Ontario is huge. It takes a few days just to drive across the province. Needless to say there is great diversity when it comes to the landscape – and so are the opportunities for hiking. You can choose from epic, world-class backpacking trips to a gentle stroll in Point Pelee National Park. Here are the top 10 hikes and/or backpacking trips in Ontario – mostly collected from personal experience.
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Top 10 hikes in Ontario summary
Don’t forget: No matter what the weather forecast is for the day or how difficult the hike is, always pack the 10 hiking essentials.
Bears: If you’re hiking in bear country, carry a can of bear spray that’s easy to access. I recommend keeping it in a bear spray holster so you don’t accidentally set it off. (You’d be surprised how often that happens.)
New hikers: If you’re not a mainstream hiker, pick one of the easier top hikes in Ontario like the Bluff Trail in Awenda Provincial Park.
Please: Practice Leave No Traceprinciples and always let someone know where you’re going and when you’re due back.
If you didn’t score a campsite for the dates you wanted in one of Ontario provincial parks (eg on the Silhouette Trail in Killarney) or one of the National Parks like Pukaskwa then sign up with Schnerp and get notifications when your dates and campsites have availability.
Location map (approximate) for the top 10 hikes in Ontario
1. Bruce Trail, Bruce Peninsula National Park – one of the busiest of the top hikes in Ontario
Ontario’s premier long distance trail has got to be the 800 km Bruce Trail. It follows the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. The 21 km section that jogsthrough Bruce Peninsula National Park is particularly scenic. Rugged trails deliver fantastic cliff top scenery as they weave past caves, with the crystal clear Caribbean-coloured blue water serving as a backdrop.
As you hike the surprisingly rugged trails, you are treated to spectacular cliff top scenery, caves, crystal clear Caribbean coloured blue water, and white stone beaches.
The park is a perfect place to visit for a short backpacking trip (Stormhaven and High Dump are the two backcountry campsites) but reserve on the Parks Canada website well in advance. In the summer, buses run to the park from Toronto on weekends.
2. Coastal Trail multi-day hike, Pukaskwa National Park
If you want to experience a pristine swath of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Superior and you’re prepared for five days of tough hiking then choose the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. It’s not only one of the top hikes in Ontario, but in all of Canada.
Beach-side campsites are spectacular. The trail up and down the rocks of the Canadian Shield is diverse, beautiful and like nowhere else I’ve hiked. When wet, the lichen covered rocks are slippery.
When dry, the rocks are a delight to hike. Bugs can be bad all the way through to September. Blueberries are downright amazing, even in mid-September. This in my mind is one of the best backpacking trips I have ever done and one of the top hikes in Ontario.
3. Nokomis and Towab Trails, Lake Superior Provincial Park
If you’re driving the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario, chances are you’ll go right through Lake Superior Provincial Park. It’s worth a stop – ideally for several days so you can explore the myriad of trails and experience the moods of Lake Superior.
A stand-out half day hike is the Nokomis Trail. The trail follows the Old Woman River Valley and then steeply climbs to a series of viewpoints. In the fall, the colours to the east are beautiful.
4. Top of the Giant, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
The Top of the Giant hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a fantastic hike that rewards with magnificent Lake Superior views from the clifftops 300 m above the lake. You’ll be able to see all of Isle Royale across the water on a clear day.
This is one of the longest of the top day hikes in Ontario coming in at 22.4 km round trip. Before you gasp, and say not a chance, please appreciate that 16 of those kilometres are dead flat. In fact, if you have a bike you could use it and lock it where the climbing begins. And the elevation gain for a hike of this calibre is a paltry 290 m or 950 feet.
So, if you’re anywhere near Thunder Bay, set aside a day so you can knock off this winner of an Ontario hike.
5. Bluff Trail, Awenda Provincial Park
You’ll find Awenda Provincial Park two hours north of Toronto near Penetanguishene on the Georgian Bay. It is home to the largest stand of old growth deciduous forest in Canada.
The park is crisscrossed with 29 km of trails including the 8 km circular Bluff Trail. By no means is it a wilderness trail, but it does offer an easy, family-friendly trail that delivers green like you’ve never seen before in spring.
Come fall it offers one of the best foliage displays in Ontario. Birding opportunities abound. And at the end of the hike, you can plunk yourself down on the beach and go for a swim on a pristine section of the Georgian Bay.
6. Ganaraska Trail
Over 400 km in length, the Ganaraska Trail connects Port Hope with the Bruce Trail near Glen Huron. If you count all the branches, there are over 500 km to hike – enough to keep you busy for a solid month. It’s one of the premier long distance hikes in Ontario.
While parts of the trail traverse remote wilderness, there are many sections that can be done over a number of weekends. The Northumberland Section of the trail is particularly lovely. The Pine Ridge section from Port Hope and north we did took us through the beautiful Ganaraska Forest, interspersed with walking on quiet sections of country roads.
7. La Cloche – Silhouette Trail, Killarney Provincial Park – one of the top multi-day hikes in Ontario
Killarney’s La Cloche-Silhouette Trail is a rugged 73 km loop trail that can take you 5 – 10 days to complete. It starts and finishes in the George Lake Campground. It’s also possible to do a day hike to the famousCrack from the campground but as an out and back trip. It’s well worth doing if you’re not into backpacking.
The hike treats you to the fabulous Group of Seven scenery that includes lakes and the white quartzite hills of the La Cloche range.
Don’t underestimate your ability. Pack smart as the ups and downs along with the tough terrain is hard to negotiate with a fully loaded pack. My husband tripped on a loose rock on the second day out and cracked a rib. Accidents can happen really fast.
Book campsites through Ontario Parks as soon as they become available.
You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy a hike in Point Pelee National Park. It’s great fun for the whole family. There are also options to bike or kayak.
If you’re keen, you can hike all the trails in a day by combining loops. Don’t miss the easy boardwalk trail in the marsh or the beach walk to the southernmost point in Canada.
9. Casque Iles Hiking Trail in Northwestern Ontario
Another winning trail in northwestern Ontario is the 53 km Casque Iles hike stretching from Terrace Bay to Rossport. Divided into five parts, it hopscotches from bay to bay along the Lake Superior shoreline.
Like other Lake Superior hikes, you’ll find raised cobble beaches, remnants of ancient shorelines that can be tough going when slippery. The five sections of trail that can be done as a day hike range in length from 6 – 13 kilometres.
Coastal Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park
I’d also highly recommend the hike on at least a section of the challenging Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park. You could spend up to five days hiking its length. It’s exceptionally beautiful with a lot of diversity over its length. Plan to hike in late August into Septemeber to avoid exceptionally awful bugs.
10. Cliff Top Trail, Bon Echo Provincial Trail
If you want to see the views from one of the three observation decks on top of Mazinaw Rock, be prepared for a short but stiff climb. The 1.5 km cliff top trail with a 100 m (or 328 feet) elevation gain will get you there, but the trail is only accessible by water. Don’t miss seeing the native pictographs that adorn the rock.
To get to the trailhead, either bring your own canoe or rent a canoe from Bon Echo Outfitters. This is one of the shortest of the top hikes in Ontario.