By Leigh McAdam
What better way to celebrate Canada's 150th
birthday than hiking some of the most pristine country you'll ever
see in Canada. With every province blessed with extraordinary landscapes, the hardest
decision to make is where to go.
Here’s a look at some of the Great Canadian Trails the
country has to offer.
Photo ©Mark Daffey
The Chilkoot Trail
For a unique hiking experience choose the
Chilkoot Trail. It owes its roots to the gold rush of the late 1800’s when men
and women would ferry goods on their backs multiple times over Chilkoot Pass on
route to the Klondike Gold Fields.
Today it’s still a challenging trail even
though its just 53 kilometres long. Start the hike in Dyea, Alaska and finish five
days later in Bennett, British Columbia. Hike through an ever changing
landscape that includes coastal rainforest, with its attendant mud and tree
roots, through to the high alpine near Chilkoot Pass before descending across a
snowfield into an open landscape of lakes and forest. The crux of the hike, the
climb to Chilkoot Pass through a massive boulder field, will make the rest of
the trip seem easy.
This is an immensely satisfying trail to
hike for its sense of history, epic landscapes and physical challenge.
West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail, like most coastal
trails is harder than it sounds. Since when is walking on a beach so difficult?
See for yourself on this bucketlist worthy hike that takes most serious hikers five
to seven days to complete its 75 kilometre length.
Experience incredible variety underfoot –
from knee-deep mud (if it’s been raining a lot) to seriously beautiful golden
sand beaches. Climb up and down an endless number of ladders; slither along
slimy boardwalks; pull yourself in a cable car over rivers and compare blisters
at day’s end.
Despite the physical test, the trail is
very rewarding and the sense of accomplishment intoxicating.
Long Range Traverse
This is the only trail in a national park
in Canada that requires you to pass a navigation test. The reason – there is no
trail. You must navigate the 35 kilometres with a map and compass or GPS. This
keeps the masses away and it’s a reason for many people to sign up with a
company that takes the mystery of navigation out of their hands.
The Long Range Traverse is truly one of the
most outstanding hikes you’ll ever do. From its start at the end of Western
Brook Pond via a boat ride, to the famous views at the top of the gorge
surrounded by 1,000 foot granite cliffs, to endless kilometres across wildflower
studded tuckamore, this hike is impressive in its grandeur – providing the fog
stays away. Lucky hikers will be treated to the sight of moose, caribou and
East Coast Trail
From Cape St. Francis in the north to Cappahayden
in the south, 24 rugged, wilderness paths are connected to form the fabulous 265
kilometre long East Coast Trail. While each can be done as a day hike, the
trail can also be done in its entirety over 10 - 14 days.
Every section of trail offers stunning
coastal views. On some parts of the trail you may see icebergs, whales, puffins
or moose, depending on the season. Picturesque fishing villages and Newfoundland’s
famous hospitality are served up on a daily basis.
Wapta Icefields Traverse
From the start of the hike at the edge of Bow
Lake to its finish on the shores of turquoise coloured Peyto Lake three days
later, the Wapta Traverse delivers incredible Rocky Mountain scenery. With two
overnight stays in huts high in the mountains you’ll be able to enjoy the glory
of the early morning and the starry night skies.
If you’ve never hiked on snow or glaciers,
don’t worry. Not only is it fun but its empowering, providing you have the
right equipment and guides. On most of this hike you’ll feel far removed from
the throngs of summer tourists in Banff National Park.
Bruce Peninsula Traverse
People visit the Bruce Peninsula from
around the world for the fantastic hiking trails in and near Bruce Peninsula
National Park; the turquoise-hued crystal clear water and the stunning clifftop
walking on trails overlooking the Georgian Bay. The 890 kilometre Bruce Trail,
Canada’s oldest marked trail, links up with the national park to provide a
seamless experience on foot. In spring, the woods are home to masses of orchids
At the end of a hiking trip, it’s easy to add
on a trip to Tobermory at the tip of the peninsula along with a boat ride out
to stunning Flower Pot Island.
Mountains of Western Canada
If you start in Vancouver and finish in
Calgary you can hike four different mountain ranges; the Coast, Cascade,
Columbia and Rocky Mountains along with a host of fantastic trails. The hikes
are variable but all showcase some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in
provincial and national parks. Hike through expansive wildflower filled meadows.
Saunter through valleys rimmed by glacier studded peaks.
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the easy
Parker Ridge Trail on the Icefield Parkway offers an excellent effort-reward
ratio. The Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park is a perennial favourite for its
fabulous views of Takkakaw Falls and the Emerald Glacier. And the hike to the
summit of Yamnuska near Calgary will challenge you as you cross a narrow
exposed ledge, fortunately with chains in place. The view on the summit will
make it all worthwhile.
If you have 10-12 days this is an awesome
way to experience a huge swath of the best of western Canada.
Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer and
blogger and the founder of HikeBikeTravel.com.
She long ago abandoned a career as a geologist, dietitian and hands-on owner of
a successful small business to follow her passion for travel, adventure and the
outdoors. Leigh is the author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor
Adventures. She loves to share her
enthusiasm for travel – whether it be backpacking in the Rockies, cycling in
Africa or exploring a new country.
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