The globe’s second-biggest country has an endless variety of landscapes – a big draw for many of the people visit Canada every year. Sky-high mountains, pristine lakes and spectral forests provide the backdrop for plenty of “ah”-inspiring moments, photo ops, and trails that really let you get away from it all. Here are 11 hiking trails that truly showcases Canada’s boundless natural beauty.
1. Lake Agnes & the Beehives
Two compelling attractions make this Lake Louise’s most popular hike. First, the historic Lake Agnes Teahouse, where hikers have been refueling since 1901, makes a supremely atmospheric spot to break for tea, sandwiches and baked goods at the 3.4km mark. Second, the lake views from atop 2270m Big Beehive (the trail’s ultimate destination) are phenomenal. Set off early to beat the crowds.
2. Cape Split
Located on the finger of land jutting into the Bay of Fundy, this 13km-return trail from Scots Bay, taking around five hours, is one of the most popular hikes in Nova Scotia, with little elevation change through a tunnel of forest. The hike ends in a dramatic, often windy clearing on cliffs high above the Bay of Fundy where seabirds nest.
Wander down to the rocky outcrop at the vertiginous end of the trail to see the tides creating waves called tidal rips that flow through a cluster of rock pinnacles. Take time before or after the hike to look for agates along the beach at Scots Bay.
3. Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots
Aside from the Lake Louise shoreline, no place in Banff 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 vie for your attention with two gorgeous waterfalls. More intrepid hikers can climb to the Inkpots, colorful natural pools in a high mountain valley.
4. Lower Little Harbour Trail
This 4.8km loop, rated moderate-difficult, takes in just about everything that makes Newfoundland special – big root cellars, a 9m natural sea arch, cliffs, coast, forests and the remains of a community, since resettled. The abandoned houses you’ll wander by give parts of this trail the whole icy-fingers-on-the-neck vibe.
5. Wild Pacific Trail
Where the temperate rainforest comes down to kiss the ocean, the citizens of Ucluelet have built a magnificent 10km trail that can be equally spectacular in both the sun and (stormy) rain. It starts with a 2.6km loop that winds past a 1915 Amphitrite lighthouse 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 10km you’ll need to take a couple of interconnecting paths along quiet roads calling in at 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” equipped with viewing platforms. Pack your easel.
6. Mt Duval
Looming high above Pangnirtung in the Baffin Region, Mt Duval (850m) affords tremendous views of the fjord and the settlement from its summit. There’s not much of a trail but no chance of getting lost; start at the reservoir and navigate your way up among the boulders. Allow four hours’ round-trip.
7. Bruce Trail
For 900km, the Bruce Trail winds along the top of the Niagara Escarpment, from the Queenston Heights Park on the Niagara Peninsula to the Tobermory harbor on the Bruce Peninsula. This wide, well-maintained path is excellent for hiking during summer months, while those armed with cross-country skis take it through its winter paces. Day hikes along the trail are an appealing way to spend a sunny afternoon.
8. Cup & Saucer Trail
From its origin near the junction of Hwy 540 and Bidwell Rd (25km southwest of Little Current) this 9km trail on the Niagara Escarpment on Manitoulin Island, with its 2km of dramatic 70m cliffs, leads to the highest point on the island (351m) with breathtaking views of the crinkled shoreline along the North Channel. Take a shortcut back on the 500m Adventure Trail, which involves descending on rickety wood ladders and clambering up, over and down massive boulders.
9. Kinney Lake & Berg Lake Trails
The trailhead for this easy 2½-hour round-trip hike into gorgeous Kinney Lake (4.5km one-way) is 3km north of the Mt Robson Visitor Centre. A longer hike carries on from Kinney Lake to Berg Lake (23km each way), with seven camping areas along the way. All Berg Lake hikers must check into Mt Robson Visitor Centre before heading out.
10. Canol Heritage Trail
The wild, challenging Canol Heritage Trail leads 358km southwest to the Yukon border, traversing peaks, canyons and barrens. Wildlife is abundant and there are numerous deep river crossings. The only shelter is provided by old Quonset huts. Hiking the whole length takes three to four weeks and most people arrange food drops. Contact Northwest Territories Tourism for information before you head out.
The trail was built at enormous monetary and human cost during WWII to transport oil to Whitehorse; “Canol” is shorthand for “Canadian Oil”. The huge project was abandoned in 1945, with the war nearly over and cheaper oil sources found.
11. Parc d’Environnement Naturel
In summer, Sutton is prime hiking territory, especially in this conservation area, where 80km of trails have been carved through the thickly forested mountains. Backpackers can unfold their tents at three primitive campgrounds (the one at Lac Spruce is the nicest).