Free Essays On Fall Hikes In Canada

To celebrate explore’s 35th anniversary, we’re compiling “Top 35” lists of amazing outdoor adventures all year long. Up now: 35 of Canada’s LONGEST hiking trails!

Step one: buy good boots. Step two: break them in. Step three: book time off work. Final steps: prepare yourself physically and mentally to tackle Canada’s longest hikes.

Some of these may take three to four days; others may take a month or more. Some are networks that you can piece together over a season’s worth of day-hikes; others are full-on commitments. Some are multi-use; others are most certainly hikers-only. But all are spectacular.

We handpicked 35 treks, ensuring they were lengthy, offered a quality experience and represented our country coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Read on to discover why Canada is the best country in the world for hiking—with 35 of Canada’s longest hiking trails! 


1. The Great Divide Trail

Length: 1,200 km

The full GDT runs for a staggering 1,200 km, roughly following the Continental Divide through BC and Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Most legs of this trail require total self-sufficiency and are suited only for experienced trekkers, but rewards come in the form of amazing vistas and high-altitude serenity. Resupplying is possibly every four to nine days; the towns of Waterton, Blairmore and Jasper are popular jumping-off points. Expect a workout: there is more than 1,500 metres of elevation difference between the highest and lowest points on the trail. The Great Divide Trail Association is always hard at work maintaining sections—their website is an excellent source of info for trekkers. (It should be noted that much of the GDT is rugged and unmarked other than by GPS coordinates—at times, more of a “route” than an actual “trail.”)

2. Bruce Trail 


885 km

Perhaps the most famous trail system in Canada, the Bruce Trail is a lovingly maintained, achingly scenic route that traverses nearly 900 km through southern Ontario. Leading from the Niagara Escarpment to Georgian Bay, expect everything from mixed-woods forests, to vineyards, to quaint townships, to lakeside cliffs, to pristine waterfalls and more. Legs range from an hour or two to a week-plus. Or do the whole thing, if you have a month to spare—the routes are well-marked throughout. Also, unofficial side-trails extend the possible length to more than 900 km.

3. Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park

Newfoundland & Labrador
Length: 883 km

Running right across The Rock, from St. John’s to Port Aux Basques, this former railway line cuts through 55 towns and crosses 150 bridges—totalling 3.5 km of bridgeway. Typical legs range from a few kilometres to an overnight. Few (if any) hikers have traversed the entire length and, as a multi-use trail, it is at-times popular with snowmobilers and ATV’ers. Motorized transport aside—and some key sections are combustion-free—trekkers should be able to find solitude somewhere along this mammoth cross-province path. 

4. Kettle Valley Rail Trail 

David Webb

British Columbia
Length: 600 km

Yes—it’s a renowned bicycle route. But there’s no reason you can’t hoof it! Built as a rail line by the Canadian Pacific Railway 105 years ago, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is now a recreational route that extends through the Okanagan for a whopping 600 km. The path never exceeds a 2.2 per cent grade, which is why it’s popular with cyclists. Lengths range from five-kilometre jaunts to multi-day epics passing over several of the 18 vertigo-inducing trestles and through two historic tunnels. Lakeside views—particularly between Kelowna and Penticton—are stunning. And definitely make a stop at one of the wineries along the route! 

5. Confederation Trail

Prince Edward Island
Length: 435 km

Once again, we see former industry turned to tourism opportunities with PEI’s Confederation Trail—a railway line converted into a hiking and cycling path. With typically flat topography, expect gentle strolls along any leg of this tip-to-tip island trail. More than 1,600 geocache sites are tucked along the route, which also passes through many towns for tastes of classic Maritime hospitality. It’s not really a wilderness trek—more like a lovely walk that’s just about as long as you’d like to make it. Also, it comprises a 110-km leg of the International Appalachian Trail, so you may encounter some through-hikers en route.

6. Alexander Mackenzie Heritage (Grease) Trail

British Columbia
Length: 420 km

So let’s talk logistics here. Suggested hiking time: 25 to 30 days. Elevation change: 1,800 metres. Start point: Quesnel, BC. End point: Bella Coola, BC. So, yeah, we’ll call this one a “commitment.” Or, you could sample a highlight reel by hiking the five- to seven-day, 80-km section through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Expect high alpine meadows, river crossings, dense woodland and the occasional town for re-provisioning. Used for millennia by First Nations, and famously by Alexander Mackenzie, this epic trail is surely one of the country’s finest hikes.

7. Rideau Trail 

Length: 387 km

Totalling nearly 400 km, the Rideau Trail is a lovely network of trails running between Kingston and Ottawa. Rich with mixed-woods forests, Canadian shield lakes, historic sites, charming towns, vibrant birdlife and more, hikers can enjoy walks that range from an hour or two right up to an End-to-End epic, which takes about two weeks. To start, check out the trails around Rideau Lakes and branch out from there. (And try the hike in autumn, when the trees are alight with fall colours.)

8. Canol Heritage Trail

Northwest Territories/Yukon
Length: 350 km

While it isn’t the longest on our list, the Canol Heritage Trail may well be the most challenging. For starters, it’s frankly long enough. Also, it requires either a fly-in or fly-out, or both, if you sprain your ankle. It also usually requires food drops, extreme self-sufficiency and bear spray (grizzlies and black bears). The route follows an old industry road, unmaintained since 1945, so expect the occasional rusting hulk and oil barrel along the way. But mostly, it’s all taiga, tundra, mountains and moose. And it’s for experienced backpackers only. (Note: two explore contributors rode this route on mountain bikes in a record-setting eight days, sans food drops; an award-nominated story we covered in our Fall 2013 issue.)

9. Waskahegan Trail

Length: 309 km

This lengthy trail is hidden in plain sight—a network of some 40 routes, ranging from five to 15 km and totalling more than 300 km (and growing), that loops the city of Edmonton. Waskahegan Trail runs through private and public land, is maintained by volunteers and offers pleasant escapes into serene landscapes, often less than an hour from the Alberta capital. If you’re aching to tackle multi-day routes, the trails runs through some public campsites and private “stopovers” en route. Watch for wildlife—both au natural and domestic livestock—and revel in the rolling Alberta parkland.

10. East Coast Trail

Newfoundland & Labrador
Length: 265 km

Another massive hiking route in Newfoundland, the East Coast trail runs south from Cape St. Francis, on the tip of the Avalon Peninsula, tracing the rugged Atlantic coastline for 265 well-marked and maintained kilometres to Cappahayden. Cute lighthouses, fluttering puffins and, offshore, leviathan whales and maybe even icebergs are just a few highlights. If you’re especially lucky, you may even spot the world’s southernmost caribou herd. Camp, or book B&B stays along the way and enjoy Newfoundland hospitality. And if you’re adventurous, you can continue on the “under construction” portion, an additional 275 km that will one-day be as well marked as the inaugural half.

11. Sunshine Coast Trail

Tourism Sunshine Coast/SCT

British Columbia
Length: 180 km

The Sunshine Coast Trail showcases 180 scenic kilometres through the mountains, along the coastline and past the lakes of BC’s northern Sunshine Coast. It’s Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail, and the only free one—forged and maintained by the Powell River Parks & Wilderness Society. Hikers can explore routes from a few hours, to a full day, to a week or more—overnighting at the 12 huts and 20-odd campsites along the way. If you have 10 to 12 days, try the whole route in one push! And make sure to buy an SCT Passport to document your achievement—and to receive congratulatory goodies from local supporting businesses.

12. North Boundary Trail

Alberta/British Columbia
Length: 180 km

An epic trail that connects Alberta’s Jasper National Park and BC’s Mount Robson Provincial Park, North Boundary will put hikers in rugged, scenic, mountainous backcountry for 10 days or more. Aside from wildlife and achingly beautiful vistas, occasional horse traffic will likely be your only companions on this linear trail. Expect creek crossings, especially during spring and early summer. Total elevation gain is a thigh-busting 2,688 metres. Notably, the Berg Lake section is the most scenic of all—arguably the most beautiful trail in the Rockies. A lovely end (or intro) to a challenging endevour.

13. Sea to Sky Trail

British Columbia
Length: 180 km

Although still under construction in places, the Sea to Sky Trail is still an incredible hike in one of BC’s most scenic areas. Running from Squamish to D’Arcy, and punctuated by Brandywine Falls and the Calcheak Suspension Bridge, among other sites, the path follows traditional Squamish First Nations trade routes as it winds upward to Whistler and beyond. Some nice, 30-plus-km routes exist around Whistler, or enjoy a day-hike to Brandywine. Soon, the entire pathway will be marked and complete for a truly epic and truly wonderful multi-day backpacking route.

14. Rossburn Subdivision Trail

Length: 172 km

The Rossburn Subdivision Trail may win the prize for least-inspiring name, but this easy-walking path that stretches from the town of Russell to Neepawa is worth checking out. Extending for 172 km, and passing through seven towns along its route, the path follows an abandoned rail line and is known for harbouring particularly good bird watching. (Watch for great horned owls!) Horses and cyclists will share the path with you, but by far and wide you’ll enjoy solitude as you walk a short section or the whole darn thing.

15. Les Sentiers de l’Estrie 

Length: 156 km

One of the longest hiking trails in La Belle Province, this path leads through the charming Eastern Townships, connecting villages with scenic routes through woodland and undulating elevation. Expect to hit some of the nicest summits in the Appalachians along the way. The hike crosses several access points if the full route is too daunting—and you must register with the non-profit group that maintains the trail (and pay a fee). Side trips extend the network to more than 200 km. Bon voyage!

16. Ottawa/Temiskaming Highland Trail 

Length: 134 km

Tucked away in Temagami, this backpacking network extends for days into rolling rocks, past sandy beaches, under old-growth pine and through peaceful northern serenity. Expect a wonderful array of elevated viewpoints and idyllic picnic spots—the trail is marked and maintained. Hikers can access the route from several points, and tackle a multitude of lengths rather than the whole route. A 20-km loop at Grand Campement Bay and a 22-km loop on Rib Mountain near Friday Lake are two popular paths. Plans are in the works to extend the system by another 25 km or so; this is a trail you can visit year-after-year, always with something new.

17. Boreal Trail 

Tourism Saskatchewan

Length: 120 km

Officially opened in 2011, the Boreal Trail is Saskatchewan Parks’ only officially designated backpacking trail. Meandering through Meadow Lake Provincial Park, hikers can choose to embark on a multi-day tour of this east-west route—spending days beneath poplar, jack pine and spruce trees and falling asleep to a loon’s call at one of the plentiful back- and front-country campsites—or tackle it in smaller stages for easy day-hikes. Terrain is gentle with minimal elevation gains—the challenge comes in the distance. Some front-country campsites feature stores and hot showers.

18. Itijjagiaq Trail

Nunavut Parks

Length: 120 km

Set in Katannilik Territorial Park, the Itijjagiaq Trail follows a traditional pathway from Iqaluit to Kimmirut. Highlights of this remote and challenging trek include the ecosystem fed by the Soper Heritage River, ancient geology, the high plateau of Meta Icongnita Peninsula and the glacier-scarred valleys beyond. Wildlife includes wolves, foxes, caribou and perhaps even polar bears. Flora includes dwarf birch, willow, Labrador tea, Arctic heather and grassland tundra. Hike in July and August to see the vibrant Arctic blooms; truly an unforgettable experience in Canada’s far north.

19. Avon Trail

Length: 112 km

Running from St. Marys to Conestgo, Ontario, the Avon Trail represents a cooperative effort between volunteers and landowners to create a network meant to inspire interest in hiking and conservation. Comprised of scenic farmland, river valleys, wooded areas and occasional towns, this well-marked trail can be broken up into sections as little as a couple of kilometres—or much, much longer. Most Tuesdays, members of the Avon Trail run organized hikes at various locations; support in the form of donations or guidebook purchases helps maintain this lovely path.

20. La Cloche Silhouette Trail

Dave Sproule

Length: 100 km

Travelling 100 km though some of Killarney Provincial Park’s hilliest terrain, the La Cloche Silhouette Trail is a stout challenge for experienced hikers. Starting in the west, the linear route rambles through forested hills toward scenic lakes. You may have to cross a few streams; excellent wildlife-watching abounds. Soon, you’ll be enjoying views of Georgian Bay as you hike over billion-year-old pink granite. In the eastern section, the trail ascends towards The Crack. The sparkling white quartzite cliffs are worth the effort; this area was once higher than the Rocky Mountains. There are 54 campsites along the route (permit required). Fall is the best time to tackle La Cloche, for the vivid foliage and nightly wolf-howls.

21. Athabasca Pass

Length: 98 km

A hike rich with natural wonders and human history, and set within Jasper National Park, Athabasca Pass is a challenging, weeklong mountain trek that follows a route once taken by explorer David Thompson. (Local Ktunaxa people had already been using it for centuries.) Buy a backcountry permit from the Parks Canada office in Jasper, then drive to the trailhead, accessed via Icefields Parkway about 30 km from town. After gaining 560 metres over 49 km of trail to Athabasca Pass, you’ll discover a National Historic Site Plaque, the provincial border marker for BC and Alberta and a view over the Continental Divide. Now, you just have to hike back out again. 

22. Akshayuk Pass

97 km

Though Auyuittuq is Inuktitut for “the land that never melts,” during the short summer season there is plenty of snow-free hiking to be found within Auyuittuq National Park’s 19,000-sq-km of Arctic terrain. Akshayuk Pass is the most popular route in the park—if the word “popular” can be applied—a 10-day, 97-km trek that carves between imposing peaks and permanent icefields. Rising sharply from the tundra, mountains such as Overlord, Asgard and Thor appear, well, godlike. Best news: unlike some of Nunavut’s other parks, Akshayuk Pass doesn’t require a charter flight. Just catch a scheduled flight to Pangnirtung then arrange a boat ride into the park.

23. Dawson Overland Trail

97 km

As you might imagine, the Dawson Overland Trail historically connects Whitehorse and Dawson—though only 97 km of this stretch is maintained today as a true “trail.” Part of the Trans Canada Trail, the multi-use section from Whitehorse to Braeburn treats trekkers to mountain and valley vistas, with occasional Gold Rush relics lying about. There are no services along the route, so come prepared and with the requisite experience—and enjoy a hike through history on a former stagecoach road.

24. East Beach Hike

British Columbia
Length: 90 km

Consider this Haida Gwaii hike a less-crowded option to the popular West Coast Trail (see below). And though it’s about 15 km longer, the East Beach Trail is flatter and easier than the WCT—with more beach walks and much more solitude. Running along the west coast in Naikoon Provincial Park, hikers will wander through evergreens, over gold-sand beaches and even past a haunting shipwreck. It’ll take about four days, and you’ll need to leave a vehicle at terminus to get back to the trailhead.

25. Cottonwood Trail

Length: 83 km

Kluane National Park has several wilderness routes carving through its immense backcountry—Cottonwood is a top choice, as it’s a marked trail, making it more accessible than some of the arduous unmarked “routes.” Starting from Kathleen Lake, trekkers travel for 83 km through a loop that leads along old mining roads and over two alpine passes. About one-third of the trail is above the treeline—views abound—and you’ll gain a manageable 520 metres of elevation. Though a loop, the end is still 30 km from the trailhead; a car shuttle is a good idea.

26. Mystic Pass—Flint’s Park—Badger Pass

Length: 77 km

Typical for Banff National Park, this hike starts breathtakingly scenic and stays that way throughout. You’ll begin in popular Johnston Canyon, home to lovely waterfalls, but leave the crowds behind as you trek for a week into the backcountry. Expect to crest three mountain passes, gaining a total of 2,175 metres; pause to catch your breath in the beautiful subalpine meadows along the way. Hike in the late summer—snow can interrupt your hike even into July. Seven (or more) backcountry campsites dot the route—pack in, pack out, of course.

27. West Coast Trail 

Parks Canada

British Columbia
Length: 76 km

Running along the west coast of Vancouver Island, in Pacific Rim National Park, the famous West Coast Trail attracts trekkers from around the globe. Originally forged to offer shipwreck survivors a route to safety, today, it’s a reservation-managed three- to six-day bucket-list backcountry hike. Camping near Tsusiat Falls and the vertigo-inducing ladders of the southern half are two notable aspects of this trail—but every day is memorable on the WCT. Keep an eye out for offshore whales, and don’t forget some cash to buy a hamburger at Chez Monique, the beloved halfway respite.

28. Buckley Lake to Mowdade Lake

British Columbia
75 km

This route through 270,000-hectare Mount Edziza Provincial Park, in BC’s northwest, is best done in mid-summer—local weather starts to get very dodgy by September. Accessed via foot, hoof or, preferably, floatplane from Telegraph Creek (Highway 37), Edziza is characterized by otherworldly, volcanic terrain—lava flows, basalt plateaus, cinder fields, pumice rock and 2,787-metre Mount Edziza, a dormant volcano surrounded by barren, 1,300-year-old cinder cones. This seven-day route from Buckley Lake to Mowdade Lake—the only marked trek in the park—requires total self-sufficiency; at times, even water is scarce.

29. Mantario Trail 

Length: 66 km

Whether you choose to tackle the three- or four-day end-to-end route of Manitoba’s classic backpacking route or knock-off a day-trip segment, the linear Mantario Trail delivers a hard-hiking challenge only two-and-a-half hours’ drive east of Winnipeg. Expect Precambrian Shield terrain, granite cliffs, beaver dams, peat bogs, steep gullies and jack pines. There are 10 primitive campsites along the route, with fire pits and food storage boxes and, maybe, a picnic table or two. The trail is well-marked, and water can be accessed at many points (use a filter). The Mantario Trail is best in fall, as spring’s floods can be troublesome and summer’s bugs are brutal.

30. Liberty Lake Trail

Parks Canada

Nova Scotia
Length: 64 km

When exploring 404-sq-km Kejimkujik National Park—traditional home of the Mi’kmaq—where does one start? For the quintessential Keji experience, tackle the 64-km Liberty Lake Trail. There are 11 options for backcountry camping along the trail; though three or four nights out is a good rule of thumb. Lakes, babbling brooks, loons and moose will be your companions as you loop your way through mixed softwoods en route to Campsite 42—the most remote in the park. Bonus: Keji is a Dark Sky Preserve, so the nighttime scenery rivals the daytime.

31. Coastal Hiking Trail

Length: 58 km

Set in Ontario’s largest national park—Pukaskwa—the Coastal Hiking Trail traces the wildest shore on all the Great Lakes for 58 memorable kilometres. Follow rock cairns along empty pebble beaches, meander through serene woodland, scramble over steep shoreline rocks and marvel at expansive views of Lake Superior. Well maintained and updated, there are campsites and suspension bridges along the route—though you will need to be self-sufficient and may still ford some creeks. A one-way hike, travellers boat to North Swallow and hike out for 10 days to the trailhead through the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe people.

32. Chilkoot Trail

British Columbia (Alaska)
Length: 53 km

Linking northern BC and Alaska, and an absolute classic for two countries, this 53-km trek has been a backpacker’s must-do for decades. Forged by First Nations, used extensively by fortune seekers during the Gold Rush and operated today as a reservation-managed multi-day hike, the Chilkoot Trail is a challenging slog that pays dividends in scenery, solitude and historical wonders. With a short season—mid-June to early September—inclement weather (expect snow in July) and hardy sections like The Pass, you’ll want to be in top-shape and well-prepared. And remember your passport—you cross the U.S./Canada border midway.

33. Cape Chignecto Coastal Loop

Nova Scotia
Length: 52 km

Accented by the famous Bay of Fundy tides ebbing-and-flowing below, views from atop Cape Chignecto Provincial Park’s 180-metre-tall sea cliffs reduce one to mumbling superlatives. And the best way to fully experience this scenic Atlantic preserve is via the Coastal Loop. Starting off as an easy front-country trek, be prepared to get serious after 12 km—watch your footing between Mill Brook and Refugee Cove, where the trail becomes a series of switchbacks, and onward to Big Bald Rock, where it runs along the steepest sea cliffs in the province. There are seven backcountry campsites along the loop; most trekkers take three nights to complete the hike.

34. Fundy Circuit 

David Webb

New Brunswick
Length: 48 km

You’re forgiven if you thought the Fundy Footpath would make the cut—we did too—but the Fundy Circuit, in Fundy National Park, actually bests the Footpath by six kilometres. Make reservations at the backcountry campsites and set out on this three- to five-day hike that loops through the Acadian forests and scenic shoreline of Fundy National Park. Expect a few river crossings, and maybe even a moose or two. You may even come across some tempting swimming holes. Start your hike near the Upper Salmon River, for easy vehicle access when you’re done.

35. Baden Powell Trail 

David Webb

British Columbia
Length: 48 km

Though lacks the overall length of other trails on this list, the Baden Powel Trail, on Vancouver’s North Shore, may just be the best wilderness experience close to a major city in Canada. Running from Deep Cove, North Vancouver, to Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, and well-marked throughout, the Baden Powel Trail leads over the 1,271-metre summit of Black Mountain, through old-growth evergreens, over the dizzying Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and more. (Watch for fallen trees and rockslides in some remote sections.) Vancouverites know sections the trail as popular day-hike—but how many have tackled the whole thing? 


(Editor’s note: ultimately, the Trans Canada Trail is our country’s longest trail at more than 18,000 km—but it comprises hundreds of trails and even includes sections of water travel. We focused on individual routes and/or localized networks.)


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For other uses, see Hiking (sailing) and Backpacking (wilderness).

"Tramping" redirects here. For other uses, see Tramping (disambiguation).

Hiking is the preferred term, in Canada and the United States, for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), in the countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, the word "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. The word hiking is also often used in the UK, along with rambling (a slightly old-fashioned term), hillwalking, and fell walking (a term mostly used for hillwalking in northern England). The term bushwalking is endemic to Australia, having been adopted by the Sydney Bush Walkers club in 1927.[1] In New Zealand a long, vigorous walk or hike is called tramping.[2] It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.[3][4]

Related terms[edit]

In the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and United Kingdom, hiking means walking outdoors on a trail, or off trail, for recreational purposes.[5] A day hike refers to a hike that can be completed in a single day. However, in the United Kingdom, the word walking is also used, as well as rambling, while walking in mountainous areas is called hillwalking. In Northern England, Including the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, fellwalking describes hill or mountain walks, as fell is the common word for both features there.

Hiking sometimes involves bushwhacking and is sometimes referred to as such. This specifically refers to difficult walking through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes, where forward progress requires pushing vegetation aside. In extreme cases of bushwhacking, where the vegetation is so dense that human passage is impeded, a machete is used to clear a pathway. The Australian term bushwalking refers to both on and off-trail hiking.[6] Common terms for hiking used by New Zealanders are tramping (particularly for overnight and longer trips),[7] walking or bushwalking. Trekking is the preferred word used to describe multi-day hiking in the mountainous regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, North America, South America, Iran and in the highlands of East Africa. Hiking a long-distance trail from end-to-end is also referred to as trekking and as thru-hiking in some places.[8][9] In North America, multi-day hikes, usually with camping, are referred to as backpacking.[5]


The idea of taking a walk in the countryside for pleasure developed in the 18th-century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature, associated with the Romantic movement.[10] In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy.[11]

United Kingdom[edit]

Main articles: Walking in the United Kingdom and Walking in London

Thomas West, an English priest, popularized the idea of walking for pleasure in his guide to the Lake District of 1778. In the introduction he wrote that he aimed

to encourage the taste of visiting the lakes by furnishing the traveller with a Guide; and for that purpose, the writer has here collected and laid before him, all the select stations and points of view, noticed by those authors who have last made the tour of the lakes, verified by his own repeated observations.[12]

To this end he included various 'stations' or viewpoints around the lakes, from which tourists would be encouraged to enjoy the views in terms of their aesthetic qualities.[13] Published in 1778 the book was a major success.[14]

Another famous early exponent of walking for pleasure, was the English poet William Wordsworth. In 1790 he embarked on an extended tour of France, Switzerland, and Germany, a journey subsequently recorded in his long autobiographical poem The Prelude (1850). His famous poem Tintern Abbey was inspired by a visit to the Wye Valley made during a walking tour of Wales in 1798 with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. Wordsworth's friend Coleridge was another keen walker and in the autumn of 1799, he and Wordsworth undertook a three weeks tour of the Lake District. John Keats, who belonged to the next generation of Romantic poets began, in June 1818, a walking tour of Scotland, Ireland, and the Lake District with his friend Charles Armitage Brown.

More and more people undertook walking tours through the 19th-century, of which the most famous is probably Robert Louis Stevenson's journey through the Cévennes in France with a donkey, recorded in his Travels with a Donkey (1879). Stevenson also published in 1876 his famous essay "Walking Tours". The subgenre of travel writing produced many classics in the subsequent 20th-century. An early American example of a book that describes an extended walking tour is naturalist John Muir's A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), a posthumous published account of a long botanizing walk, undertaken in 1867.

Due to industrialisation in England, people began to migrate to the cities where living standards were often cramped and unsanitary. They would escape the confines of the city by rambling about in the countryside. However, the land in England, particularly around the urban areas of Manchester and Sheffield, was privately owned and trespass was illegal. Rambling clubs soon sprang up in the north and began politically campaigning for the legal 'right to roam'. One of the first such clubs, was 'Sunday Tramps' founded by Leslie White in 1879. The first national grouping, the Federation of Rambling Clubs, was formed in London in 1905 and was heavily patronized by the peerage.[15]

Access to Mountains bills, that would have legislated the public's 'right to roam' across some private land, were periodically presented to Parliament from 1884 to 1932 without success. Finally, in 1932, the Rambler’s Right Movement organized a mass trespass on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. Despite attempts on the part of the police to prevent the trespass from going ahead it was successfully achieved due to massive publicity. However the Mountain Access Bill that was passed in 1939 was opposed by many walkers' organizations, including The Ramblers, who felt that it did not sufficiently protect their rights, and it was eventually repealed.[16]

The effort to improve access led after World War II to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and in 1951 to the creation of the first national park in the UK, the Peak District National Park.[17] The establishment of this and similar national parks helped to improve access for all outdoors enthusiasts.[18] The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 considerably extended the right to roam in England and Wales.

United States[edit]

An early example of an interest in hiking in the United States, is Abel Crawford and his son Ethan's clearing of a trail to the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire in 1819.[19] This 8.5 mile path is the oldest continually used hiking trail in the United States. The influence of British and European Romanticism reached North America through the transcendentalist movement, and both Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) were important influences on the outdoors movement in North America. Thoreau's writing on nature and on walking include the posthumously published "Walking" (1862)".[20] His earlier essay "A Walk to Wachusett" (1842) describes a four-day walking tour Thoreau took with a companion from Concord, Massachusetts to the summit of Mount Wachusett, Princeton, Massachusetts and back. In 1876 the Appalachian Mountain Club, America’s earliest recreation organization, was founded to protect the trails and mountains in the northeastern United States.

The Scottish-born, American naturalist John Muir (1838 –1914), was another important early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired others, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large areas of undeveloped countryside.[21] He is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks".[22] In 1916, the National Park Service was created to protect national parks and monuments.

In 1921, Benton MacKaye, a forester, conceived the idea of the America's first National trail, the Appalachian trail, and this was completed in August 1937, running from Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine to Georgia.[23] The Pacific Crest Trail ("PCT") was first explored in the 1930s by the YMCA hiking groups and was eventually registered as a complete border to border trail from Mexico to Canada.[24]

Significant hiking destinations[edit]

See also: National Park; National Parks of England and Wales; of Canada; of New Zealand, of South Africa, etc.

In Continental Europe amongst the most popular areas for hiking are the Alps, and in the United Kingdom the Lake District, Snowdonia, and the Scottish Highlands. In the US the National Park system generally is popular, whereas in Canada the Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia are the most popular hiking areas. The most visited hiking area in Asia is probably Nepal. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is possibly the most hiked short trail in South America.

Long-distance hiking[edit]

Main article: Long distance path

Frequently nowadays long-distance hikes (walking tours) are undertaken along long-distance paths, including the National Trails in England and Wales, the Kungsleden (Sweden) and the National Trail System in the United States. The Grande Randonnée (France), Grote Routepaden, or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Holland), Grande Rota (Portugal), Gran Recorrido (Spain) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. There are extensive networks in other European countries of long-distance trails, as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and to a lesser extent other Asiatic countries, like Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. In the Alps of Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy walking tours are often made from 'hut-to-hut', using an extensive system of mountain huts.

In the late 20th-century there has been a proliferation of official and unofficial long-distance routes, which mean that hikers now are more likely to refer to using a long-distance way (Britain), trail (US), The Grande Randonnée (France), etc., than setting out on a walking tour. Early examples of long-distance paths include the Appalachian Trail in the US and the Pennine Way in Britain. Pilgrimage routes are now treated, by some walkers, as long-distance routes, and the route taken by the British National Trail the North Downs Way closely follows that of the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury.


Main article: Hiking equipment

The equipment required for hiking depends on the length of the hike, but day hikers generally carry at least water, food, a map, and rain-proof gear.[5] Hikers usually wear sturdy hiking boots for mountain walking and backpacking, as protection from the rough terrain, as well as providing increased stability.[5]The Mountaineers club recommends a list of "Ten Essentials" equipment for hiking, including a compass, a trekking pole, sunglasses, sunscreen, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a fire starter, and a knife.[26] Other groups recommend items such as hat, gloves, insect repellent, and an emergency blanket.[27] A GPS navigation device can also be helpful and route cards may be used as a guide.

Proponents of ultralight backpacking argue that long lists of required items for multi-day hikes increases pack weight, and hence fatigue and the chance of injury.[28] Instead, they recommend reducing pack weight, in order to make hiking long distances easier. Even the use of hiking boots on long-distances hikes is controversial among ultralight hikers, because of their weight.[28]

Hiking times can be estimated by Naismith's rule or Tobler's hiking function, while distances can be measured on a map with an opisometer. A pedometer is a device that records the distance walked.

Environmental impact[edit]

Natural environments are often fragile, and may be accidentally damaged, especially when a large number of hikers are involved. For example, years of gathering wood can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients, and can cause deforestation;[29] and some species, such as martens or bighorn sheep, are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment, so as to minimize such impact.[29] Such regulations include banning wood fires, restricting camping to established camp sites, disposing or packing out faecal matter, and imposing a quota on the number of hikers. Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace, following strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and other impact on the environment.[30]

Human waste is often a major source of environmental impact from hiking,[29] and can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. 'Catholes' dug 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) deep, depending on local soil composition and covered after use, at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, are recommended to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Fire is a particular source of danger, and an individual hiker can have a large impact on an ecosystem. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker burned 7% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile by knocking over a portable stove.[31]


Main article: Trail ethics

Sometimes the action of hikers may come into conflict with other users of the land. Hiking etiquette has developed to minimize such interference. Common hiking etiquette includes:

  • When two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, a custom has developed in some areas whereby the group moving uphill has the right-of-way.[32]
  • Hikers generally avoid making loud sounds, such as shouting or loud conversation, playing music, or the use of mobile phones.[32] However, in bear country, hikers make noise as a safety precaution through the use of whistles or bells.
  • Hikers tend to avoid impacting on the land through which they travel. Hikers can avoid impact by staying on established trails, not picking plants, or disturbing wildlife, and carrying garbage out. The Leave No Trace movement offers a set of guidelines for low-impact hiking: "Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories".
  • The feeding of wild animals is dangerous and can cause harm to both the animals and to other people.


Main article: Hazards of outdoor recreation

As discussed in Hazards of outdoor recreation, hiking may produce threats to personal safety, from such causes as hazardous terrain, inclement weather, becoming lost, or exacerbation of pre-existing medical conditions. These dangerous circumstances and/or specific accidents or ailments that hikers face may include, for example, diarrhea, one of the most common illnesses afflicting long-distance hikers in the United States.[33] (See Wilderness acquired diarrhea.)

Additional potential hazards involving physical ailments may include dehydration, frostbite, hypothermia, sunburn, or sunstroke, or such injuries as ankle sprains, or broken bones.[34]

Other threats may be posed attacks by animals (such as mammals (e.g., bears), reptiles (e.g., snakes), or insects) or contact with noxious plants that can cause rashes (e.g., poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, or stinging nettles). Attacks by humans are also a reality in some places, and lightning is also a threat, especially on high ground.

The crossing of glaciers is potentially hazardous because of the potential for crevasses. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. To cross a glacier the use of a rope, crampons and ice axes are usually required. Deep, fast flowing rivers pose another danger that can be mitigated with ropes.

In various countries, borders may be poorly marked. In 2009, Iran imprisoned three Americans for hiking across the Iran-Iraq border.[35] It is illegal to cross into the US on the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada. Going south to north it is more straightforward and a crossing can be made, if advanced arrangements are made with Canada Border Services. Within the Schengen Area, which includes most of the E.U., and associated nations like Switzerland and Norway, there are no impediments to crossing by path, and borders are not always obvious.[36]

See also[edit]



See: List of long-distance footpaths

Related activities[edit]

  • Cross-country skiing – a form of travel on skis that is equivalent to running or hiking in snow
  • Fell running – an English and Welsh sport of running over rough mountainous ground, often off-trail. Known as hill running in Scotland and Ireland. Similarities exist with mountain running
  • Geocaching – an outdoor treasure-hunting game
  • Orienteering – a running sport that involves navigation with a map and compass
  • Peak bagging – hiking to the summits of mountains
  • River trekking – a combination of trekking and climbing and sometimes swimming along a river
  • Rogaining – a sport of long-distance cross-country navigation
  • Snow shoeing – a way of hiking in deep snow
  • Trail blazing – known as waymarking in Europe
  • Trail running – running on trails


  1. ^Sydney Bush Walkers Club's history [1]
  2. ^H. W. Orsman, The Dictionary of New Zealand English. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-558347-7.
  3. ^McKinney, John (2009-03-22). "For Good Health: Take a Hike!". Miller-McCune. 
  4. ^"A Step in the Right Direction: The health benefits of hiking and trails"(PDF). American Hiking Society. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  5. ^ abcdKeller, Kristin T. (2007). Hiking. Capstone Press. ISBN 0-7368-0916-3. 
  6. ^"Bushwalking Australia home". Bushwalking Australia. Retrieved 2016-03-18. 
  7. ^H. W. Orsman, The Dictionary of New Zealand English. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  8. ^Mueser, Roland (1997). Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-044458-7. 
  9. ^Trekking and Hiking in Persia - Iran| High Places
  10. ^The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M. H. Abrams, vol.2 (7th edition) (2000), p. 9-10.
  11. ^Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin Books, 2000, p.83, and note p.297.
  12. ^West. A Guide to the Lakes. p. 2. 
  13. ^"Development of tourism in the Lake District National Park". Lake District UK. Archived from the original on October 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  14. ^"Understanding the National Park — Viewing Stations". Lake District National Park Authority. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  15. ^Stephenson, Tom (1989). Forbidden Land: The Struggle for Access to Mountain and Moorland. Manchester University Press. p. 78. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  16. ^Stephenson, T.; Holt, A.; Harding, M. (1989). "The 1939 Access to Mountains Act". Forbidden Land: The Struggle for Access to Mountain and Moorland. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-2966-0. 
  17. ^"Quarrying and mineral extraction in the Peak District National Park"(PDF). Peak District National Park Authority. 2011. Archived from the original(PDF) on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  18. ^"Kinder Trespass. A history of rambling". Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  19. ^Condensed Facts About Mount Washington, Atkinson News Co., 1912.
  20. ^Thoreau, Henry David. "Walking" (June 1862). The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 July 2017. 
  21. ^"The Life and Contributions of John Muir". Sierra Club. Retrieved October 23, 2009. 
  22. ^Miller, Barbara Kiely (2008). John Muir. Gareth Stevens. p. 10. ISBN 0836883187. 
  23. ^Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  24. ^"The Top 10 Hiking Trails in the US". 
  25. ^Gailey, Chris (2006). "Appalachian Trail FAQs". Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  26. ^Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (6th ed.). The Mountaineers. 1997. pp. 35–40. ISBN 0-89886-427-5. 
  27. ^"Ten Essential Groups Article". Texas Sierra Club. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  28. ^ abJardine, Ray (2000). "Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking". AdventureLore Press. 
  29. ^ abcCole, David. "Impacts of Hiking and Camping on Soils and Vegetation: A Review"(PDF). 
  30. ^"Principles". Leave No Trace. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  31. ^"Chilean park recovering from fire". Daily Mail. 2005-05-25. Archived from the original on 2011-02-11. 
  32. ^ abDevaughn, Melissa (April 1997). "Trail Etiquette". Backpacker Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. p. 40. ISSN 0277-867X. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  33. ^Boulware, D.R.; et al. (2003). "Medical Risks of Wilderness Hiking". American Journal of Medicine. 114 (4): 288–93. doi:10.1016/S0002-9343(02)01494-8. PMID 12681456. 
  34. ^Goldenberg, Marni; Martin, Bruce (2007). Hiking and Backpacking. Wilderness Education Association. p. 104. ISBN 0-7360-6801-5. 
  35. ^Gordon, Michael R.; Lehren, Andrew W. (2010-10-23). "Iran Seized U.S. Hikers in Iraq, U.S. Report Asserts". New York Times. 
  36. ^See for example, Via Alpina: 15. What about administrative requirements


  • Amata, Joseph, On Foot, A History of Walking. New York: New York University Press, 2004.
  • Gros, Frédéric. A Philosophy of Walking, trans. by John Howe. London, New York: Verso, 2014.
  • Solnit, Rebecca, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. London: Penguin Books, 2001.

External links[edit]

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Hiking.
Look up hiking in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Claife Station, built at one of Thomas West's 'viewing stations', to allow visiting tourists and artists to better appreciate the picturesque Lake District.
The Appalachian Trail provides the opportunity for a 3,500-kilometre (2,200 mi)-long hike.[25]
A simple dry magnetic pocket compass
Parts of many hiking trails around Lake Mohonk, New York State, US, include stairways which can prevent erosion
A cathole for human waste
Animals may attack humans who disturb them


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