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Canada’s set to unveil the world’s largest ever network of trails for hiking, biking and more. Jérémie Gabourg has everything you need to know, from key sections to practical tips
Vermillion Lake, Banff, Alberta (Andrew Penner)
Length: 15,000 miles
Starts/Ends: The Great Trail of Canada’s four start points are: Kilometre Zero East - St. John’s, Newfoundland; Kilometre Zero West - Victoria, British Columbia; Kilometre Zero North - Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories; Kilometre Zero South - Windsor, Ontario.
Number Of Days To Complete: The Great Trail is a nationwide network of trails. So far, there’s no record of anyone having completed a one-time crossing. Those who did cross the country divided their journey into several chunks. We know of one person who’s been on the trail for almost 800 days.
Hiking along Lake Superior, Ontario (Cedric and Magee)
It’s Canadian diversity at its best. Canada is set to unveil the largest network of multi-use trails the world has ever known. The unparalleled pathway will connect 15,000 communities and showcase everything there is to love about Canada and its immense landscapes.
With more than 500 trails to choose from, everyone can enjoy the Great Trail regardless of their fitness level, the length of their stay or the Canadian province they’re visiting.
The Great Trail, or Trans Canada Trail (Sentier Transcanadien), spans urban, rural and wilderness landscapes on greenway, waterway and roadway. That diversity makes for an unparalleled range of experiences, from Vancouver’s Seawall to New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, including the Yukon’s auroras, Alberta’s High Rockies, Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake and Quebec’s fall foliage.
The Great Trail is a national network comprised of many unique trails on both land and water that altogether promote six preferred activities: walking/hiking, cycling, paddling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
To top it all off, entry to all of Canada's national parks is free in 2017, as part of the celebrations of Canada's 100th birthday.
Coastal Trail in Fundy National Park (Parks Canada & Province of New Brunswick)
Confederation Trail (Prince Edward Island), Kettle Valley Railway (British Columbia), Le Petit Train du Nord (Quebec) and Cowichan Valley Trail (British Columbia) are all recommended, but there are many more.
Sentier des Caps, Quebec (Laval Poulin)
It’s possible to explore Canada’s diverse trails year round, with different weather conditions and different activities possible depending on the time of year and the region.
Stand-Up Paddleboarders in Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan tourist board)
Canada’s big. There are over 500 trails to choose from on the network. Plan your adventure around a specific region, your preferred climate, the type of landscape you love to spend time in or a specific activity such as paddling, hiking, cycling or horseback riding that you’d like to do along the way.
Ridge Road Heritage Trail, Yukon (Greg Skuce / Yukon Government)
Contrary to some reports online, The Great Trail is not one long ‘car-free’ road or one continuous cycling or hiking path. It’s composed of sections that stretch across greenway, waterway and roadway routes. Designated activities depend on the Trail sections, which are owned and operated locally by trail groups or municipalities in every Canadian province and territory.
Use The Great Trail planning and tracking tools. The interactive map allows you to pinpoint specific trails and download or print custom maps.
Also, use The Great Trail iPhone App to plan and measure a trek. The app indicates local amenities such as parking spaces, services. An Android version comes out in early 2017.
Reach out to provincial trail associations or tourism boards for information on a specific provincial network and the services around it, such as hotels, etc.
Many Trail sections begin and end in large cities. When planning your trip to Canada, there’s no need to fly into a secondary airport to get close to the Trail. Pick a province or more than one province, then book a multi-city flight, such as London Heathrow to Calgary and Vancouver for a High Rockies trek
See www.thegreattrail.ca for more information and planning resources.
The trails that make up The Great Trail are already open, with work underway towards connecting all the trails together.
The full connection will be achieved in 2017 to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The 100% Connection Celebration will take place on August 26, 2017.
Main image: Sea to Sky Panorama Ridge, British Columbia (Cedric and Magee)
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