-km loop. Either one should take you no more than a few hours to complete unless you spend hours mesmerized by the incredible views, making it great for a family day trip.
You can access the trailhead on top of French Mountain. The park is open year-round, but the visitor’s centre is only available from mid-May through mid-October.
Want a challenging trail but not something that requires significant hiking experience or multiple days to complete? The Plain of the Six Glaciers is an excellent choice.
This 13.8-km out-and-back trail in Banff National Park shows you all the beauty the Canadian Rockies has to offer and takes only about 4.5 hours to complete. You’ll take in stunning switchbacks, amazing views of the turquoise lake, and what seems like a meadow in the middle of nowhere at the end of the trail.
Aside from hiking, this trail is popular for birdwatching and horseback riding.
The trail is open year-round, but if you’re coming in the fall or winter, it’s best to dress in layers, as the weather can change rather quickly in the area. During the peak season, you can also stop by the trail’s teahouse for a quick refreshment.
Planning a family hike and need an easier trail for the kiddos or an older family member just looking for an easygoing walk? The Grotto Canyon Trail in Alberta’s Bow Valley Provincial Park is great.
This 2.1-km out-and-back hiking trail system starts near an industrial power plant and power lines, which may throw you off initially. But this is only a distraction for the first few hundred metres — just enough to get the blood flowing to your legs. After that, you’re greeted by a narrow, winding canyon with stunning walls, a waterfall, an Inukshuk Garden, and a cave. The latter is a popular resting spot for tired hikers.
The trail is open year-round, but you’ll want to dress appropriately for each season. In the summertime, be sure to wear waterproof shoes. If you’re a wintertime hiker, make sure to have quality insulated hiking boots, crampons, and snowshoes just in case.
The Trans Canada trail is the world’s longest multi-use trail, stretching from coast to coast. So, if you enjoy multiple activities and have days to spend exploring all the opportunities on Canada’s longest trail, the Trans Canada Trail is perfect.
Popular activities on this trail network include hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and even snowmobiling. There is something for everyone on this massive trail.
The trails range from backcountry to urban settings, and you can find parking lots and access points near your preferred trail setting or activity on the Trans Canada Trail website. The website also offers detailed trail maps.
Algonquin Park in Ontario is a common destination for canoers looking to get away from it all, but it is also a top spot for hiking. Many hikers consider this a moderate difficulty trail, so only those seeking a bit of a challenge should attempt it.
The park’s Centennial Ridges Trail is a 10.4-km loop trail that rises in elevation by about 460 metres and should take just under four hours to complete. Likely the most challenging parts of this trail are the roots and rocks you’ll encounter.
The main attractions of this hiking trail are the beautiful ridges near the end, but you’ll also encounter beaver ponds and other natural sites along the way.
The trail is open year-round, but in the wintertime, you must park at the locked gate at Centennial Ridges Road and Highway 60 and walk to the trail. This adds about 2 km to the overall hike.
If you’re seeking the hike of a lifetime, there’s always the 336-km East Coast Trail, which meanders up Newfoundland’s eastern coastline.
If a 336-km, multi-day hike isn’t in the cards for you, you can also opt for smaller trail sections for a day trip. For example, there’s the relatively easy Silver Mine Head Path, a 7-km out-and-back beach trail that also takes you through the woods and over a river. If you’re up for a slightly bigger challenge, the 18.2-km White Horse Path offers plenty to test experienced hikers and has incredible coastline views.
To help choose the right path for you, the East Coast Trail offers an online path filter. That way, you’ll know you’re not going too easy (or hard) on yourself.
Tombstone Territorial Park has a combined 43-km out-and-back trail with tons to offer, including a make-your-own-hike adventure, where you’re free to choose any unmarked trail for a full wilderness explorer adventure. You’ll need a map and compass or GPS before attempting this.
Because the full trail network can take 17 hours to complete, this is certainly a multi-day experience.
If you prefer a more organized, day-trip-sized hike, there’s the 11-km (22 km total) Grizzly Lake Trail. This trail will still typically require an overnight camping stay, however, and most hikers will bring their camping gear and spend the evening by the lake. Remember, you’ll need to buy a permit before doing this.
If you can’t secure a permit, the first 4 km of the trail are breathtaking and well worth the trip. And at only 8 km out and back, you can finish this in an afternoon.
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