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Backpacking in Canada

Backpacking in Canada is a wilderness adventure that extends from the Pacific rainforests of British Columbia... through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta... down into the plains of Saskatchewan and Manitoba... the wilds of Northern Ontario... the Laurentians in the Atlantic Provinces and its rugged coastline.

There's something for everyone when you choose Canadian backpacking as your vacation activity. From novice to expert, there are Canadian backpacking trails to fit every skill and fitness level.

Take the family on a backpacking trip on the Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment and enjoy the flora and fauna of a UNESCO World Biosphere... layover in the hostels or lodgings in the small villages along the way...or really "rough it" and experience camping in Canada in the many campsites available.

...Or challenge yourself mentally and physically while backpacking some of the more "extreme" Rocky Mountain trails in Jasper and Banff. Test your survival instincts by camping in the pristine wilderness of the mountains.

No matter where you choose to experience backpacking in Canada you'll find breathtaking vistas, wildflowers and wildlife, and friendly locals that will help make your backpacking adventure a memorable one.

History of Canadian Backpacking

When backpacking in Canada began is difficult to say with any accuracy. Many backpacking trails in Canada originated with the Natives as they hunted, fished, trapped, and moved settlements in efforts to find food supplies and trading partners.

When the Europeans arrived, the locals taught them how to navigate the sometimes impenetrable wilderness. The Voyageurs began to travel further into the wild to trap for furs. As they made there way west from New France (Quebec) they established trading outposts along the way. It wasn't long before they had navigated routes through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast.

You can walk in the footsteps of these hardy souls as you navigate the shores of Lake Superior...the channels of Georgian Bay...and the beauty of Manitoulin Island along the Voyageur Trail in Northern Ontario.

Backpacking Equipment Required

Canadian backpacking can be a dangerous endeavour so be sure to pack the proper backpacking equipment. Safety and preparedness are key here.

Some essential backpacking equipment are:
  • Well-fitting, quality backpack
  • Map and compass
  • Quality hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Extra clothing – the climate can change quickly
  • Flashlight
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • First aid kit
  • Signaling device
  • Food and water
Coast-to Coast Canadian Backpacking Trails

The Canadian Territories

The Canol Heritage Trail is a 320 km (200 mile) advanced backpacking trail that starts in eastern Yukon Territory at Macmillan Pass through to Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories. You'll cross the scenic Mackenzie River valley...over mountain barrens... and across the Continental Divide.

This is an extreme wilderness area of Northern Canada where the window to hike these backpacking trails is between June and August. There are portions of the trail that can be traveled if you are mountain biking in Canada. The rest of the year you can use these trails for snowshoeing in Canada.

British Columbia

British Columbia offers unmatched Canadian backpacking trails that offer hiking through mountain terrain...Pacific Coast routes...lush, ancient rainforests...and glacial remnants of the ice age!
  • Hike the 33 km (20 mile) Chilkoot Trail and follow in the footsteps of historic "gold prospectors" as you make your way to the Klondike.
  • Check out the sheer magnitude of the Canadian Rockies highest peak by hiking the backpacking trails of Mount Robson Provincial Park.
  • The Jaun de Fuca Marine Trail winds its way along the coast of Vancouver Island...along the beaches…over jaw-dropping cliffs...and ancient coastal forests. An easy trail for the whole family with lots of sights to amaze and many access points to stop and relax for a bit.

When you fly into Calgary, you'll be astounded by the beauty and majesty of the Canadian Rockies. As you travel through the foothills and take in the rolling landscape...the Bow River valley with it's variety of wildlife...the majestic mountain peaks drawing ever'll know that you are experiencing some of the best hiking in Canada and, quite possibly, the world. And if you're mountaineering in Canada, there is no better place in the world than the Rockies.
  • Banff National Park offers an array of backpacking trails including wilderness campsites and even some backcountry huts of the Alpine Club of Canada. These backpacking trail systems connect with the trails of Jasper, Yoho, Mount Robson, Kootenay, as well as other systems.
  • If you want a less crowded backpacking adventure, Waterton Lakes National Park offers 9 camping areas to stop and enjoy the serenity. Lesser known than its sister parks, Banff and Jasper, you'll have more solitude hiking the trails.

Ontario has a collection of trails for every backpacking adventure. The previously mentioned Bruce Trail offers 800 km (500 miles) of backpacking trails. Beginning in Queenston near Niagara Falls it extends to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. Traveling along the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment you'll encounter rare species of plants and animals that inhabit this protected area. Stop and tour the award-winning wineries of the Niagara Region.
  • Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario offers many outdoor activities including backpacking, canoeing, camping, and kayaking in Canada.
  • Killarney Provincial Park offers the La Cloche Silhouette Trail with trails that meander through lush forests and the La Cloche Mountains…down to lakeside camping grounds.
  • The Laurentian Trail follows the Laurentian Mountains from Trois-Riviere, Quebec. This 75 km (45 mile) backpacking adventure offers no camping sites.
  • International Appalachian Trail begins in Maine, U.S.A. and winds its way through New Brunswick...into the Montepedia Valley of Quebec...and into the Gaspe region.
New Brunswick – Newfoundland and Labrador

The East Coast offers rugged trails along the Atlantic Ocean. Witness the spectacular views of the ocean while standing atop jagged cliffs from high above.
  • Experience the amazing tides of the Bay of Fundy by hiking the backpacking trails of The Fundy Footpath and the Fundy Circuit.
  • The East Coast Trail of Newfoundland/Labrador follows the Atlantic coastline from St. John's to Cappahayden. Explore the small fishing villages along the way and make friends with the locals. If you're lucky you'll see a glacier floating by or passing whales if you are interested in whale watching in Canada.
In time, you will be able to stretch your Canadian backpacking adventure from coast-to-coast with the completion of the National Hiking Trail. This partially completed 10,000 km (6,215 mile) backpacking trail will hook up to existing backpacking trails to form a continuous path from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Until then begin your journey on one of the amazing trails now in place.
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