The longest trail in the world
ity, mountain, sea and desert landscapes. Routes for bikes, hiking, skiing, snowmobile and boat. The Great Trail has it all. This recreational trail is the longest in the world and it will open this year, in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.
Twenty-five years ago, the national and local governments teamed up with the Canadian people and got to work to complete their mission: to create the longest trail on the planet. In a few months, this project, by and for the people, will open, as a “gift from Canadians to Canadians”, according to its website. That is why 80% of the country’s inhabitants live less than 30 minutes from the trail. “It’s about creating a lasting legacy for Canada,” affirms Leslie Gaudette, who has been contributing through donations for more than a decade.
An app to conquer the trail
The Great Trail has a mobile app that is really useful for travellers. It includes maps, points where you can access the trail, the option to measure distances and inclines, and up-to-date information about the status of tracks. It also lets you upload photos and monitor your activities and the stretches you have completed.
In 2015, filmmaker Dianne Whelan embarked on a professional and personal adventure. With the idea of producing a documentary and writing a book about the experience, she began following The Great Trail, based on planned timetables and stages. But, she soon changed her approach, abandoned “that burden” and focused “on the moment”. A year later, she is still walking and hasn’t reached her initial target, because she has learned that The Great Trail “isn’t something to conquer; it’s something to explore”.
The trail has been created by connecting nearly 500 existing routes: from bike paths to hiking routes. They have built new stretches to connect the existing ones together, and have recovered disused train lines and secondary roads. Once they have completed the path, the province of Ontario will have the longest stretch.
The best itinerary for foodies
Lovers of good food will find a path of sensory pleasures in Cowichan Valley, north of Victoria. Those exploring The Great Trail in this area will be able to walk or pedal between farms and vineyards, stopping to do a cheese-making course or taste wine.
If “any landscape is a condition of the spirit,” as writer Henri-Frédéric Amiel said, The Great Trail has all of them. Connecting 15,000 communities, it crosses the country from east to west and stretches northwards into the Yukon area. It passes through Canada’s main cities, like Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa; circles National Parks, such as Banff and Wood Buffalo; and crosses lakes and rivers, like Lake Superior and the Strait of Georgia. In fact, 26% of the path is liquid, which is why rowing and jet skis are two of the six most popular activities enjoyed along the way.
Besides the aquatic options, the other four ways of exploring The Great Trail are by bike, hiking, by horse, and cross-country skiing. Given its length, it isn’t designed to be completed in one go, particularly if you are going with children. It is best to complete sections, to suit your time, needs and preferences.
There are, however, pre-established routes, like the Route Verte, Quebec, which is so easy and colourful that it is ideal for biking with little ones. For families of walkers, the Banff Legacy Trail is an easy route, packed with places where you can stop to enjoy a picnic. Meanwhile, if you want to learn to row, the Marina Trail, near Vancouver, is an excellent option in summer.
The Great Trail is also about environmental conservation, and it promotes an active lifestyle, suitable for any type of traveller. “No matter your age, your beliefs or your passions, there is a link that connects us all.”