Great Trails: Western Canada

From the busy and popular to the remote and desolate, here are 5 fabulous spots to inspire hikers to head west


Sunshine Coast Trail

You can find the Sunshine Coast Trail in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. The trail stretches 180 km from the Saltery Bay ferry terminal in the south to Sarah Point in the world-famous Desolation Sound Marine Park in the north. This makes the entire trail about a 10-day hike (some sections are mountainous and better suited to experienced hikers). Highlights include the Knob, which provides a beautiful view of Okeover Inlet, and old growth forest.

Hikers looking for a longer adventure will find campsites all along the trail, some of them oceanfront, although they are concentrated in certain areas of the trail. There are also two B&Bs where travellers can spoil themselves after trekking through the forest.

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Helmcken Falls Rim/Wells Grey

Wells Gray Provincial Park certainly earns its reputation as a phenomenal hiking destination. Located near Clearwater in the Okanagan region of B.C., it contains the spectacular Helmcken Falls, which is more than twice the height of Niagara Falls. Other highlights include highland plateaus, a volcanic cave, abandoned pioneer homesteads, and beautiful lake views.

Hiking opportunities in the park vary from ambling, level walks to challenging treks. The Helmcken Falls rim trail is not difficult but requires some caution along the edge.

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Lake Agnes Teahouse/Plain of Six Glaciers

This 7 km trail located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains is one of the most hiked in the Rockies for a reason. Travelling from the shore of Lake Louise hikers begin in old-growth forest and then rise up to view the glacier-fed blue waters of Lake Louise, and then alongside the waterfall from Lake Agnes (named for Lady Agnes Macdonald, the second wife of Sir John A. Macdonald.), until they reach the teahouse. The original log cabin was built in 1910 and the teahouse on the site opened in 1984.

If you still have energy and desire, you can add on another almost 8 km and follow the Highline trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers trail and Teahouse. It can make a lovely two-tea day.

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70 Mile Butte

Named because the site marked a river crossing on the North-West Mounted Police trail between Wood Mountain and Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan’s hikers can enjoy this trail destination within Grasslands National Park. The park is the first in Canada to reserve a portion of mixed prairie grasslands, allowing visitors to explore the flora and fauna as settlers would have found it decades ago. The 5 km trail is semi-marked (a guidebook is recommended) and is a fantastic eco-tour.

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Devil’s Punch Bowl

With a name like that who can resist this Manitoba trail? Located within the Spruce Woods Provincial Park south of Carberry, the trail takes the hiker to one of Manitoba’s geological wonders: four square kilometers of open sand with fantastic dune formations. While not technically a desert, the area certainly gives the sense of one. The 8 km trek also winds through mixed grass prairie, one of the best remaining area for true prairie and an excellent spot for wildflowers, and spruce forest.

The Punch Bowl itself is a depression filled with blue green waters – the color a result of suspended clay sediment. Truly a spot to enjoy!

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