With its wide open spaces and unspoiled nature, Canada is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world for hiking enthusiasts, with a major itinerary since the end of August: the “Great Trail”, 24 km long, which links the Atlantic to the Pacific. A little long for you? Rest assured, thousands of other hikes meet across the country for walkers of all levels. Focus on some exceptional itineraries to do in Ontario and British Columbia.
The Great Trail, from coast to coast
Its length poses a serious challenge to the hiker: some 24.000 kilometers. The Great Trail ("The Great Trail" in English), which officially opened at the end of August 2017, connects two oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic. Between the two are the spectacular panoramas of Canada. Wild spaces, this North American country of nearly 10 million km2 has no shortage of it, with one of the lowest density in the world: 3,3 inhabitants per square kilometer.
The project of a Great Path between two shores dates back to 1992. Since then, Canada has accelerated the marking out and the installation of this network of hiking trails, making the dream of the pioneers come true. From the megalopolis of Vancouver to the former British colony of Saint-Jean de Terre-Neuve, the Great Trail crosses natural parks where man is made as small as he is in admiration.
Obviously, no one is required to walk this entire path worthy of being included in the Guinness Book of Records ... But there is not just one Trail, however large, in Canada ... From the West in the east, we have selected essential hikes for the beauty of the surroundings and the sporting feat: the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island and Yoho Park in British Columbia as well as the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail bordering Lake Superior, in Ontario.
The West Coast Trail, along the Pacific
A must, in more than one way. Take a hike on the ' West Coast Trail »(The West Coast Trail), on Vancouver Islandis to walk in the footsteps of the indigenous peoples, the Nitinaht or the Pacheedaht, who are always associated with the governance of the place. It is also to be part of maritime history. Indeed, the path was intended to evacuate the castaways, caught in the dangers of this coastal area called "cemetery of the Pacific". After the sinking of the Valencia in 1906, and its hundred deaths, the authorities built the Pachena lighthouse. But above all it is to discover landscapes of breathtaking wild beauty ...
The West Coast Trail is physically challenging, but it's worth the effort. For 75 kilometers (count 5 to 7 days of walking), far from any civilization, the trail plunges the hiker into the heart of a nature as spectacular as it is intact, sometimes following the beach, sometimes by venturing into the land . The West Coast Trail crosses the reserve of the Pacific Rim National Park, offering superb panoramas between humid forest and virgin beaches, where one crosses a very rich fauna.
In order to manage the flow of visitors and preserve natural spaces, a permit system has been put in place. You have to get it from the authorities, even for a day! Also for tranquility, groups should be made up of a maximum of ten people. Pets are kindly requested to stay at home. There is already more than enough wildlife to watch.
It is useful to check the dates, the West Coast Trail is only open to hikers between May 1 and September 30. Spring and autumn are also best to avoid crowds. The rest of the year, heavy rainfall, high tides and high winds make the island difficult to navigate.
Yoho Park, between lakes and mountains
The very origin of its name sums up the spectacular aspect of this national park. In the Cree language, the most widely used Native American language in Canada, “yoho” marks the wonder. First, that provided by its 28 rocky peaks over 3.000 meters, but also by its canyons, lakes, glaciers and falls. It is not for nothing that this park located in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984.
To explore it, dozens of hiking trails of all levels welcome hikers, especially in the Yoho Valley (Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Yoho Pass, Icelandic Trail…). Some routes lead to spectacular natural wonders, without being particularly difficult.
One of the jewels of the park within everyone's reach is the Emerald Lake (Emerald Lake) discovered in 1882 by Canadian guide Thomas Edmonds Wilson, who named it because of its turquoise color. Nestled in the hollow of several mountains, at an altitude of 1302 meters, the lake can be visited on foot along the path that surrounds it. On this 5,2 km ride, you may prefer to embark in a canoe to enjoy the tranquility of the place.
Also very popular, another 4,5 km hike leads to the impressive waterfalls of Wapta Falls : 30 meters high by 150 wide. Other falls, another atmosphere. The Takakkaw Falls rise up to 302 meters and discharge water from the surrounding glaciers. An even more impressive phenomenon when the snow melts in spring.
Near the town of Field, another easy hike leads to an astonishing Unesco World Heritage Site: the Burgess Shale, which bear witness to the ancient inhabitants of our good old Earth. It is indeed one of the most important fossil deposits in the world. Some 540 million years ago, soft-bodied marine animals abounded in these places: sponges, brachiopods, trilobites The largest collection of fossils from these shales is now in the Royal Museum in Toronto, with some 150.000 specimens preserved , but the Burgess site is no less fascinating.
As for the fauna, you can come across grizzly bears, marmots, moose, wolverines, elks and marmots ... Different species of birds also nest in the region: American nutcrackers, royal eagles or white-tailed ptarmigan. .. Remember to lift your head!
The Pukaskwa Coastal Trail, on the shores of Lake Superior
Here is an impressive coast: that of Lake Superior, in northern Ontario, bordered by the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail. With its 61 kilometers, this hiking trail, located a good thousand km northwest of Toronto, is aimed at the most experienced walkers, as the terrain is rugged and the slopes are steep. You also have to cross small streams, sometimes with water up to your knees. Fortunately, the pleasure of the eyes rewards the work of the feet.
You may be lucky enough to come across the black bear, a majestic inhabitant of the 1 km Pukaskwa National Park, established in 878. Large mammals recorded in the region include moose, black bear, the gray wolf and the woodland caribou. Smaller mammals (beaver, otter, and Canada lynx, among others) also live there. As for birds: bald eagles, great blue herons and herring gulls are all quite common along the coast.
In the northern and eastern parts of the park, the forest areas consist of mixed stands typical of boreal forests, white birch and balsam fir in the heights, and black spruce, white birch and jack pine below. In the southern part, sugar maple, red maple and white pine take over.
Usually, the excursion begins at Hattie Cove, a cove sheltered between two rocks. After that, the path is marked with stone cairns and yellow warning tapes. Camping spaces are scattered here and there. On the lake, you can practice kayaking and canoeing. Be careful not to fall into the water: the average annual temperature of the lake is only 4 ° C.
The majority of the area of the national park is located on the ancestral territory of the Anishinaabe. Are they the source of an important cultural resource, the Pukaskwa pits? Mystery .... These "pits" look like pebble formations along the coast. They have been stacked, removed or moved to form closed enclosures. Their origins as well as their functions remain subject to debate. Something to think about while walking ...
Consult our online guide Canada
Grand-Sentier website - thegreattrail.ca/en
An interactive map allows you to choose your route and identify nearby points of interest. Note that a “Great Trail” application is available for iOS and Android.