The Five Best Urban Hiking Trails in Canada

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Awesome Tips   Bucket List Worthy  

In our beloved true North strong and free, the line between civilisation and wildness is often very loosely defined. The Canadian wilds flourish around the edges of our cities alongside our urban environments. Natural spaces abound and you don’t have to go far to discover mountain meadows, peaceful boreal forests, mirror-like blue lakes and meandering hiking trails.

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There are many excellent trails that are within easy reach of Canada’s cities, allowing adventurers to have breakfast at a downtown café and be deep within the forest before noon. When you are planning your next trip to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary or any other Canadian metropolis – there are many great hiking trails within close reach from the city. Here are some of the very best urban hiking trails in Canada, so that you can enjoy the wilderness without having to go far from the centre.

1.      Mount Royal, Montreal

The inspiration for this list, Mount Royal was a hike that I enjoyed while visiting Montreal on my last trip across Canada. This hill rises from the French Canadian city, offering impressive views of its buildings, the bridges linking the island to the Quebec mainland and the huge copper dome of Saint Joseph’s Oratory. It is a 200 hectare park and it’s shaded, quiet and welcoming walking trails are best explored in the autumn – when the leaves have a beautiful palette of orange, amber, brown and crimson.

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Directions:

To get there, walk six kilometres from Olmstead Road – from Park Avenue to the observation area.

2.      Milkman’s Lane, Toronto

In the olden days, this 300m wide trail through the oak and maple tree forest in the Don Valley used to be travelled by Milkmen and other commercial vendors – bringing their goods into the city. These days it is enjoyed by dog walkers, hikers, joggers and cyclists and it is an important connection between the Don Valley Brick Works and the Don Valley Trail Network. Take a walk in the forest and you will find a diverse collection of tree species including ironwood, hemlock, black cherry and endangered butternut – as well as a quiet place to recharge after exploring the busy metropolis of Toronto.

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Directions:

To reach Milkman’s Lane, take the 75 Sherbourne or the 92 Rosedale bus to Glen road. The trail is next to Craighleigh Gardens Park.

3.      Stanley Park and the Seawall, Vancouver

On a sunny Vancouver day, one of the best ways to make the most of the day is to take a walk along the scenic 22km Seawall along the waterfront. Enjoy the incredible vistas of the downtown skyline and the majestic mountains. Along the trail you will also find Stanley Park, an urban oasis where towering trees provide shade and squirrels run across the grass. If you have time, you can also visit the Vancouver Aquarium and see the diverse collection of underwater life on display there.

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Directions:

To get there, start just north of Coal Harbour and the Seawall trail will take you around the northern edge of Stanley Park.

4.      The Rideau Canal, Ottawa

The Rideau Canal is not only a lovely place for a walk – it’s a very important part of Canada’s history. This chain of lakes, rivers and canals makes a continuous 202km connection from the city of Kingston (located at Lake Ontario) to the capital of Canada. These waterways were extremely important for transporting goods and people and the Rideau Canal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. There are paths on either side of canal or – if you visit during the winter – you can strap on your skates and make your way down the ice instead.

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Directions:

To get there, start walking on the trail just east of the Ottawa Parliament buildings. From there, you can travel south for 7.8 km to Dows Lake.

5.      Weaselhead Flats, North Glenmore Park, Calgary

Weaselhead Flats natural environment park is a great family hike and one you start walking through the flats, it’s hard to believe that you are still within the Albertan metropolis of Calgary. You’ll find boardwalks over wetland habitats, coniferous and deciduous forests and a relaxing trail that meanders along the path of the Elbow River. If you want to take a day out with the kids during your trip to Calgary, this is a great place for an adventure.

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Directions:

To get there, start at the Weaselhead parking lot on 66 Avenue and 37 Street Southwest.

These are just five great examples of hiking trails that you can enjoy in some of the best cities in Canada – without even having to leave the city limits. On your next trip to one of these great cities, don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes so that you can do some urban exploring.

About the Author: Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style since 2011, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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