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37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

Canada has its’ fair share of long distance and backpacking trails.

I tend to think of Europe when I think of long distance hiking trails or walks. Maybe they’ve just done a better job of publicizing them.

But in Canada there are long distance and backpacking trails in every province and territory.

Here are 37 long distance and backpacking trails.

"Hiking boots come in all shapes and sizes"

Hiking boots come in all shapes and sizes

Some are built only for hiking, some are shared use trails. Almost all of the National Parks have extensive trail systems with many multi-day backpacking trips possible, though only a few of those are mentioned.

Many, but certainly not all of the trails are designed for adventurous folks with expert navigation and wilderness skills. Fortunately there are still plenty that are well marked with multiple access points so they can be done in sections as you have the time.

With the summer hiking season just around the corner it’s time to start making plans.

Here’s a list and a brief description of many of Canada’s long distance hiking trails.

 

British Columbia Hiking Trails

  • The West Coast Trail is one of the most popular long distance trails in Canada with up to 8000 people per season tackling the strenuous 75 kilometer (45 mile) section of beach and rain forest between Bamfield in the north and Port Renfrew in the south. Allow 6-8 days. You can download a free guide here.

"A beautiful coastal section on the West Coast Trail"

A beautiful coastal section on the West Coast Trail

  • The Juan de Fuca Trail, is a 47 kilometre (29 mile) strenuous but well-marked trail that follows the coast from Port Renfrew to the small town of Jordan River. It’s reportedly easier than its northern neighbour, the West Coast Trail, and perfect if you have three to four days. You can also hike it in sections because of its multiple access points.
  • The North Coast Trail at the northern end of Vancouver Island offers 43 kilometres (27 miles) of tough and often extremely muddy trail that runs from Nels Bight in Cape Scott Provincial Park to Shushartie Bay. Add in another 15 kilometres to get to the trailhead at San Josef River. You might see black bears, cougars, wolves and seals, sea lions and sea birds.
  • The Nootka Island Trail takes you approximately 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Louie Bay on the north side of the island to Friendly Cove on the south side – and for that you need to allow 5-7 days. This is another tough trail but it rewards with beautiful beaches and quintessential west coast scenery.
  • The Sunshine Coast Trail in the Powell River area takes you 180 kilometres (112 miles) from the Desolation Sound area in the north to Saltery Bay in the south. There are over twenty access points to choose from but if you do it in one go, allow at least 10 days.

37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in CanadaFree hut on the Sunshine Coast Trail

  • The Stein Valley trails in Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Provincial Park, east of Whistler, are notoriously arduous. The 52 kilometre (32 mile) hike from Blowdown Pass to the Stein trailhead near Lytton requires four to five days. The scenery is reportedly excellent but the trails can be very tough going and you need excellent route finding skills.
  • The 420 kilometre (260 mile)Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail (also known as the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail) takes you from Bella Coola in central BC to Quesnel. Allow three weeks though it’s possible to do the 80 kilometer section through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in a week. This historic trail was used by the native people to transport fish grease to the interior for trading.
  • The Telegraph Trail follows an historic telegraph line for 100 kilometres (62 miles) between Quesnel and Hazelton.

Alberta Hiking Trails

  • The Waskahegan Trail offers a remote 309 kilometre (192 mile) experience. The trail makes a loop, beginning south of Edmonton and heading to Wetaskiwin, then east to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, north to Elk Island National Park and west to Fort Saskatchewan. It’s often done as a series of day hikes.
"Hiking in Elk Island National Park"

Hiking in Elk Island National Park

  • The Great Divide Trail takes you 1,200 kilometres (744 miles) from the US border north to Kakwa Provincial Park, north of Jasper National Park. Other than a 100 kilometre section between Crowsnest Pass and Kananaskis Country, it’s an informal route.

Saskatchewan Hiking Trails

  • Saskatchewan offers lots of hiking in the Provincial and National Parks. They do have one long distance hiking trail – the 120 kilometre Boreal Trail in the western part of the province. It offers a variety of starting and ending points.

Read: Hiking the Boreal Trail in Saskatchewan – Day One

37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

The Boreal Trail in Saskatchewan in May

Manitoba Hiking Trails

  • The Mantario Trail traverses 66 kilometres (41 miles) through the Canadian Shield and boreal forest, near the Manitoba-Ontario border. This trail is for experienced backpackers only who are prepared for tough conditions – at least according to the trip reports.

Ontario Hiking Trails

  • The Voyageur Trail is a work in progress. Eventually it will link Thunder Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior to Manitoulin Island. There are four sections of some length that are finished now: Rossport to Terrace Bay (52 kilometres), Pukaskwa National Park Coastal Trail (60 kilometres), Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail (55 kilometres) and Goulais River -Sault Ste. Marie – Thessalon – Elliot Lake (250 kilometres).
  • Ottawa-Temiskaming Highland Trail is a rugged wilderness trail approximately 100 kilometres in length. There are six access points via road so it’s possible to break the trail up into day trips.
  • The Bruce Trail is an 800 kilometre (496 mile) trail that follows the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. There are over 300 kilometres of additional side trails. Numerous access points allow day long or weekend trips. It is Canada’s original long distance hiking trail.
  • The Grand Valley Trail takes you 275 kilometres (171 miles) between Rock Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie and the town of Alton near Orangeville. Watch out for poison ivy and ticks.
  • The Avon Trail stretches from St. Mary’s to Conestoga over 110 kilometres (68 miles). Hike across scenic farmland, occasionally along a country road and even through small towns. The trail links to the Thames Valley and Grand Valley Trails.
  • The Thames Valley Trail is a 110 kilometre (68 mile) hiking trail along the Thames River Valley from London to St. Mary’s. Through London it follows multi use trails.
  • The Oak Ridges Trail follows the Oak Ridge Moraine for over 160 kilometres (99 miles) just north of Toronto. There are over 100 kilometers of side trails that link up with it including the Bruce Trail to the west. (Read: An Easy Hike on the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail)
  • The Ganaraska Trail connects Port Hope, Barrie, Orillia and the Bruce Trail over a distance of 500 kilometres (310 miles). Some sections of the trail traverse remote wilderness; there are many sections that can be done over a number of weekends to complete the entire trail.

Read: A Hike on the Northumberland Section of the Ganaraska Trail 

37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

The Ganaraska Trail in Northumberland County

  • The Rideau Trail is a 387 kilometre hiking trail network between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario that takes hikers through two provincial parks, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve & a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Numerous access points make it an ideal trail for hikers completing it in sections but backpackers are through hiking the trail in increasing numbers as well.
37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

The Rideau Trail

Quebec Hiking Trails

  • Quebec’s section of the National Hiking Trail will eventually be close to 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) in length. The trail will run from the Ottwa/Gatineau Park area, head across the Laurentians and Charlevoix regions before crossing the St. Lawrence at Les Escoumins. There will be a 160 kilometre lower St. Lawrence section too, stretching all the way to the New Brunswick border. More than half the trail is completed now.
  • The Chic Choc Mountains boast 150 kilometres (93 miles) of trail that are the northern part of the International Appalachian Trail. Stay in one of the approximately 20 back country huts and keep your eyes peeled for caribou, especially at the higher elevations.
  • Les Sentiers de l’Estrie takes you 150 kilometres from the Vermont border to Kingsbury and connects several peaks over 2,000 feet high. Membership is required to walk the trails.
  • The Sentier du Lac Kénogami is a 45 kilometre trail along the shores of Lake Kenogami. Allow four days. The trail begins near Hébertville and the east end is south of Chicoutimi.

New Brunswick Hiking Trails

  • The Fundy Footpath is another rugged 41 kilometre (25 mile) trail that requires at least  four days. It takes you along the Fundy shore from the Fundy Trail Parkway near Big Salmon River to Fundy National Park. Be prepared for slippery rocks, cliffs and be aware of the tides. Enjoy superlative coastal views.
  • The Fundy Circuit is another possibility. It’s a 48 kilometre backpacking circuit within Fundy National Park.

Nova Scotia Hiking Trail

  • There is nothing yet but the Cape to Cape Trail is in the planning stages. Ultimately it will take you from Cape Chignecto to Cape George, a distance of about 400 kilometres (248 miles).

Read: Extreme Silence: A Solo backpacking trip in Cape Chignecto

37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

The Cape Chignecto Trail in Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island Hiking Trail

  • In PEI look for the Confederation Trail, a 250 kilometre (155 miles) trail on old railway lines. It’s meant to be shared and in fact it’s perfect for bikers. Wind your way through pretty villages, through hardwood groves and along many a river. It’s easy to follow and flat.
"Part of the Confederation Trail"

Part of the Confederation Trail in PEI

Newfoundland Hiking Trails

  • The East Coast Trail is a 540 kilometre (335 mile) trail running along the eastern cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula. About half the trail is currently finished and everything I’ve read suggests that it’s a must do trail. It’s broken down into 18 sections and each section can be accessed for a day hike. The trail links 32 historic communities and features spectacular scenery including cliffs, sea stacks, fjords, lighthouses, icebergs and even a caribou herd.

Read: Hiking the Sugarloaf Path on the East Coast Trail, Newfoundland

  • Gros Morne National Park boasts two wilderness backpacking routes – the North Rim Traverse and the Long Range Traverse. Both require solid navigational skills and prior experience OR go with a guide.

Read:  Backpacking the Long Range Traverse in Gros Morne NP: Day 1

37 Long Distance & Backpacking Trails in Canada

One of the great views you get on the Long Range Traverse

Yukon Territory Hiking Trail

  • The Chilkoot Trail, a 53 kilometre former gold rush trail is the most famous one in Canada’s north. It’s a demanding four to six day hike that starts on tidewater in Alaska and ends in Bennett, BC. Campsites need to be booked well in advance. You can download my complete Chilkoot Trail guide here.
"Me on the Chilkoot Trail - just after crossing the border into Canada"

Me on the Chilkoot Trail – just after crossing the border into Canada

Northwest Territories Hiking Trail

  • The Canol Heritage Trail is an abandoned road that runs 350 kilometres (217 miles) between MacMillan Pass and Norman Wells. The road was built during World War II to reach oil fields. Plan on hiking 20 days to traverse this spectacular country. It is a very remote wilderness experience.

Nunavut Hiking Trail

  • Akshayuk Pass in Ayuittuq National Park on Baffin Island is a 105 kilometre (65 mile) hike that showcases a wild landscape with the world’s tallest rock cliffs – Mt. Thor. You’ll see hanging glaciers, shear faced mountains and perhaps even a polar bear.

Read: A Backpacking Trip in Auyuittuq NP on Baffin Island – Part I

Do you have any long distance and backpacking trails in Canada to add to this list?  What have I missed?

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 117 Comments

  • Dan dyer-low says:

    Hello, I’m in need of some advise. I plan to hike from southern okanagan up through bc up into the Yukon I would like to start near keremeos bc and end up in Dawson city. Does anyone know of a series of trails I could use for this? This will probably take me a few months I’m guessing. only done a few multi day hikes. Nothing this extensive. has anyone done a trip like this?

  • Dan dyer-low says:

    Hello, I’m in need of some advise. I plan to hike from southern okanagan up through bc up into the Yukon I would like to start near keremeos bc and end up in Dawson city. Does anyone know of a series of trails I could use for this? This will probably take me a few months I’m guessing. only done a few multi day hikes. Nothing this extensive. has anyone done a trip like this?

    • @Dan I haven’t but I recommend contacting BC Tourism and Yukon Tourism for help.

    • Dana Meise says:

      Dan that’s a great project. There are many options down south but as you get north the trails become extremely remote to non existent. You would have to plan in great detail with contacts who can do remote food drops as there will be nowhere to buy food. You just couldn’t carry enough to get you the distances required. The other option is to follow the Stewart-Cassiar the Highway 37 or link up the Can-Alaska highway then follow the Klondike to Dawson City. I know these are highways but its the only way unless you want heli food drops and a few years. I know all this because I’ve solo hiked from St .Johns Nl to Victoria BC then up to Dawson City on the Trans Canada Trail which was 20,100kms. I’m not bragging but I’m the only one to do it and I have the worlds solo hiking record so I would like to think I know my stuff. Also I’m a Forest Technologist from Prince George so I know the north very well. I don’t want to discourage you but it will take far longer than a few months. Driving its 2860kms but if your networking trails part way you could easily add a few hundred kms. So even low balling it your looking at 3000kms. If you averaged 25kms every day it would take you 120 days that’s four months. However in my vast experience this is extremely difficult to achieve as you will find potential unexpected challenges along the way. I’ve been held up by forest fires, heavy rain causing flooding and land slides, flooding from beaver activity, heat waves, surprise blizzards at altitude, or often in remote areas the trail isn’t marked proper or has grown over so you either get lost awhile or you compass your way out which obviously slows you down often by days. Not to mention the strain on you food supplies. These things could also cause you to miss a food drop. Another thing to consider is during the long haul you will get epic blisters and sometimes have to stop and rest to let them heal as you don’t want blood poisoning. you’ll also get heat rash and moisture rash which causes much discomfort and can lead to broken skin and infection. Fatigue will also be a factor as you will find out so rest will be key but it also adds time. I would give yourself 6 months and if you complete it faster than that great, but you must be prepared for the unexpected.

      I’m really not trying to discourage you but tell it like it is. Most of the trip will be the most beautiful rewarding thing you will do besides marriage and children but you will have to earn it. I get emails from people from all over the world wanting to hike the Trans Canada Trail proper countless have tried and all have failed because they were ill prepared, unrealistic with their goals, and didn’t realise just how massive the commitment is.

      I hope you take the advice as I hope you follow the dream. Just so you know what I say is fact just google my name Dana Meise and you will see I have the World record hike was named Canadian Geographic expedition of the year and was named one of the top 100 greatest Canadian Explorers. Again not bragging I just want you to take me seriously and I hope you heed my advice. Best to ya…

      • @Dana What great advice and what a treat to have someone of your calibre leave such a thoughtful comment. I wish you great luck on whatever your next long distance adventure happens to be.

  • Steven Psiuk says:

    Nothing yet in NS?

    Try Cape chignecto, 3-5 days of mostly coastal up and down with incredible scenery. I stopped taking pictures because people who didn’t make the effort did not appreciate nor deserve to see the incredible scenes in front of me that were only accessible by foot (or sea kayak). I thought clockwise was best. Pre read up on the history at rufegee cove and eatonville which are along the way.

    I would skip Keji national park, it’s 60k I think but flat and is serene and incredible by canoe instead.

    Kenomee Canyon is a 2 day back pack with waterfalls and small river crossings.

    Paulette’s Cove (if it’s still open) was kind of cool though a little flat on top. A two day venture.

    These were some of my favourites in NS. Any rail trail is a non starter for me so I promise some good scenery on these hikes. There are countless day hikes as well with the beauty of short driving distances between them.

    Happy hiking.

    • @Steven I have done Cape Chignecto as a solo 3 day backpacking trip – almost 3 years ago. Such impressive scenery. Keji I agree is better for canoeing & kayaking but the other two you mention are new. Thanks for commenting.

  • Jennifer says:

    Well, you’ve certainly missed some absolutely stunning hikes in Alberta (hike to Mount Assiniboine for one).

    The La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Ontario is also one for the books.

    • @Jennifer I have hiked Mt Assiniboine and agree it’s a great hike. The same goes for the La Cloche Trail – which someone else pointed out. I didn’t include Mt Assiniboine as then I’d have to include every amazing 3 day backpacking trip in Canada.

  • Laura Wheeler says:

    What about the Rideau Trail between Ottawa & Kingston?

  • Gaston says:

    Interesting list. It’s obvious there are many options all over Canada. I suppose the term ‘long distance’ can be misleading. For instance I do know that in Alberta you have omitted the two premier ‘long distance’ pursuits in Jasper National Park. The North and South boundaries. No a criticism but I am just curious, any reasons for that?

  • karen says:

    we are interested in having a “home base” that we can leave each day to go out hiking ( loop trail or out and back) and return each day. The next day we can have a different route to take and return to “home base” where we can cook our own meals after shopping locally. Eat out if the “spirit” moves us. Looking to relax, get away from it all and be active as well.

  • Alex says:

    Very good suggestions! I lived in Ontario for a year and a half and visited Algonquin park during my stay and I loved it!
    I noticed that you did not talk about Canada’s Great Trail which was unveiled recently and spans more than 24000km!

    I have written extensively about the Great Trail: how it crosses Canada, province by province, and how it could be improved. I have listed a few improvements that could be made to The Great Trail to make it even Greater, for example that it could include one of Canada’s most important park: Ivvavik National Park in Yukon. You can find it at https://hikingspree.com/canada-great-trail/

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