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5 of the Best Places to Hike (and Bike and Paddle) on Canada’s Great Trail

From the mountains of Alberta to an abandoned railbed in Newfoundland, here are some of the easiest places to strike out into the wild

A group of people enjoy riding stand up paddle boards in the water

The Great Trail, a network of hiking, biking and boating paths that criss-crosses Canada, is an outdoor lover’s dream. But at 24,000 kilometres, it can be a little intimidating for weekend adventurers. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five easily accessible places where you can try out the world’s longest recreational trail.

Take in scenery (and refreshments) on the Banff Legacy Trail, Alberta

This paved pathway winds 22 kilometres through the Bow Valley in the heart of the Rockies. Nature lovers will revel in the views and might even spot the occasional elk or bighorn sheep. Relatively flat and dotted with picnic areas, the trail is a great place for an afternoon bike ride, which you can cap off with bevvies in nearby Banff or Canmore.

A woman and man wearing helmets enjoying a bike ride along a paved pathway on the Banff Legacy Trail 

Follow the railroad along the Caledon Trailway, Ontario

Just an hour north of Toronto, this 36-kilometre trail is beautiful year-round, but it really shines in the fall when the leaves change colour. Running along an abandoned railbed, the trail cuts through some remarkable scenery, including the Humber and Credit rivers and the Niagara Escarpment.

A wooden bridge on the Caledon Trailway in Ontario 

Paddle from prairie to city on the Chief Whitecap Waterway, Saskatchewan

This idyllic 100-kilometre stretch of the South Saskatchewan River is a canoeist’s dream. Running from the sprawling Gardiner Dam to the city of Saskatoon, it features sandy beaches, wide-open views of the prairies and plenty of rest stops, complete with picnic tables and firepits. It also has lots of places to drop your canoe in the water, so you can do as much or as little of the trail as you want.

A birds eye view of a stunning Canadian landscape featuring sandy islands in a wide body of water 

Spot shorebirds along the Wreckhouse Trail, Newfoundland

This 24-kilometre path cuts across the beautiful lowland barrens of western Newfoundland near the seaside town of Channel-Port aux Basques. Part of the T’Railway, a railbed turned recreational trail that stretches almost 900 kilometres across Newfoundland, it includes sandy beaches home to scores of shorebirds.

Beautiful fields with wild flowers and mountains in the background  

Go from woods to mountains on the Du Gouffre Trail, Quebec

Running through woods and marshes near the town of Baie-Saint-Paul, this seven-kilometre trail will captivate hikers. It features views of Baie-Saint-Paul (a settlement that redefines quaint), the Du Gouffre Valley and the commanding mountains that border the St. Lawrence River.

A wooden picnic bench stands alone in a forest of skinny trees by a river 

Want to know more?

Get the facts and figures on the Great Trail in the spring 2018 issue of CAA Magazine.

Image credit: Mira Budd, Paul Zizka, Tourism Saskatchewan, newfoundlandlabrador.com, Sentiers de la Capitale and Rejean Allard