Great Trails: Eastern Canada

Hike central and eastern Canada’s truly spectacular spots

Can’t wait to get out of the city and onto the trail? You’re not alone — hiking is one of the fastest-growing recreational activities across North America. Here, five spots to inspire hikers in Central Canada, from the edges of the Niagara escarpment to the diverse shores of Atlantic Canada.

Spencer Creek Gorge and Dundas Loop

The Bruce Trail is one of Ontario’s best spots for communing with nature, and indeed is Canada’s oldest and longest footpath, providing the only public access to the magnificent Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

With over 1200 km of well-marked trails it’s a favourite spot for families to explore. This particular hike begins outside of Hamilton. Starting from the Tews Falls Conservation Area, the hiker soon discovers the magnificent Tews Falls, which is just a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls —  without the tourist trap. The trail continues to Dundas Peak, which affords spectacular views over the Dundas valley, then down the escarpment to the site of an old tramway.

Next the trek leads to the Spencer Creek valley, which displays the beauty of the topography and flora of the Niagara Escarpment. At its head lies Webster’s Falls, and the 123-step metal staircase leading back to the top of the escarpment.

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Les Chutes du Diable

The Gaspé region of Québec is one of the most beautiful in Canada, and the trail that takes hikers past Les Chutes Du Diable, or the Devil’s Falls, is an example of its beauty. Located on the southeast side of Mont Albert, in le Parc de Conservation de la Gaspésie, the trail is part of the International Appalachian Trail. The iron-laden rocks give parts of this area a reddish colour, which combined with the greenery gives the sense of standing in a surrealistic painting.

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The Fundy Trail

New Brunswick’s Fundy Trail is one of the last remaining coastal wilderness areas between Florida and Labrador. Start at St. Martins, NB, and enjoy a trip to the Hearst Lodge as well. From wheelchair accessible lookouts to rivers that can only be crossed at low tide and parts of the trail 15 km from any road, the views and sense of wild is well worth a visit. The 41 km trail is blazed with white blazes according to Appalachian Trail standards.

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Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is one of the most popular day walks inside Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and for good reason. The 7km round trip that leads to a steep cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence — rolling ocean below, the Cabot Trail to one’s left, and a lighthouse in the distance. But the trip itself is also worth the hike, with moose, bald eagles and grouse often visible.  Boardwalks have been installed in sections to protect the fauna.

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Shoal Bay – The Spout

Located within the East Coast Trail, near Petty Harbour, this more difficult trail (6 km in and then 16 km along the shore) leads to the Spout, a wave-driven gyser located on the rugged coastline which can shoot water up to 20 feet in the air. The East Coast Trail itself is a marvel of both nature and the willingness of a community to come together to preserve it. It stretches along the scenic shores of the Avalon Peninsula, linking shoreline communities, and provide many experiences for both more and less experienced hikers.

In true Newfoundland style, a sense of history and its people have also been preserved as a part of the trail, which leads the traveller past traditional outposts, lighthouses, and shipwrecks.

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Want to see more? Check out our companion piece, Great Trails: Western Canada

Photo credit: Fundy Trail Parkway