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Hiking in Canada

Canada is a vast, scenic country that offers some of the best hiking in the world. From the ancient rainforests of British Columbia...the foothills and mountains of Alberta...the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere and the Northern Ontario wilderness...the Appalachian Trail in the coastal beauty of the Eastern provinces...there are hiking trails for every skill and fitness level.

History of Hiking in Canada

Hiking in Canada originated with the Native People's using trails to hunt, fish, and to move their community back and forth between seasonal settlements. When the Europeans came to Canada, hiking trails were carved out of the wilderness to engage in trade and commerce.

The voyageurs hiked and canoed west from New France (Quebec) to establish trading routes to the West Coast. They traded for furs from trappers and Natives to bring back and sell to the Eastern settlements and throughout Europe. They established trading posts along the way. This led to the incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670...that is still in business today!

Today, Canadian hiking trails can be found in most communities from the largest cities to the smallest towns and pass through vast stretches of wilderness. Here you can experience the varied flora and fauna of Canada.

Coast-to-Coast Canadian Hiking Trails

Canada is constructing two coast-to-coast recreation trails: the Canadian National Hiking Trail (formerly the Sentier National Trail) and the Trans-Canada Trail. The Canadian National Hiking Trail will mainly be used for hiking and backpacking in Canada. The Trans-Canada Trail is a multi-purpose trail available for snowmobiling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing in Canada in some areas. You'll have to verify this through local municipal regulations.

The Canadian National Hiking Trail will eventually be a 10,000 km (6,215 mile) footpath across Canada with over 3,000 km (1,865 miles) already completed mainly in Quebec and Southern Ontario. A second leg of the trail will run through Northern Alberta from Calgary through to the Yukon Territories and Artic Ocean.

Other Canadian hiking trails include Ontario's Bruce Trail; which stretches 770 km (475 miles) along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Falls to Tobemory on the Bruce Peninsula. The Niagara Escarpment is an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The International Appalachian Trail extends 1,045 km (650 miles) from the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in New Brunswick to Maine, U.S.A.'s Mt. Katahdin.

The Voyageur Trail winds through sparsely populated Northern Ontario along the Great Lakes. You'll see lumber and mining camps along the way and is a great way to experience wilderness camping in Canada.

Popularity of Hiking in Canada

The popularity of hiking in Canada is on the rise as people are looking to escape towns and cities for the solitude of nature. You are able to wind down and relax...forget your problems for awhile...and experience the peace and tranquility of the wilderness. If you're looking for an active, outdoor vacation, hiking in Canada is a worthwhile adventure.

Walking through the wilderness with the uncertainty of what you may experience next is exhilarating. Just recently, while walking my dog through a small patch of forest we encountered two deer and watched as they crashed through the brush to escape. A few months before that was a flock of wild turkeys. If you're into nature like I am, it just doesn't get much better than that. Unless, of course, you're polar bear watching in Canada.

Canadian Hiking Equipment

Top-notch hiking equipment is recommended when hiking in Canada. Depending on where you choose to hike, there are areas that are "out there" in the wilderness and proper precautions should be undertaken to provide an enjoyable and safe trip. Some suggestions for hiking equipment are:
  • Quality, well-fitting, water-proof hiking boots are a necessity. You want treads with gripping power and strong ankle support.
  • A quality backpack that contains: food and drink, extra clothing including rain gear, waterproof matches or lighter, first aid kit, flashlight, lightweight blanket or tarp, pocket knife, toilet paper, duct tape, sun screen, and insect repellant.
  • A compass and map of the area
  • Bear spray if you are hiking and bear watching in Canada.
  • Wear bright coloured clothing as there are many individuals hunting in Canada.
Popular Hiking Trails in Canada
  • Galloping Goose on Vancouver Island, British Columbia offers 60 km (37 miles) of hiking trails through lush forests.
  • Petit Temis Interprovincial Trail in Quebec and New Brunswick offers scenic routes along the St. Lawrence River as well as the Iles de la Madeleine where you may encounter seals sunning themselves on the rocky shores. If you are interested in bird-watching in Canada there are 250 species on the islands.
  • Confederation Trail runs the length of Prince Edward Island through wetlands and hardwood groves...along riverbanks and through small villages.
  • Voyageur Trail runs through Northern Ontario and around the Great Lakes region. Beginning in Eliot Lake on Lake Huron it extends through many mining towns and includes Pakaskwa National Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Parks Canada maintains hiking trails in many national parks.

Canadian Hiking Events
  • Randonnee des Sommets consists of 3 days of hiking in the Parc regional des Appalaches (Appalachian Trail). Occurs in late June.
  • Canadian Death Run in Grand Cache, Alberta is a 125-km (78-mile) trail race with a 17,000 foot elevation. Early July.
  • Festival de la Marche in Quebec puts on a festival where people hike one of several routes up to 20-km (12.5-miles). Organized by La Federation Quebecoise de la Marche in late August.
  • Moose Mountain Trail Race in Bragg Creek, Alberta includes 16-km (10-miles) and 29-km (18-miles) trails with a 3,000 foot elevation. Early September.
  • Celebration of Trails in Central Ontario has various hiking events for children to adults throughout the region including Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Hastings, and Haliburton.
  • Hike the Highlands in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia includes a 10-day hiking festival for all ages and abilities.
  • Bruce Peninsula Outdoor festival in Tobermory, Ontario includes hiking events combined with bird-watching, star gazing, geocaching, and nature and geology seminars in late September.
  • Hike 4 ALS is a national fundraising event at selected Canadian hiking trails.
  • Hike Haliburton Festival in Haliburton, Ontario organizes "themed" hiking events in October. Themes include geology, history, yoga, photography, botany, geocaching, fitness, and astronomy.
Guided Canadian Hiking Tours
  • Canadian Revelations Nature and Heritage Tours offers eco-hiking tours in Canada.
  • Canadian Wilderness Travel offers hiking tours following the original Gold Rush Trail.
  • Canadian Backcountry Adventures offers hiking tours in the Alberta Rockies.
  • Timberossa Wilderness Adventures in Peterborough, Ontario offers hiking tours in the famed Algonquin Park.
  • Adrenaline Ecole d'Aventure in Quebec offers many outdoors activities including hiking tours and nature walks.
  • Scott Walking Tours of Halifax offers hiking tours in the Magdalen Islands, Gaspe, and Saguenay Fjord.
  • New Found Adventures in Frenchman's Cove, Newfoundland offers hiking tours and backpacking at Blow-Me-Down Mountains.
There is long history of hiking in Canada due to the vast stretches of wilderness ready to be explored. Canadian hiking is popular from coast-to-coast and is being celebrated by establishing national hiking trails. In every province and territory there are hiking events and guided tours to make sure you get the most out of your trip.
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