Trail Types

For a trail to be listed on it has to be over 20 kilometers in length. However, for classification, trail length is not taken into account. Instead, trails are classified by:

A. Type of Treadway / Enviroment
B. Required Level of Hiker Experience

Definition of Trail Types

Cultural Experience Trails

Example: Camino de Santiago (Spain), Confederation Trail PEI

These trails are often near tourist areas or population centers, and often cater not only to backpackers but also to day hikers who will likely seek out meals and accommodation (hotel, BnB, etc.) after a day of hiking.

Required skills and resources on this type of trail:

The hiker must have…
– A moderate level of physical fitness
– A credit card

Backcountry Trails

Example: John Muir Trail (US), Outport Trail, Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

These trails are often created in government run parks or by volunteer organizations made up of hikers and backpackers. Hikers may be able to camp along the trail, or huts / shelters may be available.

The main difference between this type of trail and a Cultural Experience Trail is that Backcountry Trails are in a wilderness setting and the path will be physically more difficult to hike. There will likely be no amenities en route. There may (or may not) be some assistive structures such as boardwalks, stairs, ropes or ladders, etc., to speed the hiker along over rough sections. Basic first aid and emergency preparedness skills are good abilities for a solo hiker on this type of trek.

Required skills and resources (beyond and in addition to Cultural Experience Trails):

The hiker must have an ability to…
– Take care of oneself day after day while living (traveling through / camping / sleeping) in the forest
– Deal with unexpected conditions involving environment, adverse weather and wildlife
– Administer basic first aid treatment

Wilderness Routes

Example: Sierra High Route (US), Torngat Mountains in Labrador

These trails are often in National Parks and highlight a geographic feature of a region. They are often in protected, unspoiled areas, and as such official trail / treadway may not exist.

The main difference between this type of trail and a Backcountry Trail is that on a Wilderness Route the hiker must navigate to the destination – there will often not be a clearly defined path. There will most likely not be assistive structures in place over rough terrain. In addition to navigation skills, basic first aid skills are more necessary when hiking alone through these wilderness areas.

The National Parks, realizing that some inexperienced hikers (hikers who are in fact best suited in skill level to a Cultural Experience Trail) want to hike these Wilderness Routes, have begun to charge extra fees or have even started offering packages complete with guides and support – sometimes charging thousands of dollars – for the right to access these public areas. Not being exempt from the effects of consumerism, many hikers are seduced by this marketing. This is particularly true of the well heeled hiker – eager to perpetuate the myth of exclusivity.

Required Skills (beyond and in addition to Backcountry Trails):

The hiker must have an ability to…
– Navigate with Map / Compass and GPS (or willingness to pay someone to do this for them)
– Remain calm and focused while bushwhacking and covering ground at a slower than normal pace