From the secluded ocean-side hikes of BC’s Pacific coast to the heart-pounding, high elevation treks of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, the rolling hills and wide-open sky of the Saskatchewan backcountry and the rugged wilderness of Manitoba’s parklands, Western Canada is an incredible part of the world to explore by trail. And while weighing your many hiking options can be as dizzying as actually reaching that high alpine peak, there are a few trails that stand out and should be crossed off any serious hiker’s bucket list. Here are our picks for Western Canada’s Top 10 Must-Hike Trails:
The Black Tusk, BC
The Black Tusk is an imposing ancient volcanic pinnacle that rises from the top of Black Tusk Mountain in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Visible from hundreds of kilometers away, this jagged formation is known to the local Squamish First Nations as the “Landing Place of the Thunderbird.” Reaching the Tusk by foot requires a 27 km (16 mi) round-trip hike that gains 1,735 m (2,652 ft), passing over vertigo-inducing chutes and massive scree slopes before culminating in a near-vertical climb up the Tusk itself. If the ascent does not take your breath away, the 360° views from atop the Tusk surely will.
The Black Tusk. Photo via wikipedia.
West Coast Trail, BC
This 75 km (47 mi) one-way trail offers a mix of casual ocean-side walking and several sections of near-vertical ladder climbing that will make your heart race and have you fixing your gaze firmly in front of you in fear of looking down. Your reward will be several days spent in uninterrupted west coast wilderness, waking up on oceanfront campsites to the spray of a whale in the distance and eagles soaring overhead. It is this mixture of serenity and intense physical challenges that make the West Coast Trail so exciting.
Backroad Mapbooks Vancouver Island – Page 2
Chilkoot Trail, BC/Alaska/Yukon
Beginning in Dyea, Alaska, this historic Gold Rush Trail stretches for 53 km (33 mi) one-way and, in the late 1890s, was the main travel route for thousands of prospectors trying to make it to Dawson City. Due to the harsh conditions of life in the Yukon, prospectors were obligated by Canadian officials to bring close to a tonne of supplies with them, turning the journey into a months-long affair, with one especially difficult crossing dubbed the Golden Staircase. These days you can get away with just a backpack and a few days on the trail, and campsites and shelters are conveniently located all along its length.
Chilkoot Trail, BC/Alaska/Yukon. Photo via travelyukon.com
Crypt Lake, Alberta
Accessed by a short boat ride across Upper Waterton lake, this 9 km (5.6 mi) one-way hike climbs 700 m (2,300 ft) to Crypt Lake, perched above a steep cliff from which drop the stunning Crypt Falls. Along the way you will also pass Twin Falls, Burnt Rock Falls and Hell Roaring Falls, as well as climb a steel ladder into a 20 metre (60 ft) long tunnel through the mountain. On the other side of the tunnel, a cable-assisted climb above a steep rock face leads you further towards the lake.
Backroad Mapbooks Southern Alberta – Page 2
Sulphur Skyline Trail, Alberta
This is a short, steep hike that leads to breathtaking views over the Miette, Ashlar and Bosche mountain ranges. Climbing 700 m (2,300 ft) over a one-way distance of 4 km (2.5 mi), the stunning vantage point from Sulphur Ridge is guaranteed to make a lifelong impression. Best of all, the trail begins at the Miette Hot Springs parking lot, so after your hike you can take a relaxing soak in the springs.
Sulphur Skyline Trail. Photo by Peter Lam.
Abbot Pass Route, Alberta
The 6.6 km (4 mi) hike up the Abbot Pass is both steep and difficult, but your reward will be stunning alpine scenery and the chance to stay the night at the Abbot Pass Hut, a spectacular stone structure that looks like it is right out of the Swiss Alps. As a bonus, you will pass by Lake Oesa on your way up, a brilliant blue lake surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks. Once at the hut, experienced hikers can explore a variety of high elevation terrain at their leisure.
Backroad Mapbooks Canadian Rockies – Page 8
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Trails, Alberta/Saskatchewan
The Cypress Hills are the highest point of land between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador, and there are a variety of trails within the park that offer some great hiking experiences. The Trans Canada Trail cuts through the entire park, forming a corridor about 50 km (31 mi) long that showcases all the wildlife and scenic vistas for which the park is famous, with numerous branch trails extending in every direction.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Photo via tourismsaskatchewan.com
Prince Albert National Park Trails, Saskatchewan
This is Saskatchewan’s largest national park and it is home to arguably the best selection of trails in the province, with 21 main trails covering over 150 km (90 mi) of terrain. Highlights include a trail that leads to Grey Owl’s historic cabin, where the famous conservationists kept a pet beaver by his bedside, and the Elk Trail, a 40 km (25 mi) one-way trek through some of the park’s most scenic areas.
Backroad Mapbooks Saskatchewan – Page 80
Riding Mountain National Park Trails, Manitoba
Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park is home to dozens of trails that showcase its diverse topography, ranging from prairie to wetland to mountains. As you explore the trails, keep your eye out for hundreds of different bird, animal and plant species that make this one of the province’s most biologically diverse areas. Trails such as the 8.8 km (5.5 mi) Bald Hill Trail, the 7.8 km (4.9 mi) Cowan Lake Trail, the 9.2 km (5.7 mi) Moon Lake Trail and many others offer moderate day hikes through a breathtaking landscape..
Footbridge in Riding Mountain National Park. Photo via runningmagazine.ca
Whiteshell Provincial Park Trails, Manitoba
There are numerous trails in Whiteshell Provincial Park that take you deep into the Precambrian shield backcountry complete with rock outcroppings and boreal forests of white spruce, black spruce, balsam poplar and tamarack. Take your binoculars with you on the 2.5 km (1.6 mi) hike to the Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary, test your mountain biking skills on the 12 km (7.5 mi) Gorge Lake Trail or enjoy the rare plants that line the 8.2 km (5 mi) trail to the spectacular Pine Point Rapids – the choice is yours!
Backroad Mapbooks Manitoba – Page 20
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