Spending time in nature is the ultimate therapy. If you’re looking for safe and local ways to get outside and recharge with fresh air and natural healing, The Great Trail dispenses it in abundance.
The Great Trail is the world’s longest recreational trail network, with over 24,000 kilometres of interconnected nature trails, water routes and roadways across Canada. Formally called the Trans Canada Trail, this legacy treasure traverses all 13 provinces and territories and offers unbeatable outdoor experiences year-round. Four out of five Canadians live within 30 minutes of this national gem, so there’s a good chance you can enjoy it while still staying local.
From Minaki, just north of Kenora on the Manitoba border in the west, to the Capital Pathway crossing from Ottawa into Quebec, The Great Trail connects over 150 communities across over 5,000 kilometres in Ontario. Here are five ways to experience The Great Trail in Ontario with a few suggested spots to get started.
Dust off your wheels for these scenic cycling routes.
Chrysler Canada Greenway Trail, 42 kilometres between Kingsville and just south of Windsor, Essex County
An impossibly scenic trail featuring rolling farm lands and vineyards, gardens and watersheds and welcoming communities, the Chrysler Canada Greenways is the southern-most section of The Great Trail.
Frontenac K&P Trail, 75 kilometres between Kingston and Sharbot Lake, Frontenac County
Following a corridor of old, abandoned Canadian Pacific Railway bed, this trail cuts through the UNESCO designated Frontenac Arch Biosphere, representing the ancient granite bridge linking the Canadian Shield in the north to the Adirondack Mountain range.
Friendship Trail and Niagara River Recreational Trail, over 70 kilometres between Port Colborne and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula
Pedal one of Canada’s most picturesque routes, from the town of Port Colborne on the north shore of Lake Erie, across Fort Erie and along the Niagara River to charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lush farm fields and vineyards, heritage downtowns, historic forts, waterfront parks and gardens and of course, the wonderous Niagara Falls are all highlights along the way. The level, paved and well maintained trails are perfect for families and beginner cyclists.
Lanark Link, over 100 kilometres between Smith Falls and Perth, Lanark County
This route presents cyclists the options of short touring loops, longer road trips and some trail riding, all with the scenic backdrop of gorgeous eastern Ontario Canadian Shield, farmlands and small hamlets and villages.
Lake Huron North Channel, 374.78 kilometres between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, Northern Ontario
A portion of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail connects offers cyclists unparalleled mixed urban and wilderness riding opportunities, with loads of space to practice healthy social distancing.
Hiking and walking
Whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a multi-day hike, you can walk just about every land trail in Ontario.
Kabeyun Trail, 40 kilometres within Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, near Thunder Bay, Northwest Ontario
The coastal trail starts at Thunder Bay Lookout, around the tip of the ‘Giant’ and ends at Kabeyun Trailhead on Highway 587. The hike is strenuous, but the mind-blowing view from the top of the Giant is the big pay off, worth every step of the way. Note: equipment rentals and group camping not available this season.
Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail, 90.22 kilometres between Burlington to Toronto, Greater Toronto Area
An arm of the extensive Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, this largely urban path hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario. It connects the waterfront communities of Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga and Toronto, featuring piers, gardens, beaches, local attractions and loads of lovely lake views. Flat and paved, it’s wheelchair friendly and welcomes Fido (on a leash).
Voyageur Trail, 188.49 kilometres between Sault Ste. Marie and Elliot Lake, Algoma
This wilderness pedestrian-only trail showcases the rugged beauty of Algoma Country. Numerous access points allow for day trips to multi-day hikes. Classified as a wilderness trail, it is short on facilities, but not on spectacular scenery, from windswept beaches and wild forests to rocky ridges and showstopping lookouts. Note: due to COVID-19, spring maintenance was no completed this season.
In Ontario, trails are not limited to land. Thousands of kilometres of fresh water lakes, rivers and navigable waterways provide some of the most rewarding paddling opportunities in the world.
The Lake Superior Water Trail, almost 1,000 kilometres linking Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Ontario
The shoreline of Lake Superior is a glorious, ancient aquatic highway offering spectacular natural sites and significant Indigenous cultural heritage. This is bucket list kayaking and canoeing. There are 16 access points, including Gros Cap Marina Park near Sault Ste. Marie which features a wheelchair accessible dock, making for an easier transition from chair to kayak.
Path of the Paddle, 1,200 kilometres between the Manitoba border and Thunder Bay, Northwestern Ontario
Six connected water routes make up this portion of The Great Trail that meander from the Manitoba border down to Kenora, snakes east through Vermilion Bay to Dryden, veering south to Atikokan, and ultimately to the City of Thunder Bay. These backcountry canoe and kayak trails cut through wilderness parks and lakes, epic adventure for more experienced paddlers. Note: due to COVID-19, some trails may not be opened or maintained this season.
Diverse terrain and hair-raising routes make for some adrenaline pumping off-road biking.
Old Nippising Road Connecter, 79.82 kilometres between Lake Rosseau and Lake Nipissing, Muskoka and Parry Sound District
Known as the Ontario Ghost Trail or the ‘forgotten trail’, this route was forged in 1850 to attract pioneers to new communities. Remnants of the failed settlements include abandoned cabins, cemeteries and ramshackle barns. Plus, the dirt, tar and stone road which serves as an awesome cycling and mountain biking trail today.
Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, 50.62 kilometres between Uxbridge and Peterborough, Durham Region and the Kawartha Lakes
Long may you ride this four-season trail along a former railway route, through five communities, park lands, farmlands, wetlands and forests. Classic rock aficionados will want to visit the Youngtown Rock and Roll Museum in Omemee, the childhood hometown of Canadian music legend Neil Young.
Cataraqui Trail, 81 kilometres between Harrowsmith and Smiths Falls, Eastern Ontario
The gravel surface and rough sections of this trail make hybrid or mountain bikes the best option for cycling.
Calling all photographers, nature lovers and birders.
Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail, 19.23 kilometres between Cambridge and Paris
Running parallel with the Grand River, this trail was one of the first converted rail-to-trail projects in Ontario. Visitors are treated to photo-worthy views of the river, a magical stretch through the tunnel of Carolinian forest and fantastic bird watching opportunities, as birding hot spots nearby include the Dryden Track and Bannister, Wrigley and Dickson conservation areas.
Thornton Cookstown Trans Canada Trail, New Tecumseth Trail, Caledon Trailway and Elora Cataract Trailway, over 100 kilometres between Thornton and Elora, central Ontario
Four shared-use Great Trail systems stretch from just below Barrie south to the village of Elora and cut through farm pastures, forested woodlots, refreshing creeks and rolling hills and valleys. Lookout for deer, beavers, rabbits, raccoons, porcupines, foxes, groundhogs, turtles and various types of birds.
Tiny Trail, 18.93 kilometres between Midland and Elmvale
Wildlife and bird watching enthusiasts will have ample opportunities to get that perfect shot as the trail intersects with the Wye River and Copeland Creek, and provides access to Tiny Marsh Wildlife Area, a significant wetland area.
Know before you go
See this map for all the local trails that make up The Great Trail in Ontario. Check the status of each trail before you head out, as sections of the network are locally owned and operated. And familiarize yourself with the visitor guidelines for a responsible and safe experience on The Great Trail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario encourages everyone to travel safe during this time and follow public health guidelines. Some facilities may not be operating so pack lots of water. It is important to practice physical distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a non-medical face covering where required or where physical distancing is a challenge. Learn more Coronavirus-related health and safety measures at Ontario.ca/coronavirus.