From the lakeside lookouts, lush forests and Canadian Shield rock of Ontario to the panoramic ridges of Quebec and the rugged coast of the Maritimes, Eastern Canada offers an incredibly diverse landscape for hikers to explore. And while the eastern half of the country is full of trails, choosing the right one to hike can be daunting – that’s why we’ve put together a list of our top ten picks for must-hike trails in Eastern Canada.
Bruce Trail – Southern Ontario
Considered one of the best long-distance hiking trails in the world, the Bruce Trail stretches for a whopping 885 km (550 mi) from the Niagara River to Tobermory. Hiking the whole trail would take at least 30 days, but there are plenty of opportunities to cut it down into shorter sections. The trail follows along the Niagara Escarpment for most of its length, which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, providing you with one breathtaking viewpoint after another. Highlights include Tews Falls, which are just a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls but are much less busy, and a 123-step metal staircase that leads you to the top of the escarpment.
Bruce Trail. Photo via torontobrucetrailclub.org
Abes and Essens Trail – Cottage Country Ontario
Found within Bon Echo Provincial Park, this trail is made up of three separate loops, with the longest stretching for 15.5 km (9.6 mi). Dogs are allowed to accompany hikers, as long as they are on leash, and the trail provides soothing views over a series of lakes as well as some awesome backcountry campsites. Since you are hiking through the Canadian Shield, expect to climb over a few rocks as you make your way along this secluded trail. Boardwalks lead you through the wetter areas, and you won’t be able to resist stopping along the shore of a lake and enjoying a quiet moment to yourself. For a quintessential Cottage Country hiking adventure, don’t skip out on the Abes and Essens Trail.
Backroad Mapbooks – Cottage Country Ontario Pg41
Top of the Giant Trail – Northwestern Ontario
Leading you to one of the most impressive viewpoints in all of Ontario, this trail is just 2.7 km long but requires a lengthy hike along the Kabeyun and Talus Lake Trails to reach the trailhead. From here it is a steep climb to the top of the Sleeping Giant, a rock formation that resembles a sleeping person lying on their back when viewed from afar. Those that put the effort into hiking this trail can enjoy unparalleled views over Lake Superior – the switchbacks are more than worth it.
Photo via Ontario Parks
Devil’s Rock Trail – Northeastern Ontario
It is a relatively easy hike to Devil’s Rock, located on the western shore of Lake Temiskaming, but the views from the top of this 150 metre (490 ft) granite outcrop will blow you away. With sheer cliffs opening up to the lake below and Quebec visible in the far distance, this is one of Northeastern Ontario’s most impressive viewpoints. This is also a destination for rock climbers, who come tackle routes like the Finger of God, while paddlers can kayak right to the base of the cliffs as well. However, the 3 km (1.9 mi) hike is probably the easiest way to enjoy this awe-inspiring location.
Backroad Mapbooks – North Eastern Ontario Pg 33
Les Crêtes – Quebec
This 35 km (22 mi) return trail is found in the stunning Forillon National Park and leads you to an incredible panoramic viewpoint over the L’Anse-au-Griffon valley, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Gaspe Bay. While it is possible to do this trail in one leg-burning day, there are backcountry campsites located along the way to break up your trip as you see fit. This trail is actually part of the International Appalachian Trail, which connects with the Appalachian Trail and extends all the way down the east coast of the United States to Georgia, forming the longest hiking-only trail in the world. Whether you are just tackling the Les Crêtes section or are continuing on along a multi-month long distance adventure, you are guaranteed an unforgettable hiking experience.
Forillon National Park, Quebec. Photo viaexplore-mag.com
Fundy Footpath – New Brunswick
Running through one of the largest remaining intact coastal wilderness areas between Labrador and Florida, this 41 km (23 mi) trail showcases the best of New Brunswick’s backcountry with dense Appalachian forest and views of the Bay of Fundy’s record-setting tides. Most hikers take their time and do the trail over several days, enjoying a few nights of camping along the splendid coastline. There are tidal rivers that have to be timed just right to cross along the trail, adding to the adventure. For a taste of the true rugged beauty of New Brunswick, the Fundy Footpath is a must-do hike.
Backroad Mapbooks – New Brunswick Pg 13
Skyline Trail – Nova Scotia
One of the most iconic trails within Cape Breton Highlands National Park, this trail begins at the top of French Mountain and leads you along a level pathway to a dramatic clifftop lookout. Look for whales swimming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and see cars winding along the Cabot Trail far below. Moose can be seen roaming the mountainside while bald eagles fly overhead, among numerous other species of boreal birds. At just 6.5 km (4 mi) return, this trail offers a big bang for its buck – you’ll be hard pressed to find better views of the Atlantic coast anywhere.
Photo by Nadia Brodeur
East Coast Trail – Newfoundland
Leading you along the scenic Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail stretches for 270 km (168 mi) but can be broken up into 24 separate sections. The trail passes through numerous small communities, where you can take a break and experience the famous culture and cuisine of small town Newfoundland. The trail leads you past lighthouses and shipwrecks, with an incredible photo opportunity always just around the corner. One highlight is the Spout, a wave-driven geyser that shoots water 6 metres (20 ft) into the air. For those looking to immerse themselves in Newfoundland’s natural beauty, the East Coast Trail is hard to beat.
Backroad Mapbooks – NewFoundland Pg 17
Labrador Pioneer Footpath – Labrador
Following traditional walking routes along the shores of the Labrador Straits, this pathway was a vital link between communities before the Labrador Straits Highways was built in the 1950s. Providing magnificent views with the chance to see floating icebergs and whales, there are also interpretive panels highlighting the natural and cultural history of the region. The footpath is currently 43 km (27 mi) in length, stretching between L’Anse-au-Clair and Pinware, but there are plans to develop it further. The Labrador Pioneer Footpath offers an authentic Labrador experience and should be sampled by any hikers exploring The Big Land.
Photo via newfoundlandandlabrador.com
Confederation Trail – Prince Edward Island
Stretching from one tip of Prince Edward Island to the other, this shared-use trail follows along an abandoned railway for some 273 km (170 mi). Featuring gentle grades with little elevation gain, the trail is ideal for hikers of all fitness levels. There are countless charming communities to visit along the way, and plenty of opportunity to sample Prince Edward Island’s famous hospitality. Geocachers can look for the over 1,600 geocaches scattered throughout the route, and there is no shortage of scenic viewpoints to stop and enjoy. For the ultimate PEI trail experience, be sure to take a trek along the Confederation Trail.
Backroad Mapbooks – Nova Scotia Pg 66
No matter if you choose the BRMB Navigator app or the GPS Maps, you can expect to find the most up-to-date and detailed trail information available in Canada right at your fingertips.
Did we miss your favourite Eastern Canadian hiking trail? Let us know in the comments below, or share your hiking adventures with us on Instagram using #brmblife for the chance to be featured on our feed and win prizes!
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