2017 is set to be a momentous year for Canada, and for more than one reason. This year Canada is turning 150, but it’s also the year that the long-awaited Great Trail will be completed. The perfect way to see the country, the Trans Canada Trail will be the longest recreational trail in the world!
This world-first will connect Canada from coast to coast for walkers, cyclists and riders alike. Stretching across 14,864 miles, the path winds through all 13 provinces and territories and has been in progress since 1992. Beginning in vibrant Vancouver and leading all the way to the Northwest Territories before terminating in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the trail will pass some of the most incredible areas of Canada. To celebrate the upcoming completion of this epic road, we have compiled some of the best natural destinations to visit along the Great Trail.
How to travel the Trans Canada Trail
Embark upon a guided The Globe and Mail explain, “Dana Meise walked coast to coast on The Great Trail in 2013 – he is considered the first to accomplish the feat. That was well before all trails were connected (currently, 90 per cent of them are). He is still hiking the northern reaches.”
The Bay of Fundy
Lying between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the trail from Hampton to St. Martins is the Bay of Fundy. It is an area of immense beauty that is often overlooked in Canada holiday itineraries, but we think it’s a must. In this beautiful bay you will find 170 miles of dramatic craggy cliffs, powerful tides and wonders of ecology. Here you can walk, hike or cycle through the rural environment. On the Fundy Footpath the dirt trail continues for 43 kilometres, going straight through Fundy National Park near Rocher Bar and along the coast to St. John’s. Take a pit stop to watch the water crash – rising and falling by as much as 48 feet each day, according to National Geographic.
It’s not just the incredible landscape that makes the Bay so worth a visit, there are also unique things to do there all year round. In late July, watch the phenomenon of 30,000 migrating sandpipers descending of Mary’s Point. In August, enjoy the festivities of the annual Rising Tide Festival full of nautical musicians and performances. Whatever the time of year, be sure to bring a picnic and scout some local seafood to enjoy as you take in the area’s natural wonders.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Ontario will be home to the longest section of the Trans Canadian Trail as it leads through one of the country’s most famous attractions – Niagara Falls. Here you will pass through the most urban location featured on this list, as you journey from Toronto on the Waterfront Trail. Travel along the other interlinking trails until you eventually reach the Niagara River Recreation Pathway. Although it is far from remote, the waterfalls are a true spectacle of nature.
This trail offers walking and cycling routes along the Niagara River bordering the United States. Make a quick detour to Goat Island and spend a few hours taking in one of the world’s most famous waterfalls. 90% of the water in Niagara Falls flows through its Canadian side, which stands at over 50 metres. In the evenings it is lit up in ambient colours, and in the depths of winter it freezes. No list of the best natural features of Canada would be complete without Niagara Falls!
Liard River Hot Springs
A lesser-known destination along the Canadian Great Trail is the , a gravel trail with paved roads perfect for hiking, cycling and – in the winter – snowmobiling. The Liard River hosts Canada’s second-largest hot springs, encompassing eight pools of thermal waters set amid a luscious boreal spruce forest that originally gave Liard hot springs the nickname ‘Tropical Valley’. One of the pools is open to the public for bathing, bubbling between 42 and 52 degrees Celsius to relax the muscles and calm the mind. Walk along the boardwalk through a warm water swamp and a forest, spotting unique mammals and bird species, to reach the springs for a few hours of pure bliss.
Spotted Lake, B,C
Almost every Canadian bucket list features the amazing Spotted Lake in Osoyoos, British Columbia. This other-worldly lake features unusual spots due to the high concentration of minerals in the water, which, when it evaporates in the summer, leaves a crystallised polka-dot pattern that changes colour over the months. It can be reached via a short drive from Rock Creek on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. This trail allows you to enjoy a scenic rail journey along the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The Canadian Great Trail website describes it: “A 24-kilometer section near Kelowna through Myra Canyon is a cliff-hanging trail that offers fabulous views of the Canyon.”
Reaching the Kettle River Recreation Area, hop off and take a boat across the river to visit Rock Creek Provincial Park, an area full of beautiful forests and shallow creeks perfect for paddling. To visit the Spotted Lake, drive 40 minutes along Highway 3 to Osoyoos. This area is a stark change from the greenery of Rock Creek as one of only two true semi-arid deserts in Canada. As it is a sacred medicine lake for the First Nations of Okanagan, Spotted Lake itself is gated off as an area of cultural importance. However, you can get some great viewpoints from a viewing platform to take incredible photos of the lake.
Manicouagan Crater, Quebec
Finally, an honourable mention has to be given to the Manicougan crater in Quebec. The crater is a trip only for the true adventurer, as it involves an 8-hour detour from the official trail. However, if you are fascinated by the natural world and its geological history, visiting this site will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Around 215 million years old, this historic site is situated in the remote reaches of Quebec and holds the impressive title of the largest visible impact crater on Earth.
To reach the crater, hike the Sentier de l’Orignac dirt trail to Saint Simeon, before joining Route 138 and driving for 3 hours to Bai-Comeau and then Route 389 for 4 hours to Relais-Gabriel, a small town nestled beside the Manicouagan Reservoir. Rest in a quaint local cottage for the evening before taking off by canoe or kayak to reach the central island of the crater. Needless to say, this is a trip best saved for the summer months. Once on dry land, explore Mount Babel on this raised centre and take in this rare landscape, unchanged for many millions of years.
These are only a handful of the countless amazing landscapes that can be found on the Canadian Great Trail. Deborah Apps, Trans Canada Trail CEO, told Condé Nast Traveler: “The Trail will never be complete. We will continue to build and improve this treasure for generations to come.” So whenever you are considering visiting the country, be sure to discover the ever-changing charms of Canada’s – and the world’s – ultimate trail.