Canada may be known for its friendly people, ice hockey, and Tim Hortons, but if that’s all you know about our neighbor to the north, you’re really missing out. Canada’s national parks and wilderness spaces are an incredible resource, and they’re often far less traveled than similar trails in the U.S. And what better way to explore a country than to see its most beautiful natural spaces? For your next adventure, consider these six amazing places to go hiking in Canada.
1. International Appalachian Trail, Quebec
Who knew that the Appalachian Trail doesn’t actually end at Mt. Katahdin? The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) picks up at the AT’s Northern Terminus and traces the U.S.-Canada border before diving into New Brunswick. In Canada, the trail winds through the wilds of Quebec, through Gaspésie National Park, the Chic-Choc Mountains, and the Gaspé Peninsula before finishing on the coast at Cap Gaspé in Forillon National Park. That’s a long way. For most people, the Quebec section of the IAT is a more manageable, consisting of coastal walks, mountainous interiors, sweeping farmland, and everything in between. It’s still more than 400 miles (650 kilometers) long, but you can plan a reasonable multi-day trip and still see a lot, visiting some of the most incredible scenery Quebec has to offer.
2. Mantario Hiking Trail, Manitoba
The central-Canadian province of Manitoba is often overlooked, which is a shame. The Mantario Hiking Trail, located in Whiteshell Provincial Park, is enough of a reason to make the trip to see for yourself what other people are missing. The 37-mile (60 kilometers) trail will take you through a protected wilderness area, skirt numerous lakes, and offer views of some geologically fascinating granite outcroppings. You can hike this trail in its entirety in just a few days, and it is well marked from end to end. Established campsites are abundant, and water is never a problem given the proximity to lakes seemingly around every turn.
3. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Most hikers know about Montana’s Glacier National Park, but the natural beauty doesn’t stop at the border. The Continental Divide Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park is just north of the U.S. national park, and it makes up the second part of the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park. It’s hard to go wrong when looking for a hike in this park—crystalline lakes, rugged peaks, crashing waterfalls, and deep pine forests can be found beyond nearly every trailhead. A mellow day hike to Bertha Lake is just seven miles round trip, while a trek up Lineham Ridge will take more than 10 tough (but worth it) miles. You’re going to need to save those vacation days to try and see as much as you can.
4. Cape Chignecto, Nova Scotia
Not far from Maine in the province of Nova Scotia, you’ll find a maritime treat at Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, which features than 50 miles of established hiking trails. The 34-mile (55-kilometer) coastal loop lets hikers experience the entirety of what this area has to offer. You’ll spend almost an entire day under dense tree cover before the views open up to the ocean as far as the eye can see. Allow several days to complete the loop and get ready for challenging backcountry terrain through old-growth forest, narrow passageways, coastal views, and lush meadows. There aren’t many places you can peer over the edge of 600-foot cliffs into brilliant blue water—this is one of them.
5. West Coast Trail, British Columbia
On the opposite side of Canada, British Columbia’s West Coast Trail (WCT) will put even experienced backpackers to the test. The trail runs 47 miles (75 kilometers) through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and is open from May through September—and it requires reservations. But it’s worth planning a trip to follow the ancient trade routes (both on land and paddling) of the Ditidaht First Nation and the Pacheedaht and Huu-ay-aht people. Hikers traversing the entire length can expect ladders up and down steep rock faces and challenging sections of wading through fast-moving water. Be prepared for any weather in this coastal region. And if you’re not ready to tackle the whole thing, it is possible to hike half of the trail via access by water taxi.
6. Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan
If you want to get away, a trip to Prince Albert National Park is undoubtedly off the beaten path. Located in about the middle of Saskatchewan, the park is known for its incredible diversity of ecosystems. Wide-open prairie is bordered by dense boreal forest, and aspen groves that turn brilliant yellow each fall. It’s filled with lakes and streams and features more than 90 miles (150 kilometers) of hiking along 17 different trails. Hikers of all ages and abilities will find something here, from family-friendly day hikes to extended backcountry excursions. If you only have time for one overnight, check out Hunters Lake Trail, a 12-mile (total) out-and-back that takes hikers through the woods to a scenic lake. It may take a while to get here—from just about anywhere—but you’ll be glad you made the trip.
Written by Maggie Slepian for Matcha in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by léa b