Hopefully you have a (very) comfortable pair of walking shoes, because the Great Trail is open and ready for business. As of August 25, 2017, you can traverse the whole of Canada, from ocean to ocean to ocean, on a single system of trails. Stretch those hamstrings and double up water bottles; this trail is the granddaddy of all hiking trips.
Are We There Yet?
If you think the iconic Pacific Crest Trail that runs the entire length of the U.S.’s western coast is a hiker’s dream, head north. The Trans Canada Trail, now known as the Great Trail, is more than five times longer. It’s even more than six times longer than the Appalachian Trail, and four times as long as the Grand Italian trail.
This Canadian trail stretches nearly 15,000 miles (24,000 km), from ocean to ocean to ocean. Yes, you read that correctly. The trail touches the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, not to mention an innumerable amount of seas, rivers, and lakes. Let’s put it another way: Hiking the Great Trail would be equivalent to walking from Chicago to Mount Everest. And back.
But this isn’t just one single path — it’s a connected system of hiking trails, footpaths, rail trails, boating routes, and boardwalks. A variety of transport options are encouraged (if not required, re: water), as the trail is ripe for hiking, cycling, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. When you’re hitting the world’s longest recreational trail, you’re going to want to keep switching it up. (This trail is longer than double the circumference of the moon, after all! Okay, we’ll stop now.)
This whole thing started as an idea in 1992 by three nature-loving Canadians. In 2017, the year Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, the trail was finally connected and open for ambitious hikers. “First you build it, then get people using it and then it becomes an icon that will hopefully last forever,” Paul LaBarge, one of the original founders, told the Globe and Mail. The Great Trail is made up of existing routes that volunteers throughout Canada helped spruce up and connect to each other over 25 years.
Because it winds through every Canadian province, the trail will take you through almost literally every type of topographical terrain. Plains? Check. Urban areas? Check; it cuts through Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Mountains? Yup. Coastal islands? For sure. Waterways? Definitely. Frozen tundra? Yes, actually. The Great Trail is a labor of love, “truly a gift from Canadians to Canadians,” says the Montreal-based nonprofit organization that has overseen the project since the beginning.
If you’re interested in hitting the trail, firstly, godspeed. Secondly, check out the map and app to guide you to the closest spot on the route to hop on. Happy hiking.