What’s your dream Canadian adventure? When we celebrated our 25th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday a few years back, we decided to find the country’s top 25 active adventure destinations. Which remote peaks need to be climbed; which deep forests need to be hiked? Which extreme race can’t be missed?
We asked those questions to our readers, tourism organizations around the country and our own staff what should be on the ultimate Canadian adventure bucket list. Here’s what they said:
“My ultimate Canadian adventure that I am planning is a film documentary of a big climb on the South Howser Tower in the Bugaboos,” says IMPACT reader Paddy McGuire. “I am up for the challenge, as I have been there numerous times before and love the rewards.”
Whose footsteps will you follow in? Terry Fox; Rick Hansen? Do you have the chutzpah of Calgarian Susan R. Eaton, who’s leading the all-woman Sedna Epic Expedition to snorkel the Northwest Passage next year. Or will you channel the adventures of Prince George native Dana Meise, who has spent most of the past six years hiking the Trans Canada Trail. So far, 80 per cent of the Trans Canada Trail has been completed. The goal is to have the trail ready by Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017, at which point 24,000 stunning kilometres will connect the Atlantic coast with the Pacific. You can bet Mr. Meise will be on it somewhere.
Here’s our top 25 awe-inspiring adventures from west to east, all in your backyard. We’ve highlighted several races, but the destinations are accessible whenever your wandering heart desires.
1. Whitehorse, Yukon
Head to Yukon for your all-time Arctic adventure: the 6633 Ultra, called the ‘world’s toughest, windiest and coldest ultra’ race. This 566K foot race, a Yukon winter tradition of sorts named after the Arctic Circle’s location at 66°33′ North latitude, goes between Yukon’s Eagle Plains to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
2. Tofino, B.C.
Storm or snowfall, there’s no such thing as bad weather in Canada’s surf capital (although a thick wetsuit is recommended). Located on the Pacific Ocean, Tofino boasts never-ending waves and 35K of sandy beaches set against a pre-historic backdrop of ancient rainforest.
3. North Vancouver, B.C.
The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run (50K) could be the epitome of all Canadian trail races. Recognized as one of North America’s toughest races, this point-to-point classic runs from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove along the awe-inspiring Baden-Powell Centennial Trail.
4. Whistler/Pemberton, B.C.
Whistler and Pemberton have ample to offer altitude-seekers and pedal-pushers alike, whether that is exploring the spectacular South Chilcotins on two wheels with Tyax Adventures, which this season offers two ladies-only camps led by local and professional mountain biker Sylvie Allen; heli-biking in B.C.’s Coast Mountains (anything in a helicopter is epic) or spending time in the air, soaring over the Pemberton valley (if you’re lucky, the Pemberton Music Festival is on) or bungee jumping over Cheakamus River.
5. Vernon, B.C.
Silver Star Mountain is home to one of the best bike parks in B.C.’s Interior. No wonder, when one of its main attractions is Rock Star, a fast, flowy black diamond downhill trail equipped with over 50 jumps and a couple of crazy drops. In winter there are epic cross country ski routes in Vernon.
6. Golden, B.C.
It might take blood, sweat and tears to finish but those are also the names of the three stages of the Golden Ultra (85K), a three-day ultramarathon from Golden to the summit of Kicking Horse. If you’d rather hit the water, you’ve come to the right place — a world-class destination for whitewater rafting, with Kicking Horse River being one wild ride to tame.
7. Mount Robson, B.C.
Mount Robson Marathon (50K) is run on one of the greatest trails in North America, if not in the world. The race tracks all the way to Berg Lake, along the grand Berg Lake trail, past the Valley of a Thousand Falls featuring a series of incredible waterfalls and back down to the base. Just a couple hours west of Jasper, Alta., Berg Lake is equally enticing during the winter, so why not head out from Mica Mountain Lodge on a heli-snowshoeing adventure.
8. Jasper National Park, Alta.
Don’t forget to breathe on your Mountain Madness Tours’ four-day bike adventure, covering 300K along the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff — one of the most spectacular highways in the world.
9. Fernie, B.C.
Have a need for speed? At Fernie, you can mix it up depending on the season: mastering the big technical sections of the Dirt Diggler downhill mountain bike track down to the valley, or ski the metres of powder snow this resort is know for.
10. Banff National Park, Alta.
Navigate your own ice-climbing route up the challenging Johnston Canyon Upper Falls, whose frozen, turquoise waterfalls turn to curtains of ice in winter. The ropes and ladders of Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata makes extreme hiking and climbing adventure accessible to just about anyone.
11. Edmonton, Alta.
Grab your skis for Canada’s largest classic cross-country skiing event, an epic 55K race along Elk Island National Park and through Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. Edmonton Loppet, or the Canadian Birkebeiner, attracts more than 2,000 skiers from all over the world.
12. Calgary, Alta.
Canada Olympic Park sports the only ski and snowboard superpipe in a major North American city. In summer, the park transforms into a biking, running playground. Road cyclists love climbing 7-switchback hill while MTB riders have trails cut through the trees. West of the city, Moose Mountain has nearly 80K of single track and attracts outdoor enthusiasts en masse. Trail runners love Powderface, a 43.6K trail through gorgeous Kananaskis (don’t forget the bear spray).
13. Norman Wells, N.W.T.
The 355K Canol Heritage Trail is no picnic, its remoteness, coupled with river crossings and rough terrain makes it perhaps the hardest trek in Canada. A legacy of the Second World War, the trail was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an oil pipeline going from Norman Wells, N.W.T. through the MacKenzie Mountains to the Yukon border. Today, backcountry adventurers can be dropped off by aircraft at several points along the route.
14. Yellowknife, N.W.T.
A waterfall that makes Niagara Falls look small, four impressive canyons, and whirlpools going by the names of Tricky Current, Lafferty’s Riffle and Hell’s Gate are all part of paddling the South Nahanni River. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did it last September, when he re-traced his father’s canoe trip down the river in 1970.
15. Regina, Sask.
Saskatchewan’s open prairie fields covered in snow combine with powerful winds to form a winter kiteboarding Mecca. Last winter, top snow-kiters soared at Red Bull Kite Farm, a 30K endurance race across the frost-bitten Regina landscape, the first of its kind in North America.
16. Winnipeg, Man.
Actif Epica calls itself a celebration of “resilience and human powered transportation,” and rightly so — the 130K fat bike winter race or ultramarathon take place in Manitoba cold and wind that brings out the best in every Canadian who loves winter.
17. Bruce Trail / The Niagara Escarpment, Ont.
The Bruce Trail is the grand-daddy of Canadian trails, 890K from the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls. The ruggedly beautiful scenery, which includes the natural wonder of the Niagara Escarpment, massive cliffs and boulder beaches, might tempt you to finish the trail in one go.
18. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ont.
Ontario’s oldest wilderness park could easily give the most experienced paddler decision anxiety when it comes to choosing between more than 2,000 fresh water lakes and over 2,000K of canoe routes.
19. Charlevoix, Que.
Quebec embraces sports culture like no other province and trail running is big here. There’s a good reason why the Ultra-Trail Harricana of Canada (125K) is on the 2016 Ultra Trail World Tour: a stunning point-to-point course through raw backcountry, boreal forest and halfway up the famous trail La Traversée de Charlevoix.
20. Alma, N.B.
The Fundy Footpath is a tough three to four day, 41K hike along the Bay of Fundy’s steep, exposed cliffs. Gruelling, narrow descents, sharp ravines and two rivers that rise and fall with the world’s highest tides will keep you on your toes — as will the beauty of this East Coast landscape.
21. Cape Breton, N.S.
Based on the coastal typography alone, the Cabot Trail is a cycling must-do. Set in the lush Cape Breton highlands, the 300-kilometre loop road climbs through old-growth forest before hitting the coastline and circling Cape Breton’s north shore peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean.
22. Tignish, P.E.I.
Prince Edward Island became the first province to complete its section of the Trans Canada (Confederation) Trail. Partly developed on P.E.I.’s old railway beds, the 435K hiking, cycling and accessible running trail cuts east-west through the island’s rural heart.
23. St. John’s, N.L.
Voted the best coastal destination by National Geographic in 2010, Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is a true Canadian hiking icon, tracing more than 500K along North America’s outermost fringe with plenty of opportunities for awesome long-distance coastal trekking.
24. Iqaluit, Nunavut
Climb the world’s tallest cliff face on Thor Peak, 1,675 metres vertical, in Auyuittuq National Park, the most accessible of Nunavut’s national parks. Backcountry skiers and hikers take the Akshayuk Pass, a 97-kilometre traditional Inuit travel corridor that runs through the park.
25. Our own Backyard!
Frankly, 25 adventure destinations s could hardly encompass all the epic offerings that we Canadians have in our own backyards, so we are keeping this space blank for you to fill in. Share your journeys and inspirations with us on social media or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure IMPACT readers get more ideas for their active and fit lives.