What to Know Before Your First Hiking Trip to Canada

With 39 National Parks, 8 National Reserves, and the second-largest area of wilderness in the world (after Russia), Canada might just be one of the best places you could pick to take a hike. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking to take on a trail in the Great White North or had a great time playing Book of Dead and now you’re looking for  a refreshing leg strech, there are a few things you should know before you take your first hiking trip in Canada.

Hiking Seasons

Even if you aren’t planning on trekking the almost 17,000-mile Trans Canada Trail like Dianne Whelan, you’ll want to be well prepared for your journey. After choosing your destination, look at the best time of year to be hiking the area. Canada is as tall longitudinally as it is wide, so the seasons are often different across the country.

When taking all that space into account, the average daily temperature is -5.6C. In Saskatchewan, where the Canadian Prairies reach the most extreme temperatures, the cold can dip to record lows of -50C. Checking the best season for hiking your chosen trail is just as important as checking for weather and avalanche forecasts before taking off.

Take Your Time

Trail times may vary from place to place, but when you go hiking in Canada, it’s guaranteed that you’ll want extra time to explore and take in the sights. Experienced hikers and backpackers recommend setting aside at least two weeks to enjoy your trip without feeling rushed.

That may seem excessive to first-time hikers or those looking for a more casual hiking experience. Many of the best trails in Canada are located in National Parks or large natural areas with other must-see features and top-notch hiking trails. Even if your plans don’t involve checking out any other landmarks, lookouts, or locations, you might be surprised what you absolutely can’t miss when you’re finally there.

Canada is BIG

No matter how many times you hear it, even if you’re a Canadian, sometimes it’s hard to truly grasp how big Canada really is. It’s very big–the second-largest country in the world big, to be exact. With 6.1 percent of the entire world’s landmass, Canada is huge, and in a country that big (and with that much wilderness)  it can be hard to get around.

Within major metropolitan areas, public transportation is more accessible, but outside of the cities, you’d be hard-pressed to find your way around without a car. Bringing your car or renting a car is a necessity for traveling in the country.

Two Official Languages

The French were some of the earliest people to colonize North America, so by the time the British came in the early 18th century, they were coming to areas where French settlers already lived. Many areas of Canada still predominantly speak French today, while other regions are mostly English speaking.

Depending on where you plan on traveling, you might encounter one or the other, or both. For example, if you wanted to hike the loop at East Point National Wildlife Reserve and then get a room nearby in Quebec, you could get a hotel clerk that only speaks French.

Rules and Regulations

When traveling, always research your destination, and not just for the best places to pitch your tent or for a good hostel. Check for current travel requirements or bans and make sure you bring all the necessary documents with you. Some European travelers might need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority before visiting, while individuals without Canadian healthcare may need to get traveler’s insurance prior to their trip–especially if they are planning on hiking. If you’re using a trail like the Empire State Trail to hike into Canada from America, make sure you’re familiar with the required procedures and documents to make your crossing seamless.