It’s difficult to do justice to Canada’s awe-inspiring landscapes. Words can never fully capture what you see with your eyes – towering snow-capped mountains, azure lakes and lush evergreen forests filled with fascinating wildlife.
Covering nearly 10 million sq km (3.8 million sq miles), Canada was built for adventurous hikers.
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With so many gorgeous hiking trails and national parks to explore, no matter how many hiking holidays you take in Canada, you’ll always find a reason to come back. Here’s our list of the best bucket-list hikes in the country.
1. Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia
Best overnight hike
25km (15.5 miles) one-way, 2 days, intermediate
With five different trailheads to choose from and 90km (56 miles) of trails at varying degrees of intensity, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a hiker’s fantasy. Named after its towering namesake mountain – 2678m (8786ft) Mount Garibaldi – this area was established as a Provincial Park in 1927.
Accessible via a long day trip from Vancouver, Garibaldi offers plenty of lakes and scenic vistas to keep you busy. The longest trail at this attractive spot nestled in the Coast Mountains is the hike
from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot to the Garibaldi Lake parking lot via Helm Creek.
The route covers 25km (15.5 miles) and is best attempted over two days, breaking the trip at the Helm Creek campground. A less ambitious trail of 3km (1.9 miles) links the Cheakamus Lake Parking lot to Cheakamus Lake.
Always check the British Columbia Parks page for trail closures on the morning of your hike – volatile weather conditions can impact the opening of the park’s trails.
2. Kinney Lake & Berg Lake Trails, British Columbia
Best scenic hike
4.5km (2.8 miles) one-way, 2½ hours, easy
Situated in the stunning Mount Robson Provincial Park, the trailhead for this easy round-trip hike to gorgeous Kinney Lake lies 3km (1.9 miles) north of the Mt Robson Visitor Centre.
From Kinney Lake, the longer, harder Kinney Lake to Berg Lake trail covers 23km (14 miles), with seven camping areas along the way, but the route is currently closed due to flood damage and is set to re-open in 2023.
All Berg Lake hikers must check into Mt Robson Visitor Centre before heading out, so check with the park authorities for the latest information.
Pretty coastal views abound on the Wild Pacific Trail © Shutterstock / John Fader
3. Wild Pacific Trail, British Columbia
Best informative hike
10km (6.2 miles) round-trip, 3–4 hours, easy to intermediate
Where the temperate rainforest comes down to kiss the ocean, the citizens of Ucluelet have built a magnificent 10km (6.2-mile) trail that is equally spectacular in both the sunshine and rain.
The route starts with a 2.6km (1.6-mile) loop that winds past a lighthouse built in 1915 at Amphitrite Point and progresses northwest as far as the Ancient Cedars loop and the Rocky Bluffs beyond.
The trail is well-signposted and fastidiously mapped. To complete the whole trail, you’ll need to follow a couple of interconnecting paths along quiet roads, passing several attractive beaches on the way.
Various information boards provide background on the area’s history and nature, and the path is dotted with benches, lookouts and so-called “artist’s loops” with viewing platforms for those taking time to record the scenery.
4. Lake Agnes & the Beehives, Alberta
Most iconic Canadian hike
7km (4.3 miles) to Lake Agnes round-trip; 10km (6.2 miles) to the Big Beehive round-trip; 2–4½ hours, moderate
Two compelling attractions make this the most popular hike at Lake Louise in Banff National Park. First up is the historic Lake Agnes Teahouse, where hikers have been refueling since 1901. It’s a supremely atmospheric spot to break for tea, sandwiches and baked goods at the 3.4km (2.1-mile) mark.
The second wow factor is the phenomenal view over the lake from atop 2270m (7447ft) Big Beehive, the trail’s ultimate destination. Set off early to beat the crowds, and be sure to check out the Canada Parks page beforehand to make sure the roads to the trailhead are open (closures are common in the snowy months).
Johnston Canyon’s waterfalls become icy sculptures in winter © Matthew Skubis / Getty Images
5. Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots, Alberta
Most popular Canadian hike
5km (3.2 miles) round-trip, 3–4 hours, easy to slightly challenging
After the Lake Louise shoreline, no place in Banff National Park sees as much foot traffic as the wide, paved Johnston Canyon Trail. The crowds make total sense once you enter the canyon, where dramatic cliff faces compete for your attention with two gorgeous waterfalls (the Lower and Upper Falls).
The trail to the Lower Falls is around 1.1km (0.6 miles) in length and the walk takes about half an hour, while the hike to the Upper Falls is a little more challenging at 2.6km (1.6 miles), with a slight increase in elevation. More intrepid hikers can climb to the Inkpots, two colorful natural pools in a high mountain valley.
This area is prone to extreme weather, so be sure to check the Canada Parks Banff website for up-to-date avalanche and flooding information.
6. Grey Owl Trail, Saskatchewan
Best hike for birding
20km (12.4 miles) round trip, 10-12 hours, difficult
The Grey Owl Trail offers a serene hike through terrain dotted with wildflowers and patches of marshland, with great birding opportunities and the chance to visit a historic Canadian site in Prince Albert National Park.
Most of the trail is under a dense canopy of forest, and at the end of the trail, just before you turn back, you can visit Grey Owl’s cabin. This simple structure was formerly the home of the writer and conservation activist Archibald Belaney (aka “Grey Owl”), his partner Gertrude Bernard – a member of the Kanienʼkehá꞉kaor (Mohawk) tribe – and their two pet beavers.
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7. Cup & Saucer Trail, Ontario
Best hike for families
9km (5.6 miles) round trip, 15 minutes to 4 hours, easy to difficult
Staggering viewpoints, interactive adventure experiences and a wide range of possible hike durations (from 15 mins to 4 hours) make this trail popular with families.
From its origin near the junction of Hwy 540 and Bidwell Rd, around 25km (15.5 miles) southwest of Little Current, this beautiful trail on the Niagara Escarpment leads to the highest point on Manitoulin Island.
At 351m (1152ft), hikers are treated to breathtaking views of the crinkled shoreline along the North Channel. Take a shortcut on the way back along the 500m (1640ft) Adventure Trail, which involves descending on rickety wooden ladders and clambering up, over, and down massive boulders.
The Bruce Trail offers endless days of scenic hiking © Shutterstock / Bob Hilscher
8. Bruce Trail, Ontario
Best route for hiking in stages
900km (559 miles) one-way, hike durations vary, moderate
The Bruce Trail winds along the top of the Niagara Escarpment for a staggering 900km (559 miles), from Queenston Heights Park on the Niagara Peninsula to Tobermory Harbour on the Bruce Peninsula. This wide, well-maintained path is excellent for hiking during summer, while those armed with cross-country skis put the trail through its paces in winter.
Most people tackle the Bruce Trail in short stages. The best time to hike here is in the fall – Ontario has some of the lushest autumnal colors in the world, and the thick canopy of reds, oranges, and yellows is a photographer’s dream.
Ontario weekenders love hiking these trails, so be sure to book your parking beforehand. Weekdays are less busy, and you can usually just show up. The Bruce Trail Conservancy has a comprehensive online guide covering how to get passes for the various trailheads.
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9. Parc d’Environnement Naturel de Sutton, Quebec
Best summertime hike
80km (49.7 miles), 2 hours up to several days, easy
With two glorious lakes and various mountain ponds to swim in, Sutton Park is prime hiking territory in the summer. In this scenic conservation area, 80km (49.7 miles) of trails have been carved through the thickly forested mountains.
Trails cover everything from 2-hour loops to multi-day excursions, and backpackers can unfold their tents at three primitive campgrounds.
On holiday weekends and during warm weather, buy your park tickets ahead of time on the Sutton Park website to guarantee entry. This park is a pretty reliable playground year-round, but sometimes icy winter conditions close the trails – check the park website ahead of time for closures.
10. Lower Little Harbour Trail, Newfoundland
Best hike for spooky vibes
4.8km (3 miles), 1½ hours, moderate to difficult
This 4.8km (3-mile) loop takes in just about everything that makes Newfoundland special – historic root cellars constructed by early settlers, a natural sea arch, rocky cliffs, scenic stretches of coast, green forests and the remains of a community since abandoned. The empty houses you’ll wander by on parts of this trail give an icy, fingers-on-the-neck vibe.
Keep an eye out for wildlife as you hike Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail © Wildnerdpix / Getty Images
11. East Coast Trail, Newfoundland
Best multi-day hike
336km (209 miles) round trip, 6 days, easy to difficult
This epic 336km (209-mile) trail, one of the longest in Canada, showcases more of the country’s natural beauty with each national historic site, coastal village, forest, cliff, and bridge you pass.
It takes around six days of hiking to complete the trail, and you can choose to camp at various designated campgrounds on the way or stay at local B&Bs and inns.
The route is divided into 25 wilderness trails – all linked and arranged in a linear fashion. Most people choose a specific trail or two based on their personal comfort levels. The stages range from around 4km (2.5 miles) to 20km (12.4 miles).
The East Coast Trail website is an excellent resource to help you choose which paths are best suited for your level of ability.
12. Cape Split, Nova Scotia
Best coastal hike
13km (8.1 miles) round trip, 5 hours, moderate
Located on a finger of land jutting into the Bay of Fundy, this 13km (8.1-mile) round-trip trail from Scots Bay takes around five hours to complete. It’s one of the most popular hikes in Nova Scotia, with little elevation change as you pass through a tunnel of forest cover.
The hike ends in a dramatic, windy clearing on cliffs high above the Bay of Fundy, with seabirds nesting below.
Wander down to the rocky outcrop at the vertiginous end of the trail to see waves known as tidal rips that flow through a cluster of rock pinnacles. Take time before or after the hike to look for pretty agate stones along the beach at Scots Bay.
The Skyline Trail follows a boardwalk to wonderful coast views © Shutterstock / Rob Crandall
13. Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia
Best boardwalk hike
8.7km (5.4 miles) loop, 2–3 hours, easy
A highlight of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Skyline Trail is as dramatic as the dramatic-sounding name suggests.
The hike follows a boardwalk that stretches the entire length of the route to protect the area’s delicate ecosystems, and it can be completed as a 7km (4.3-mile) out-and-back hike, or an 8.7km (5.4-mile) loop.
If you can ignore the breathtaking views (this is a beautiful place to be at sunset), the wildlife spotting opportunities here are spectacular. We’re talking moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal bird species, plus whales offshore.
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14. Fundy Footpath, New Brunswick
Best wilderness hike
49.3km (30.6 miles) one-way, 4–5 days, difficult
Hailed as one of the best hikes in the world, the Fundy Footpath is an incredibly challenging wilderness trail in Fundy National Park. The trail covers 49.3km (30.6 miles) of rugged terrain, with steep changes in elevation.
It’s backcountry hiking at its best, and the route is infrequently maintained, despite parts of the trail falling inside the national park.
It can take up to five days to complete the trek, and the route should only be attempted in the warmer months – the risk of hypothermia rises from mid-October. Refer to the Fundy Hiking Trail Association planning guide if you plan to tackle this once-in-a-lifetime trail, as the route can be incredibly hazardous.
The Grizzly Lake Trail is a fun Yukon adventure © Scalia Media / iStockphoto / Getty Images
15. Grizzly Lake Trail, Yukon
Best adventure hike
11km (6.8 miles) round trip, 6 hours, difficult
The Grizzly Lake Trail is located in Tombstone Territorial Park, accessible via the Dempster Highway (a dirt road), and the views of the Grizzly Valley along the route will linger long in your memory.
This trail can be tackled as a day trip, but if you plan to stay longer and hike other popular trails at Tombstone – for example, adding another 37km (23 miles) on the Divide Lake and Talus Lake trail – you’ll need to stay overnight.
Campers will need a bear-proof food canister, even though the park’s squirrels are the most likely predators. Their favorite foods are sweaty backpack straps and the tops of hiking poles, so make sure to pack these away when you camp.
Book hiking passes well in advance, as they sometimes sell out for the entire year by January. This is a challenging hike, so all trekkers need to complete a mandatory backcountry hiking orientation for safety reasons (this applies even if you’re a seasoned hiker).
16. Canol Heritage Trail, Northwest Territories
Best multi-week hike
358km (222 miles) one-way, 3–4 weeks, difficult
The wild, challenging Canol Heritage Trail runs southwest for 358km (222 miles) to the Yukon border, traversing peaks, canyons and barrens. Wildlife is abundant, there are numerous deep river crossings, and old Quonset huts provide the only shelter.
Hiking the whole length of the trail takes three to four weeks and most people arrange food drops along the route.
The trail was built at enormous monetary and human cost during WWII to transport oil to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory – “Canol” is shorthand for “Canadian Oil.” This huge project was abandoned in 1945, with the war nearly over, as cheaper sources of oil were found.
Contact Northwest Territories Tourism for information before you head out as this is not a hike to be undertaken lightly.