Once upon a time there was this idea to create a National Hiking trail across Canada. Over the decades there have been various levels of enthusiasm to make such a continuous footpath happen. But Canada is a vast country and the project of a true hiking trail that spans the entire country has apparently proved too daunting for a sustained effort. Local organizations and individuals at various times have worked to create a new section of trail, only to have it fall into disrepair or, worse, turned into logging access roads and clearcuts. Some sections, like the Bruce trail in Ontario have a long-standing life of their own, others, like the MacKenzie Grease trail in BC have virtually disappeared. Currently, as far as I can tell, there is no organized effort to create a continuous hiking trail. Hike Canada, the organization most recently involved with sustaining the dream of a national hiking trail appears to have disbanded.
In the meantime, the Trans Canada Trail (TCT), or Great Trail as it has been re-branded, has managed over the last 25 years to create something resembling a continuous ‘multi-use’ trail, though a great deal of it is on roadway (including long sections on the Trans Canada Highway) and significant parts are waterways. While there are sections of the Trans Canada Trail that are great for hiking, the vast majority really isn’t. In fact, calling the trail multi-use is a bit misleading. It is not possible to follow the entire length of the official trail using only one means of self-propelled travel. Some parts are great for hiking, some for horse riding, a fair bit is good for cycling, and there are some long water sections that are great for kayaking or canoeing. There is also unfortunately a fair bit of motorized traffic, not only on the road sections but also along the many sections of abandoned railway such as the Kettle Valley railtrail in BC (where over the years ATV, dirt bike, and even 4X4 use has become more and more prominent).
That hasn’t stopped some people from hiking the TCT, or at least something close to its official route. Dana Meise recently completed his walk over many spring/summer/falls, following the TCT not only from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but also along the mostly roadwalk up to the Arctic Ocean. Sarah Jackson walked the trail from west to east over the course of two years, and Mel Vogel is currently (December 2018) entering her second winter of walking the TCT. It’s a bloody long way to walk, even on railtrails and roadways, and the last thing I want to do is to take anything away from what these people have or are in the process of accomplishing. But when you compare the TCT to say the Pacific Crest trail (considerably shorter but still very long), it really cannot be called a continuous hiking trail. Probably the journey most true to the TCT’s reality is the one currently being undertaken by filmmaker Dianne Whelan, who is switching from hiking to cycling to canoeing (also some skiing and snowshoeing I think) depending on which mode of self-propelled travel is most suitable to any particular section of trail.
In 2014, while trying to recover from a buggered knee and dealing with advancing arthritis, and to keep my spirits up, I started a series of days hikes and some overnight travel on the TCT, mostly in the greater Vancouver/southern BC area. Because I wanted to find routes that were best for hiking, I deviated from the TCT at times, and also picked the bits that I thought were good for hiking. And that is really my main interest in these section hikes, to hike routes that might eventually form a complete hiking trail across Canada, even though at times they will deviate considerably from the TCT route. At the same time my own diminishing physical abilities attract me to some of the easier hiking that sections of the TCT like the rail trails represent.
2018 (link to trip journal on trailjournals.com)
2016 (link to trip journal on trailjournals.com)
2014 (link to trip journal on trailjournals.com)