Classics are classics for good reasons. They're the best. The ones that don't disappoint. The stuff that everybody needs on their bucket lists.
So when it comes to classic Canadian hikes, here are five must-treks in 2020:
Length: 6 or 12 km
Noted for being the closest alpine hike to Whitehorse, Grey Mountain offers visitors to The Wilderness City a chance to escape for a day, enjoy some classic Yukon terrain and challenge themselves with some steep climbs and ridgeline trekking before returning to their comfy hotel or campsite at day’s end. A four-wheel-drive is not essential for reaching the trailhead, but it isn’t a bad idea — it is located about 10 km outside of the city, on Grey Mountain Road. The path starts on a steep, decommissioned road before opening up on the ridge-hike to the summit. If you want to keep going, a third peak about three kilometres past the summit offers views of downtown Whitehorse. The trail can be difficult to discern at times and remember, this is bear country.
Best For: Hikers who like to bag summits; northern explorers.
Green Gardens Trail (Pictured)
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland & Labrador
Length: 9 or 16 km
Green Gardens Trail may just offer the best overview of Gros Morne National Park’s dramatic and varied terrain. There are two options, the more popular Long Pond Trail (9 km return) or the more challenging — you will have to make two stream crossings — Wallace Brook Trail (16 km return). Green Gardens opens with the barren Tablelands before winding through boreal forest en route to the volcanically-shaped coastline Gros Morne is famous for. Sea stacks and jagged cliffs border the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as do fields of wildflowers with the occasional grazing sheep, shepherded by local farmers. There are three backcountry campsites ($9.80 per person) on the coastline, with pit toilets and picnic tables. Fires are permitted on the beach. Explore the coastline for a day before trudging back through the all-uphill return trail.
Best For: Hikers looking to tackle a National Parks classic.
Fishing Cove Trail
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Length: 6 to 18 km
From the top of 355-metre Mackenzie Mountain, this trail winds through mixed-woods forest alongside the Fishing Cove River en route to Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s only designated wilderness campsite ($9.80 per person). On a clearing next to a serene ocean cove and pebble beach (once home to a Scottish fishing village), set up your tent for a pleasant overnight while you explore the beaches and inlets of the Cape Breton coastline. You’ll need to pack in your own water, as well as a camp stove, as fires are not permitted. Pit toilets are available. There are effectively three options for tackling this trail: a 6-km or 12-km trail, both returning the way they came, or an 18-km route, but this will require two vehicles (one parked at each lot), as it isn’t a full loop.
Best For: Coastal campers looking for a restful wilderness getaway.
Cape Dundas Loop (Bruce Trail)
Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
Length: 6 km
Located north of Owen Sound and accessed off Highway 6 on Bruce Road 9 (near Lion’s Head, parking lot located near Scenic Caves Road), this leg of the Bruce Trail is only four years old. This mid-length route starts along the Pease Side Trail for just over half-a-kilometre before joining the main White Blazes of the Bruce. From then, the hike heads north into glacially affected rocky shoreline terraces, passes huge boulders and overlooks the lake from an elevated shoreline along Georgian Bay. The shoreline is worth exploring as a side-trip or as a picnic spot before looping back towards the parking lot for the return trip. If you have some more energy, Jackson’s Cove Side Trail presents a nice two-kilometre addition, with a viewpoint reward, before backtracking to Cape Dundas Loop.
Best For: Bruce Trail enthusiasts looking to tackle all 800 km, leg by leg… by leg.
Willmore Wilderness Park, Alberta
Length: 6 km
Sitting atop Jasper National Park, Willmore Wilderness Park enjoys less stature but more ruggedness than the trio of world-renowned Rocky Mountain parks to its south. With no facilities within the park, just 750 km of hiking trails, it offers some of the finest backcountry mountain hiking in the province. Most excursions are done over several days, but a good introduction is the six-kilometre route from the Sulphur Gates staging area, accessed from the town of Grande Cache, to Eaton Falls. Relatively easy, horseback riders and even some hardy XC mountain bikers also use this trail. Veer right at the first fork and follow the sound of the waterfall to the end. Stop for lunch, pull out a Willmore Wilderness map and plan next year’s full summer of virtually-unknown hikes.
Best For: Backcountry hikers looking for an introduction to the Alberta Rockies’ “forgotten” park.