“Time spent outdoors will not be deducted from your life,” according to Jack Christie, author of 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver and one of a gaggle of steely-calved regional experts I tapped for their favourite Canadian treks.
Christie’s top tramps in British Columbia move beyond the well-known West Coast Trail, and include the Vancouver-area Baden-Powell Trail – a 48-kilometre North Shore mountain ramble and the rugged Sea-to-Sky region stretching to the Pemberton Valley. “If you can’t have fun hiking here, you’re dead and don’t know it,” he says.
But for true life affirmation, consider Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park: “a multiday backpack through a pristine wilderness watershed – magic to the nth power,” Christie says.
Outside B.C., he recommends Alberta’s Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park’s Lakeshore Trail.
But Rockies’ expert Craig Copeland – co-author of Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies: the Opinionated Hiking Guide – has additional Wild Rose Country recommendations. “Kananaskis Country’s thrilling Northover Ridge affords an ecstatic sense of exploration. Between Three Isle and Aster lakes, you’re in deep wilderness, surrounded by icy peaks, peering into bear-haven valleys.”
He also suggests Banff National Park’s challenging, lesser-known Caldron Lake area and notes: “The sights on Mount Robson Provincial Park’s Berg Lake and Snowbird Pass – from Emperor Falls to the Coleman Icefield – are true marvels.”
Beyond Alberta, Copeland regards the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland and Labrador as “Canada’s pre-eminent long-distance hiking route.”
But Michael Haynes – author of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia hiking guides – has additional Atlantic Canada suggestions.
His Nova Scotia faves include the 32 kilometre Bluff Wilderness Trail: Close to Halifax, it meanders into the heart of St. Margaret’s Bay peninsula and can include bear and moose sightings.
“Also, Cape Chignecto Provincial Park offers one of the province’s few multiday hikes. More than two-thirds of its route traces the Bay of Fundy shoreline – which means towering cliffs and campsites in sheltered coves.”
Across the Strait of Canso, Cape Breton is equally enticing, he adds. There’s one trail in particular he loves in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. “Franey is a personal favourite, with an arduous climb delivering you to the edge of a 300 metre cliff. An autumn sunrise here, with the valley a carpet of golden tamarack, is magical.”
Now living in Montreal – Haynes’s latest tome is Hiking Trails of Montréal and Beyond – he regards the Charlevoix region as “the best hiking east of the Rockies.”
In the Laurentians, Quebec’s La Mauricie National Park offers trails for all skill levels. Valérie Therrien, park spokeswoman, recommends the marsh-and-boardwalk Les Cascades trail, Lac-Solitaire’s shoreline lookout route and the 17-kilometre Deux-Criques. “It’s one of the park’s most beautiful and demanding trails. You’ll have to ford a brook, but you’ll also see the Ruisseau du Fou falls.”
Backpackers similarly love the Gaspé Peninsula, along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River and by the Bay of Chaleur.
On the north shore of Lake Superior, hikers will find Pukaskwa National Park in Northern Ontario. This hikers’ hot spot has a lot to offer, says park spokeswoman Annique Maheu. “The short Southern Headland Trail is great in summer for crashing waves, arctic flowers and spectacular Hattie Cove, Pulpwood Harbour and Horseshoe Bay views,” she says, adding that the full-day hike to White River Canyon and Suspension Bridge on the popular Coastal Hiking Trail is another favourite.
Beyond Pukaskwa, she recommends Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park plus Bruce Peninsula National Park’s Georgian Bay to Marr Lake Trail for its “turquoise waters and natural caves.”
“We’re blessed with more access to natural spaces than almost any country,” Haynes says. “Take advantage and the rewards will be far greater than you can imagine.”
OUR READERS WRITE
- Canada was made for hiking. The Green Gardens Coastal Trail in Gros Morne is a must. No other spot will revive, restore the spirit as will Green Gardens Trail. Say no more. Rosalind House Cross
- Two of Canada’s best day hikes are on opposite coastlines: B.C.’s Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park and Skerwink Trail near Trinity, Newfoundland. @DearAnnTravels
- Parc des Hautes-Gorges in Charlevoix, Quebec: The L’acropole des draveurs is an excellent day hike with time for a lunch pit stop and early afternoon finish. Stay in Baie St-Paul. My recommendation: B&B La Chouette, the most delicious local breakfasts you can find. Adrienne Bajaj
- Some of the best hiking trails in Eastern Canada are to be found along route 450 out from Corner Brook on the south shore of the Bay of Islands. My favourite is the Copper Mine Brook Trail – it leads to one of the best 360 degree views in Newfoundland from the top of Blow-Me-Down Head. Patrick Branagh
- I love the Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island. If you don’t want to hike all 47 km, you can do day hikes to beautiful beaches. @josieinbc
- For spectacular scenery and more choices, a weekend spent at Cathedral Lakes near Keremeos, B.C., cannot be beat. In the space of three days you can do four hikes of varying length and dizziness-inducing difficulty. Amazing. Elizabeth Austin
- The north shore of Lake Superior is famous for its rugged magnificence. The 53 km Casque Iles Hiking Trail in Northwestern Ontario stretches from Terrace Bay to Rossport. It runs through pristine wilderness to showcase some of the most spectacular views along the lake. There are several access points from Highway 17. Barbara Yurkoski
- The Rockwall in Kootenay National Park has the drama of Banff-area trails with less trail traffic. @seattlekim
- Ontario’s beautiful Bruce Peninsula, where the wonderful Bruce Trail spans the length of its Georgian Bay shoreline. Check out the Home-to-Home bed and breakfast network, on which a different home, all meals and your luggage await at the end of each adventurous day. Donna Dilschneider
- Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island – so many beautiful hikes. I recommend it for the variety: trails for all levels, can be as short or as long as you like and it’s within an hour’s drive from town. @mtnbikinggirl
- I’m a softie for the Temagami region [in Ontario]. There are still old growth forests and ancient paintings on cliffs – but mostly there is just a certain magic to it. @clairelivia
- Mt Edith Cavell near Jasper: three hikes. The shortest hike takes you to glacial pool under Angel Glacier. @AirbnbSuperhost
- The North Coast Trail in B.C.: it’s like the West Coast Trail but without the crowds, plus there are five beaches, a lighthouse, a pioneer village and wildlife. Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park in NWT: a 2.2 km boardwalk trail connecting to Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls. Six Glaciers Trail in Banff National Park, Alberta: 5.5 km one-way, leading to a mountain top Sherpa-like teahouse. @ehCanadaTravel
- Gros Morne [Newfoundland] has amazing hikes and geology. Also recommend Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s Skyline Trail – and the ethereal Mabou Highlands [also Cape Breton]. @shelleymccarron
- The Rockwall is one of the best multiday hikes in the Rockies. Gorgeous views and larches in the fall. You can hike the full 55km route, or part (i.e. Floe Lake), as a day hike. @KootenayNP
- Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in B.C. near Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. For the views – plus you can choose long/short hikes and varying levels of difficulty. It’s also the second tallest freestanding granite monolith in the world @CAVUKitchenBar
- A really nice green waterfall hike for young families is at Cliff Gilker Park on the Sunshine Coast, B.C. @WendyHartley
- The Okanagan/Shuswap region offers great trails. Reaching the top of the Enderby Cliffs is always rewarding. @serena4pr
- Besides the obvious like the Grouse Grind, the Chief and the West Coast Trail, my B.C. fave is Buntzen Lake’s Diez Vistas trail. Besides the stunning view from 2nd peak, terrain diversity makes it like four hikes in one. @mmccormi
- Skyline Trail in Jasper: remote, challenging, hardly any people and scenery straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie. @Davidmclellan
- The Rockwall trail in Kootenay National Park rocks. The elevation gain and the impressive nature of the face; the great campsite on the shore of the lake; and Numa Pass view is breathtaking and silent. @Whistlersnowpig
- Waterton [Lakes] Park in southern Alberta: absolutely gorgeous with many many hikes. @macaroniponi
- In the Laurentians of Quebec, Mont Tremblant is a park system with lakes and mountains. It has numerous hiking trails with backwood huts. The area is dotted with rivers, villages and friendly people. The people that live there are very tied to the French culture and nature is plentiful. @LindaKJenkins
- Deep Cove and Quarry Rock [on Vancouver’s North Shore]. The breathtaking view of Indian Arm is the reward for the work of the hike – oh, and Honey Doughnuts in the village @Amykochofbc
- The North Shore in the Lower Mainland [around Vancouver], also Quebec's Gatineau Park: good proximity to the city with easy to hard trails @fionahmcfarlane
- You must include Canada’s longest hut-to-hut trail – the Sunshine Coast Trail in B.C., 180 km and 12 huts. Recommended for the variety of terrain: ocean vistas high on a ridge, misty fiddlehead fields, old growth forest and waterfalls – yet it’s also accessible. @sunshinecoastca
- Strathcona Park for its awesome alpine routes; the North Coast Trail for Cape Scott water taxi access; and the Nootka Trail for surfing and very few fellow humans. @MBGuiding
- Parc des Grands-Jardins in Quebec. For the views of the St-Lawrence River – and the wildlife. And don’t forget the seafood after the hike. Bon appétit. @Magabout
- I love to hike ski hills like Silver Star in B.C. because you can hike up and take the chairlift down. @kattancock
- Definitely the Sunshine Coast Trail. Longest hut-to-hut trail in Canada and accessible year-round. And the Mt. Cheam hike in Chilliwack for spectacular views of the Fraser Valley. @604Pulse
- Explore the world above the treeline on the Iceline Trail – especially for the views of Takakkaw Falls from above. @KootRock
- Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Unbeatable scenic views from every trail and a variety of trails to appeal to all levels of hiker. @CarolineClapham
- The West Kootenays are great. Fave day hike: Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park up through alpine meadows and forests to “Trudeau” cabin. @mirandasyndrome
- An absolutely spectacular day trip is to ride a mountain bike from Pyramid Lake above Jasper up the old fire road to the base of Pyramid Mountain. From there, you drop your bike and scramble to the top of Pyramid Mountain. The view from the top is incomparable and the ride back down the fire road is 30 minute non-stop thrill ride. Bruce Alton
[Editor's note: An earlier version of the story declared James Christie's top tramps in British Columbia include the well-known West Coast Trail. In fact, James Christie's hike recommendations move beyond the oft-cited West Coast Trail.]
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