The 10 Best Hiking Trails in Canada
Canada is well known for its beautiful scenes and landscapes, especially with its vast array of forests, mountains and lakes. Its full of perfect places to go hiking, with its many national parks and trails that can take you all across the country.
With so much to offer it can be hard to find which hikes best suit you and which will give you the sights you have to see in Canada. That is why we bring you this list of the ’10 Best Hiking Trails in Canada’, showcasing the hikes you simply cant miss out on. We’ve found hikes suited for all levels of hiker, with experiences ranging from adventurous hikes, to hikes full of wildlife, this list has it all.
Safety Information for Hiking In Canada
Before we go through the ‘Best Hiking Trails in Canada’, it is important to highlight some safety information regarding hiking in this country. We already have a guide that goes through some tips and safety information for hikers here, but these are some other pieces of information catered specifically to Canada.
When is the Best Time to Go Hiking in Canada?
According to the Government of Canada’s National Parks website , the best time to go hiking is July through mid- September, which is considered prime hiking season. When reading through the list you’ll see that many of the hikes are best recommended to go on during this time due to many of them taking place in alpine locations where there is snow and possible avalanche risks.
How do I stay Safe around Wildlife When Hiking in Canada?
Wildlife and animals are a huge part of Canadas trails and its important to respect them. Most national park trails require dogs to be on leads to keep both your pet and surrounding wildlife safe. There are also rules against feeding and touching animals and approaching wildlife is not recommended. You should try to stay at least 100 metre away from bears, bison, wolves, cougars and 30 metres away from wildlife such as moose, deer ,elk and goats.
Its also important you carry Bear Spray with you, as many of these trails due have possible sightings of Grizzly Bears, which while they are often not right on the trail, you never know if you could come across one so its best to take some as a precaution.
If you follow all these guidelines hiking in Canada will be a wonderful experience, but its always best to put your safety first and come prepared for whichever trail you go on.
Now, lets get back onto the list of ‘Best Hiking Trails in Canada’
Plain Of Six Glaciers – Alberta
This trail is a highly popular tourist destination located near the shores of Lake Louise. It is described as a moderate hike depending on when you visit and how far along the trail you go. The out and back version is 14.6km altogether and offers incredible views. Along the way be sure to keep an eye out for the many different wildlife species you can find, such as chipmunks, mountain goats and grizzly bears.
A main highlight of this trail is the little traditional Swiss-built ‘Plain of Six Glaciers’ Tea House, which is the perfect place to visit during your hiking experience. This cute tea house serves tea, coffee, sandwiches, scones and soups so if you are wanting some lunch or just want a cosy break from your hike be sure to check this place out. It’s a popular spot on the hike so can get quite busy especially at peak seasons and visiting time, and the huts and for customers only so do keep that in mind and make sure to pack food just in case.
Temperature changes are known to be quite extreme as you go along the trail so be sure to dress appropriately and bring extra layers with you. The trail is not safe for use in winter unless you’ve had proper training, such as avalanche training, and you may also need snow equipment.
Time it takes to complete: 4-6 hours
Skyline Trail – Alberta
For a longer and more challenging hike also found in Alberta, The Skyline Trail, is an excellent pick for amazing views and a chance to hike the Canadian Rockies. Located in Jasper National Park this trail is usually a four day trip and stretches for 44km with an elevation gain of 1625m. Wildlife found on this trail are caribou, grey wolves and sometimes grizzly bears
Before attempting this trail, you need to do you research so you can come as prepared as possible. The trail is only available to hike in summer, typically from May/July to October and is well known for its weather conditions which can be quite difficult for some. Additionally a chance of snowfall it to be expected year round.
For more information such as on campgrounds, safety etc, visit : https://www.hikejasper.com/Hiking-The-Jasper-Skyline-Trail.html
Another important note from this website is that :
‘The Skyline Trail is critical Woodland Caribou habitat, so no dogs are allowed to help reduce stress on this disappearing icon of the Canadian wilderness. Parks Canada has banned dogs from all Caribou habitat in Jasper National Park.’ So keep this in mind if you want to visit Jasper National Park with dogs.
Time it takes to complete: 2- 4 days
Garibaldi Lake – British Columbia
Surrounded by alpine and glaciers scenery, this out and back hike is 18km and of a moderate difficulty. It’s best recommended to be completed by those of intermediate- expert level and is perfect for anyone who loves sight-seeing. Along the way you’ll see waterfalls and meadows but by far the most spectacular sight is the lake. Many summits can be seen from the lake, such as the ‘Bookworms’ mountain and Guard Mountain. Because of its closeness to the coast, weather conditions can drastically change so keep that in mind when visiting.
The trail is accessible from July to September and is best done in summer months.
*As of July 2021, you must reserve a free day use permit before arriving even as a hiker.
Time it takes to complete: 5 hours
West Coast Trail – British Columbia
Considered as one of the best of its kind and one of the overall best hiking trails in Canada, this trail is a multi-backpacking trip that takes 6-8 days to complete. This iconic trail spans a length of 75km with an elevation gain of 1508m and is best attempted during summer months however is available from March to November.
Due to its length its very much best suited for those that are of a medium to high experience level and are avid hikers as it takes multiple days to complete and can be quite strenuous sometimes. Expect incredible views of waterfalls, a coastal rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, where sometimes even whales can be spotted in from time to time. In addition to this, other wildlife that can be seen includes wolves and bears so be on the lookout for them.
Time it takes to complete: 6-8 days
Fundy Trail – New Brunswick
If you are visiting the Fundy National Park area then you have to try the famous Fundy Footpath, which offers views of remote beaches and forests and even more excitedly the Bay of Fundy, one of the seven wonders of North America.
Listed as one of the top 50 hiking trails in the entire world, this strenuous 47km wilderness trail requires very careful preparation as it is classed as being primitive in some places, it’s an excellent challenge and perfect for those that want more of an adventure experience while hiking.
Before beginning the trail, it is highly recommended that hikers register through the following link or at the interpretive centre at the location for their own safety. More information about the Fundy Footpath can be found her also on the official site:
Time it takes to complete: 4- 5 days
East Coast Trail – Newfoundland
A long distance coastal footpath that spans around 300km, however is also links to 235 other wilderness paths and passes along the way, so the possibilities for this hike are endless and there’s something for every one of all levels. Whether its historic sites like Cape Spear or Signal Hill you want to see or varieties wildlife such as whales seabirds , there’s lots of sites to visit and there’s plenty of moose to be seen too. There may even be a polar bear and depending on the time of year you visit there can also be icebergs. You can also visit Witless Bay Seabird Sanctuary or Avalon Wilderness Area to see even more wild life.
As its so lengthy the East Coast Trail it excellent for a multi-day camping trip and is best done during summertime when temperatures are at their best.
Time it takes to complete: 4- 5 days
Bruce Trail – Ontario
Another lengthy hike to complete, the Bruce Trail is the longest and oldest marked hiking trail in Canada, covering over 900km. It is widely considered one of the best hiking trails in Canada, as well as one of the most famous trail systems , and connects to many other iconic trails too.
Because of its length, it is not a trail I would suggest to attempt at once, although if you do it takes around a month. A better option is to go to day hikes of the trails it spans off onto and instead consider it more of a challenge to complete all the trails, some of which are highlighted next on the list so you can use them as starting points. This way you can better experience the locations you visit and truly take in the sights they have to offer, including beautiful waterfalls, lakeside cliffs and plenty of forests.
Time it takes to complete: over 30 days, but is probably more realistic to be done over a span of several years
Albion Falls – Ontario
One of the places that can be visited as part of the Bruce Trail, Albion Falls, located in the Hamilton area, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls you can visit in Canada. There are many different trails you can go on that lead you through forests and fauna, however the main event of all of them is the waterfall. With height of 19m and width of 18m, it’s truly a sight to behold. There are different viewpoint platforms you can use to get picturesque views of the waterfall, however there is no current access to the bottom area.
Due to its famous reputation, its best to consider visiting at off peak times so you can get the best view possible as its a very popular tourist destination in the area, which is why we have included it as one of the best hiking trails in Canada, even if there is more than one in the area to pick from.
Time it takes to complete: 2- 3 hours
Lions Head Trail – Ontario
Anothertrail that is a part of the Bruce Trail System is the Lions Head Trail loop, considered one of the best hiking trails in Canada. This is a bit of a longer day hike and even though you can get it done quicker its best to plan that you’ll be spending the day on it. The hike can be quite demanding so requires beforehand preparation, it constantly gains and loses elevation as you go along the trail.
Another note of importance is that there is a lot of exposed cliffs that don’t have any safety rail, so you need to be aware of that as you go. Stay away from the exposed cliff edges and remain mindful of them when taking photos or looking at views. There is also sinkholes around this trail so again, keep an eye out for them. If you want to do the full loop, proper hiking gear is probably the best option as you’ll benefit a lot from having hiking boots and poles during this sometimes strenuous terrain.
You also need to check the weather first before attempting this hike as again like many of the hikes on this list, bad weather can make this trail dangerous. During Spring, early rainfall can be a problem as it makes the trail slippy and muddy so always double check what the weather will be like when you go and what it was like before you visit too as that also effects conditions.
Time it takes to complete: 4- 6 hours
Grizzly Lake Trail – Yukan
Another hike worthy of being on the best hiking trails in Canada, This 11km trail in the Tombstone Mountain Range takes you on a wonderful hike through the mountains and forest scenery to Grizzly Lake itself. The landscape can be quite challenging, and its classed as a difficult hike because of its terrain and the time it takes to complete. Temperatures can be very cold and snow is often expected so pack accordingly.
There are many different hike combinations you can do in the area to lengthen your trip if you want to go camping rather than just doing a day hike, but you need to order a permit beforehand , which you can find information for here.
Time it takes to complete: 6 hours