Country Hiking Guides

Hiking in the Great White North: The Best Hikes in Canada

POSTED ON January 28, 2021 BY Ralph S.

In this post we’ll cover a list of some of the best hikes in Canada through which you can explore the stunning countryside and breathtaking Canadian landscapes. From Rocky Mountains to Banff National Park and beyond, there are plenty of beautiful hikes in Canada. Thousands of miles of hiking trails that offer a lot to both new and experienced hikers make Canada a hikers’ paradise. Hikers can choose between a lot of options, including hiking along torrential rivers, through wildernesses and summiting in the Rocky Mountains.

Limitless routes and so much choice can spoil hikers and even make it difficult for them to pick the right hike, for every hike you do, you might have to add another two or three to your bucket list because each hike is truly unique and a different experience.

Best Hikes in Canada

Canadian Rockies

With five national and many provincial parts, the Canadian Rockies offer some of the best hikes in Canada. Hiking a trail or two is like barely scratching the surface and you might not even be able to hike them all in your lifetime. There are different reasons that make hikers favor certain trails over others, including limited human traffic, wildlife viewing opportunities and breathtaking views.

The important thing to remember is to pick a trail that matches your fitness level and abilities. There is no point in pushing yourself to the limit. Hiking is about enjoying the journey and not just about reaching the end.

Canadian Rockies

Smutwood Peak

The 13 mile/20 KM point-to-point trail is one of the most trafficked trails in Alberta and is rated as difficult. The best time to hike the trail is from June to October. Hikers are allowed to hike along with their dogs, which must be leashed. (more on hiking with dogs here).

The hike to Smutwood peak starts with an easy ramble, which turns into a steep ascent as you hike through the avalanche path. Two Birdwood Lakes are visible as you climb the Birdwood Pass from where Smutwood Peak is visible, but it takes another hour to reach the top. The view from the summit is what makes this day hike one of the best in the Rockies.

Pocaterra Ridge

Although the trail is only 7 miles / 11.4 KM, it’s rated as difficult and you might need snow shoes or spikes to reach the finish line, depending on the time of the year. The ridge has three peaks that offer stunning views from North to South. The trail is not so crowded compared to other trails in the area, which makes it a great option for hikers looking for some solitude.

Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit

With an elevation gain of 2740 feet (835 meters) and a distance of 7 miles/12 KM, the trail is a great option for day hiking in spring and summer. Tucked away in the Yoho National Park, Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit is a network of different trails that pass along rocky edges of mountains and several pristine alpine lakes. The area around the trail is isolated, so it requires some effort to reach the trailhead, which is accessible either by walking almost 7 miles (11KM) or by Parks Canada bus. That’s why the registration for the bus service begins in April and fills up pretty quickly.

The Indian Ridge

The 5 miles / 8KM hike in the Jasper National Park offers beautiful vistas, but an elevation gain of around 2623 feet / 800 meters requires some effort. That’s probably why the Ridge does not attract a lot of visitors and is lightly trafficked. Most people prefer taking the gondola ride, which saves them around 6 miles walk and an elevation gain of almost 1,000 meters. The beautiful views stretch miles ahead and are uninterrupted. You might even be able to see Mount Robson’s summit on a clear day, which is the highest peak in Canadian Rockies.

Floe Lake

The 12 mile / 20KM trail is recommended for hikers planning on a multi-day hike, but you can also opt for a one-day trip to the Floe Lake. The full trail is neither easy nor short, but what awaits in the end is worth the effort and time. The campsite is located by the shoreline and staying a night there is a different experience altogether than a day hike.

Piper Pass

The lightly trafficked trail is perfect for those who seek solitude and has a lake at the first stop that sits below mountain cliffs. Hikers can also extend or shorten the route according to their own abilities, preparation and other limitations. Total distance of 12.7 miles / 20.4 KM and an elevation gain of 3261 feet / 994 meters means it’s not for the faint hearted and requires a certain level of physical fitness.

Plain of the Six Glaciers

Being another Rocky Mountains gem, Plain of the Six Glaciers is situated in the Banff National Park and is a moderately difficult hike (8.5 miles / 13.8 KM). It starts from Lake Louise and gradually gains an elevation of 1925 feet / 587 meters before opening up to a meadow, which can make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. Mid-summer months are the best time to hike here otherwise you might have to prepare for hiking in snow and ice.

Larch Tree Valley

Situated in the Banff National Park, the Larch Tree Valley is a relatively easy hike (2.67 miles / 4.3KM, 1427 feet / 435 meters elevation gain) and it usually takes 3-4 hours for a round trip. The best time to hike the trail is in September’s last two weeks when the trees turn golden yellow. Being an easily accessible and short hike, it remains crowded on weekends, so hikers need to plan their trip accordingly to avoid parking and overcrowding issues.

Hikers also need to educate themselves about bear safety and it’s highly recommended to hike in a group of at least four people. Making noise on the trail e.g. using bells minimizes the chances of a bear getting surprised, while carrying a bear spray is also a good idea on the trail.

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West Coast Trail, British Columbia

Hikers are in for a wild ride in the West Coast Trail, which is a 46.6 miles / 75 KM trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Vancouver Island. The rugged coast stretches along the ocean and offers beautiful views of sandy beaches, spectacular caves and giant boulders. Gaiters and waterproof hiking shoes are recommended for the hike, so make sure to be prepared and don’t forget some extra pairs of quality hiking socks too.

Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia

The Skyline Trail offers some of the best views in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and can be done as either a 4 mile / 6.6 KM or 5 miles / 8.2 KM loop. In both cases the trail can be tackled in just a few hours, making it a great day hike. The trail itself is easy with stairs being the most challenging section.

Skyline Trail on the Cabot Trail - Cape Breton Highlands Canada

East Coast Trail, Newfoundland

The trail is recommended for hikers who want an epic adventure and are comfortable with the idea of hiking a 208 miles / 336 KM trail, which winds through the eastern coastline. Most hikers prefer to hike small sections of the trail, which range from strenuous hikes to easy walks. Easier sections include the 7-miles Silver Mine Head Path that passes through woods, a sandy beach and over a river. Hikers who want a more challenging hike can consider the White Horse Path, which is a 22.6 miles / 36.4 KM steep hike that offers breathtaking coastal views.

Lion’s Head Trail, Ontario

The 9.3 miles (15KM) trail is part of the much longer 553 miles Bruce Trail and leads to around 200 feet high limestone cliffs from where the views are simply breathtaking. Mind your steps while you are on the trail because there are no guardrails and the terrain is rocky. Make sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes to deal with such terrain.

Fundy Footpath, New Brunswick

The 29.5 miles / 47.5KM trail stretches along the Bay of Fundy and is meant for experienced hikers. The trail moves up and down and gains a total of 9022 feet elevation (2750 meters). The trail is a mix of beach walks, forested sections and can take 4-5 days to complete. There are many points along the trail where you can find wilderness campsites.

We are strong advocates of lightweight hiking shoes and have already covered boots. Vs trail runners in detail, but here you’d want a pair of quality hiking boots because of river crossings, waterfalls, passes and tough terrain. Tides can further slow things down, so make sure to keep a tidal chart because the trail is home to some of the highest tides in the world.

Grizzly Lake Trail

Located in the Tombstone National Park Yukon, the Grizzly Lake trail offers views of some of the best landscapes and rugged peaks. Hikers can choose their own adventure and opt for marked trails if they are looking for something easy. Hike to the Grizzly Lake is on a designated trail that’s around a 14 miles round trip (22 KM) with an elevation gain of 2615 feet (797 meters). Many hikers camp there overnight after obtaining a permit, which are limited in number. You can also hike the first 2.5 miles if you want something shorter, but still want to enjoy the stunning landscapes.

Grey Owl Trail, Manitoba

The Riding Mountain Forests are worth checking out and the Grey Owl Trail is a great way of doing so. The 8.8 miles (14.2 KM) trail remains under shade for the most part and passes through woods. You might also be able to spot wildlife, claw marks or dirt tracks and come across gray wolves. The trail is also accessible in the winter, but you’ll need skis or snowshoes to move.

The Crack Trail, Ontario

Overlooking the Georgian Bay, the Killarney Provincial Park attracts a lot of visitors and allows hikers to immerse in true wilderness. The 3.7 miles / 6 Km trail has unstable and rocky terrain, but offers stunning views of the Killarney Lake.

Centennial Ridges Trail, Ontario

A great destination for nature lovers and canoeing, the trail is worth considering if you are looking for a peaceful hike. You get stunning views over the Algonquin Provincial Park when hiking the 6.5 miles (10.4 KM) looped trail, which also means you don’t have to worry about retracing your steps. The trail is moderately difficult with an elevation gain of 1509 feet (460 meters), but someone with a decent fitness level can complete the trip in around four hours. In addition to the ridges that are situated at the end, you’ll also come across some beaver ponds and get a chance to enjoy nature at its finest.

Garibaldi Lake Hike, British Columbia

The beautiful alpine lake can be reached after a 5.6 miles / 9KM one-way hike, which is gradual and steady (2690 feet / 820 meters elevation gain). Hikers also have the option of camping at the lake, but have to register well in advance with the Garibaldi Provincial Park. The trail is pretty busy on the weekends and in the summer despite being a challenging workout.

Joffre Lakes, British Columbia

The 4.7 miles (7.7KM) trail offers incredible views of turquoise lakes and although it’s easy to reach the first lake, getting to the 2nd/3rd requires some effort because of the steepness. The trail becomes crowded in the summer, so know the trail etiquettes and hike responsibly. Going for a dip in the lake is not recommended at any time of the year because they are very cold (fed by glaciers).

King’s Throne Trail, Yukon

Home to Mount Logan, the highest peak in the country, Kluane National Park provides an excellent opportunity for hikers to enjoy the breathtaking views without having to summit the largest mountain. The 8 miles (12.9 KM) trail gains 4501 feet (1372 meters) elevation, which means it’s not an easy trail to hike. A lot of hikers call it a day when they reach the King’s Throne plateau. Be careful there because it’s an open area and prone to fierce winds.

hiking in Canada

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The Wrap-up

Canada is home to some of the most breathtaking hikes in the whole world and has something to offer to every fitness level. The key to a memorable hike is being prepared and aware of your surroundings. Whether you just want to enjoy nature or are up for an epic challenge, there is no shortage of options for hikes in Canada. Just make sure to pick a trail according to your own fitness level, preparedness and experience. If you’re looking for more places to hike in Canada, also have a look at our post about national parks in Canada.

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Hiking in the Great White North: The Best Hikes in Canada

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Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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