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Quite The View!

The Top 10 Hikes in Ontario

Ontario is huge. It takes a few days just to drive across the province. So 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.

Read: The 10 Hiking Essentials Everyone Should Carry

Hiking the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park
Hiking the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park

Bruce Trail, Bruce Peninsula National Park

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 jogs through Bruce Peninsula National Park is particularly scenic.

As you hike you are treated to spectacular cliff top scenery, caves, crystal clear Caribbean coloured blue water and white stone beaches. It’s also a perfect place to visit for a short backpacking trip. In the summer, buses run to the park from Toronto on weekends.

Read: Hiking in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario

Super clear gorgeous coloured waters even on an overcast day In Bruce Peninsula National Park
Super clear gorgeous coloured waters even on an overcast day In Bruce Peninsula National Park
View down from Overhanging Point
View down from Overhanging Point

Coastal Trail, 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.

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, they’re 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.

Read: The Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park – one of the Top 10 hikes in Ontario or Day Four Hiking the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park

One last sunset shot on the Coastal Trail
One last sunset shot on the Coastal Trail
Beautiful mist rising off of Lake Superior
Beautiful mist rising off of Lake Superior
Beautiful ponds on a ledge above Lake Superior
Beautiful ponds on a ledge above Lake Superior

Nokomis Trail, 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. If you’re a serious hiker, you’ll also want to do the Towab Trail to Agawa Falls, perhaps as an overnight backpacking trip.

Read: Hiking the Nokomis Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park

Old Woman Bay and Lake Superior on a calm day
Old Woman Bay and Lake Superior on a calm day
Nice views of the Old Woman River
Nice views of the Old Woman River

Kabeyun Trail, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

A few years ago I tried to hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park but Mother Nature upset my plans. I’d flown to Thunder Bay from Toronto, rented a car and planned to hike the 40 km Kabeyun Trail. But storms had washed out a culvert so I was turned back. 

But the Kabeyun Trail from all reports is a winner – offering a remote experience with rugged coastal terrain, omnipresent Lake Superior scenery, beaches, coves and plenty of ups and downs. There are loads of shorter trails if you don’t have the time or inclination.

Update: I highly recommend the hike to the top of the Sleeping Giant. The views are spectacular.

The view from the top of the Sleeping Giant - a top hike in Ontario
The view from the top of the Sleeping Giant
Quite the view!
Quite the view!

 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.

Read: Hiking the Bluff Trail in Awenda Provincial Park, Ontario

Hiking in Awenda you feel a sense of mystery
The Bluff Trail is a study in green
Sand dunes along the Georgian Bay
Sand dunes along the Georgian Bay

The 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 do – enough to keep you busy for a solid month. 

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.

Walking around 6:30 PM worked to our advantage with the light
Walking around 6:30 PM worked to our advantage with the light
Following an abandoned railway bed built in 1857
Following an abandoned railway bed built in 1857

La Cloche – Silhouette Trail, Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney’s 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 from the campground but as an out and back trip.

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.

February 2020 update: I understand the trail is crazy busy now and the campsites need to be booked months in advance.

Spectacular Killarney Provincial Park scenery on the La Cloche - Silhouette Trail
Gorgeous Killarney Provincial Park scenery when you hike the La Cloche – Silhouette Trail – Photo credit: Claudiu Dobre on Flickr Creative Commons

A hike in Point Pelee National Park

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.

Read: Things to Do in Point Pelee National Park

Looking north from the most southerly point in mainland Canada
Looking north from the most southerly point in mainland Canada
Walking through a tunnel of green in Point Pelee National Park
Walking through a tunnel of green in Point Pelee National Park

The 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.

Update: 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.

Classic Lake Superior shoreline
Classic Lake Superior shoreline

The Cliff Top Trail in Bon Echo Provincial Trail

If you want to see the views from one of the three observation decks on top of Mazinaw Rock, then be prepared for a short but stiff climb. The 1.5 km cliff top trail will get you there but the trail is only accessible by water.

Be prepared to cough up some cash for the ferry service. The rock itself is 100 metres high. Don’t miss seeing the native pictographs that adorn the rock.

Mazinaw Rock in Bon Echo Provincial Park - Photo credit: Dennis Barnes on Flickr
Mazinaw Rock in Bon Echo Provincial Park – Photo credit: Dennis Barnes on Flickr

The 5 things that come with me on every hike

I like something soft to sit on at lunch time. It can be your mitts on a warm spring day but I swear by my almost weightless inflatable seat cushion. It helps keep my butt warm, dry and comfortable.

The older I get the more I like using hiking poles, especially so when a stream crossing is involved. Invest in a good pair that are collapsible. Even though they’re expensive, carbon poles are wonderful for their weightless quality. 

No matter how the day starts I always carry rain gear. And I find a ball cap or brim hat with a chin strap invaluable in the rain or on a hot, in your face sunny day.

I always pack a buff as it is so multi-purpose yet it takes up almost no room.

And while I don’t pack gaiters on every trip, at some point on the hike I usually wish I had them. In summer the half gaiters are ideal for keeping pebbles, sand and even some rain out of your shoes.

Another nice addition for those of you who love wildflowers is a simple pamphlet like guide like Quick Reference to Wildflowers of  Ontario & Eastern Canada.

What hike would you most like to do in Ontario? This is obviously an incomplete list so if you have suggestions or blog posts you’ve written please leave a comment.

Further reading on hikes in Ontario and around the world

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Top 10 Hikes in Ontario

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. I’m sorry but this is silly. Ganaraska, Pelee and Bon echo I get, but Lake Superior hikes may as well be in BC. I can think of several excellent hikes in southern and central Ontario that might actually be decent for the target audience.

    1. @Erich Some of the prettiest hiking that I have done in Ontario (and in fact in Canada) is nowhere near the population centers – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Make it into a multi-day trip/holiday but please don’t discount these beautiful parts of Ontario. And they are still a three day drive – minimum – away from BC.

    2. You’re forgetting the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Northern Ontario. That’s very narrow minded and rude of you.

      1. @Jade Is it now? Then why don’t you provide the name of a great trail instead of just being critical. If you actually read the article you’d see that there were three hikes north and west of Sudbury included already. Take your anger somewhere else.

    1. @Jade By putting one foot in front of the other. By resupplying. Have you ever heard of the Camino in France, the Appalachian Trail in the US or the Pacific Coast Trail – all super long distance trails?

  2. Different types of hikes suit different people at different stages of life, time availability, etc. I love your list! Many of these I have enjoyed. My son did the most of the bluff trail at Awenda when he was four and throughly enjoyed it. One foot in front of the other with lots of stopping to explore. Sleeping Giant has been on my hike bucket list for a few years and I am now adding Bon Echo -what a stunning picture. The Internet is a great place to share resources. If it’s not for you, please move over, You’re blocking the trail 😉
    Thanks again.

  3. How about the Bruce Trail!
    We like to hike and snowshoe around Nottawasaga Bluffs, Hilton Falls, Silver Creek and up past Blind Line. Grab a guide and go!

  4. Thank you so much for this information. We used to hike but our dogs became arthritic so we have been canoeing for last 5 years. Are eager to get back into hiking this coming year but are concerned that at 50 we may not be physically able to. Any advice?

    1. @Marg The best way is to start slowly. First find super comfortable hiking shoes or boots as there’s nothing worse than blisters. Pick a hike that has a few highlights – a waterfall, a view, wildflowers, nature, great birding..Start with shorter distances and build up. Consider joining a hiking club. Often they’ll get you into places you’d otherwise avoid or not even know about.

  5. Any thoughts for beginners for an overnight trail? We are in North Bay and are willing to drive up to 2 hrs away. Want something that puts us on shoreline for the night. Planning spring, before the bugs. Would love something free. Our fall back plan is Halfway Lake Provincial Park.

    1. Hi Lisa, If you’d like to chat about a ton of trails around North Bay, come visit me downtown at The Outland Supply Company! There are a bunch of great trails within a few hours drive from easy day hikes to 100km trips. Cheers – Meghan

  6. I’m from Terrace Bay up north and I’ve done several sections of the Casque Isles Trail so it was super nice to see that mention! It’s a beautiful hike. Great article!

  7. So many people seem to forget the great rides along the north shore of Lake Erie. Port Burwell is a good rest stop and you get to see the only cold war submarine in Ontario – totally awesome

  8. So many of these hiking trails our family have enjoyed.
    Love the photos as they are breath taking.
    Thanks for posting.
    PM

  9. Delighted to find this! My mom, Pat Lawson along with her good friend, Jack Goering, founded the Ganaraska Hiking Trail as a Centennial project in 1967.
    As a family, we spent many weekends clearing, blazing, building styles over fences, and talking to landowners along the trail. The first section followed the old Cannonball railway line north from Port Hope to Lindsay.
    It is absolutely wonderful to see how far it has extended from the original Pine Ridge section that mom and Jack worked on.
    Their vision ( based on the establishment of the Bruce Trail) has given many people countless hours, days and weeks of wonderful exploring in the countryside and wilderness of Southern and south-central Ontario.
    Thank you for bringing attention to this great hiking trail!

    1. @Molly And thank you for your lovely comment. I also had the chance to hike a section of it in Northumberland County last fall and truly enjoyed the rural scenery.

    1. Hi Thomas,
      We all have different opinions – and thank you for sharing yours. Your video looks wonderful though I personally prefer to explore Algonquin by canoe.

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