The purpose of this site is to publicize trails in Eastern Canada that are suitable for Wilderness Backpacking.
Wilderness Backpacking, as described by Wikipedia, is…
“…the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one’s back, while hiking for more than a day in a wilderness setting…”
We focus on trails (or a combination of trails) that are at least long enough for a backpacking trip – generally over 20km in length and allow the user to camp for one or more night(s) on trail.
First, a few general things to be aware of…
- The rather self-indulgently named “Great Trail” was formerly known simply as the Trans Canada Trail. Same trail… See
- National Parks in Quebec are in fact not National (Canada) Parks, but are what Anglophones know as Provincial Parks.
After researching trails online, one will quickly come to the conclusion that many trail organizations have their own quirks or oddities in terms of available information. For example, many organization sites do not have maps for their trails available online (more on that below, see Monetization), some are non-specific on the type of trail the hiker should expect (explained in Trail Types) and some are unable to even decide on a single name or exact length for their trail. Many of these situations are likely due to the fact that managing organizations are often largely volunteer run, and as such lack a clear, consistent objective or goal beyond the actual construction and establishment of the treadway.
A totally separate issue is that some organizations have a clear goal, but lack the understanding that enough valuable information has to be provided online to entice the potential user to seek out more detail and, ultimately, actually come hike that trail.
Please note that, while we do our best to list accurate trail data, much of the information is sourced from the available online resources. Please take this into account when searching for your next adventure.
Monetization: Maps and GPS Data
Non-Govermental Organizations that develop and manage trails often generate revenue through map sales. As it would be difficult to administer a pay per use model, this basically utilizes the easiest way to levy user fees – people who actually want to hike the trail will pay for a map. As a result, detailed maps are often hard to find online – trail organizations are simply trying to ensure a revenue stream. However, for a hiker doing online research and looking for their next challenge, this can be frustrating – the most basic information that every hiker wants cannot be found.
Some organizations (likely the ones still run by fellow hikers) realize this and do a fine job of providing valuable information while not disrupting that essential source of revenue. Other organizations seem to have lost sight of the common goal of any association’s web site, and have removed / restricted the amount of online information to the point of leading the potential hiker down a confusing, frustrating and perhaps ultimately unsuccessful path.
Only when it’s determined that distribution of GPS data will not have a negative impact on an organization (such as is the case for a trail in a National Park, for example) it will be linked from this site or otherwise made available.
Trails are listed only once on this site. If any given listing is comprised of multiple smaller trails, the intention is to list the longest trail. For example, the IAT in PEI (110 km) follows much of the same route as the Confederation Trail PEI (273 km end-to-end). Since the IAT in PEI is shorter and largely contained withing the Confederation Trail, it is not listed separately here.
Listings by Trail Length vs. Number of Days to Hike
As you research trails online, you’ll notice many organizations sort their listings by a suggested number of days to hike a trail.
On this site, the main criteria for listing a trail is solely length, not number of days to hike. The reason for this is simple: people hike at different speeds. European-style backpackers (for lack of a better term) with heavy packs that are accustomed to traveling between huts, shelters or cabins will cover less ground in a day than, for example, a backpacker utilizing techniques inspired by US long-distance-style hikers – who will often forgo some comforts to reduce pack weight and rely on skill and resourcefulness to cover more ground – stopping to “wild camp” when the mood and environment dictates. With such a wide variety of techniques, skills and fitness levels, it’s not inconceivable for one backpacker to be at their physical limit after hiking 15 to 20 kilometers, while another would be able to hike for a greater portion of the day to cover twice or even three times that distance.
Show and Go: Trails with this summary item require no booking, fees, permits or any other type of pre-planned organization or check-in from the hiker / user. There is no level of local, provincial or federal government that you have to consult to hike in these areas. Note however that many of these trails are created and maintained by non-profit organizations that are volunteer-run – as such, donations, purchase of official literature (maps, etc.), or payment of small membership fees are always greatly appreciated.
National Trail Organizations in Canada
(with user generated content, GPS Data and reviews, etc..)
- Trail Peak – A popular site for users to share info on trails. Users are encouraged to add text, videos and, perhaps most importantly, GPS data.
- All Trails – This site is similar to TrailPeak, but it has a more modern interface design. Unfortunately, content is rather sparse in comparison to TrailPeak.
- Outdoor Map; The Outdoor Guide to Québec (French) – At this province-specific site users can add path info and GPS data. This is a good place to find info on the IAT-QC. Note: This site works well with the Google Translate Plugin for Google’s Chrome Browser.