We handpicked 35 treks, ensuring they were lengthy, offered a quality experience and represented our country coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Read on to discover why Canada is the best country in the world for hiking—with 35 of Canada’s longest hiking trails!
1. The Great Divide Trail
Length: 1,200 km
The full GDT runs for a staggering 1,200 km, roughly following the Continental Divide through BC and Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Most legs of this trail require total self-sufficiency and are suited only for experienced trekkers, but rewards come in the form of amazing vistas and high-altitude serenity. Resupplying is possibly every four to nine days; the towns of Waterton, Blairmore and Jasper are popular jumping-off points. Expect a workout: there is more than 1,500 metres of elevation difference between the highest and lowest points on the trail. The Great Divide Trail Association is always hard at work maintaining sections—their website is an excellent source of info for trekkers. (It should be noted that much of the GDT is rugged and unmarked other than by GPS coordinates—at times, more of a “route” than an actual “trail.”)
2. Bruce Trail
Length: 885 km
Perhaps the most famous trail system in Canada, the Bruce Trail is a lovingly maintained, achingly scenic route that traverses nearly 900 km through southern Ontario. Leading from the Niagara Escarpment to Georgian Bay, expect everything from mixed-woods forests, to vineyards, to quaint townships, to lakeside cliffs, to pristine waterfalls and more. Legs range from an hour or two to a week-plus. Or do the whole thing, if you have a month to spare—the routes are well-marked throughout. Also, unofficial side-trails extend the possible length to more than 900 km.
3. Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park
Newfoundland & Labrador
Length: 883 km
Running right across The Rock, from St. John’s to Port Aux Basques, this former railway line cuts through 55 towns and crosses 150 bridges—totalling 3.5 km of bridgeway. Typical legs range from a few kilometres to an overnight. Few (if any) hikers have traversed the entire length and, as a multi-use trail, it is at-times popular with snowmobilers and ATV’ers. Motorized transport aside—and some key sections are combustion-free—trekkers should be able to find solitude somewhere along this mammoth cross-province path.
4. Kettle Valley Rail Trail
Length: 600 km
Yes—it’s a renowned bicycle route. But there’s no reason you can’t hoof it! Built as a rail line by the Canadian Pacific Railway 105 years ago, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is now a recreational route that extends through the Okanagan for a whopping 600 km. The path never exceeds a 2.2 per cent grade, which is why it’s popular with cyclists. Lengths range from five-kilometre jaunts to multi-day epics passing over several of the 18 vertigo-inducing trestles and through two historic tunnels. Lakeside views—particularly between Kelowna and Penticton—are stunning. And definitely make a stop at one of the wineries along the route!
5. Confederation Trail
Prince Edward Island
Length: 435 km
Once again, we see former industry turned to tourism opportunities with PEI’s Confederation Trail—a railway line converted into a hiking and cycling path. With typically flat topography, expect gentle strolls along any leg of this tip-to-tip island trail. More than 1,600 geocache sites are tucked along the route, which also passes through many towns for tastes of classic Maritime hospitality. It’s not really a wilderness trek—more like a lovely walk that’s just about as long as you’d like to make it. Also, it comprises a 110-km leg of the International Appalachian Trail, so you may encounter some through-hikers en route.
6. Alexander Mackenzie Heritage (Grease) Trail
Length: 420 km
So let’s talk logistics here. Suggested hiking time: 25 to 30 days. Elevation change: 1,800 metres. Start point: Quesnel, BC. End point: Bella Coola, BC. So, yeah, we’ll call this one a “commitment.” Or, you could sample a highlight reel by hiking the five- to seven-day, 80-km section through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Expect high alpine meadows, river crossings, dense woodland and the occasional town for re-provisioning. Used for millennia by First Nations, and famously by Alexander Mackenzie, this epic trail is surely one of the country’s finest hikes.
7. Rideau Trail
Length: 387 km
Totalling nearly 400 km, the Rideau Trail is a lovely network of trails running between Kingston and Ottawa. Rich with mixed-woods forests, Canadian shield lakes, historic sites, charming towns, vibrant birdlife and more, hikers can enjoy walks that range from an hour or two right up to an End-to-End epic, which takes about two weeks. To start, check out the trails around Rideau Lakes and branch out from there. (And try the hike in autumn, when the trees are alight with fall colours.)
8. Canol Heritage Trail
Length: 350 km
While it isn’t the longest on our list, the Canol Heritage Trail may well be the most challenging. For starters, it’s frankly long enough. Also, it requires either a fly-in or fly-out, or both, if you sprain your ankle. It also usually requires food drops, extreme self-sufficiency and bear spray (grizzlies and black bears). The route follows an old industry road, unmaintained since 1945, so expect the occasional rusting hulk and oil barrel along the way. But mostly, it’s all taiga, tundra, mountains and moose. And it’s for experienced backpackers only. (Note: two explore contributors rode this route on mountain bikes in a record-setting eight days, sans food drops; an award-nominated story we covered in our Fall 2013 issue.)
9. Waskahegan Trail
Length: 309 km
This lengthy trail is hidden in plain sight—a network of some 40 routes, ranging from five to 15 km and totalling more than 300 km (and growing), that loops the city of Edmonton. Waskahegan Trail runs through private and public land, is maintained by volunteers and offers pleasant escapes into serene landscapes, often less than an hour from the Alberta capital. If you’re aching to tackle multi-day routes, the trails runs through some public campsites and private “stopovers” en route. Watch for wildlife—both au natural and domestic livestock—and revel in the rolling Alberta parkland.
10. East Coast Trail