Great trails along the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario
Exploring the top hiking paths and cycling routes of Ontario's Trans Canada Trail
When ranking the best trails in Ontario Canada
there are many great choices. Ontario's portion of the Trans Canada Trail (formerly the Great Trail) is the longest of any province in Canada. Specifically, it includes over 5000 km of hiking paths, cycling routes, urban pathways, rail trails, and waterways. It spans from Ottawa in the east, to Windsor in the south, to the Manitoba border in the west. Its scope is truly amazing! The Trans Canada Trail's epic length, and the diversity of landscapes it traverses, means it offers a wide range of different must-do adventures. Each Ontario
region features a unique experience, which reflects its geography, culture, and communities.
Exploring the Best Trails in Ontario Canada on the Trans Canada Trail
Sean and I are the first couple to walk, photograph, bird, and blog more than 2,500 km of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario. During our Come Walk With Us Expedition, we experienced an amazing collection of trails across the province. The stunning Cataraqui cycling trail in Eastern Ontario, Toronto's urban Waterfront Trail, and the rugged Casques Isles Trail on the northern shore of Lake Superior were among our favourites. What follows is our list of the best hiking paths and cycling routes of Ontario's Trans Canada Trail. On this Great Trail, Ontario and its natural wonders are truly yours to discover.
Best trails in Ontario Canada. Photo credit: Sean Morton
Leave the road, take the trails.
Cataraqui Trail and K&P Trail
The Catarqui Trail and the K&P Trail
are technically two separate pathways. However, like many rail trails across Canada, they are seamlessly interwoven into one continuous route. Frequently, this occurs when trails have been developed from old rail lines. Together, the Cataraqui Trail
and the K&P Trail form a continuous 125 km long cycling and hiking trail, which runs south from Smiths Falls to Harrowsmith and then back up north to Sharbot Lake. Hikers and cyclists are transported through wonderful forested landscapes, farmland, and the Frontenac Arch UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
. Developed in the late 1990s from abandoned rail lines, both trails have a firm and level gravel surface. As a result, this stretch of the Trans Canada Trail is a year-round multiuse path which is wonderful to walk, hike, and cycle in the summer and to cross-country ski in the winter.
Insider Tip: These trails intersect with the Rideau Trail giving users the option to trek along the Rideau Lock system and detour into Kingston, Ontario.
Hiking the Cataraqui Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario. Photo credit: Sean Morton
Immerse yourself in nature while hiking or cycling the Cataraqui Trail, Ontario
Travel back in time on the K&P Trail, Ontario
Wooden trestle bridges transport hikers and cyclists over numerous ponds and rivers
Explore a stunning forested landscape dotted with small lakes and ponds on the K&P Trail, Ontario
Birds and wildlife, like this Painted Turtle, are abundant along the Cataraqui and K&P Trails
Kawartha Trans Canada Trail
The Kawartha Trans Canada Trail
is next on our list of best trails in Ontario Canada. This four-season, multiuse, packed gravel path is close to our hearts, because we spent close to a decade exploring it while living nearby. Specifically, this rail trail extends 54 km from the city of Peterborough
through woodlands, wetlands, and the regional agricultural landscape towards Uxbridge on the northern outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area. A major highlight along the route of the Kawartha TCT is the 200 m Doubes Trestle Bridge
which spans over Buttermilk Valley. In addition, visiting the town of Omemee, which is the home of both Neil Young and the Youngtown Rock and Roll Museum
is well worthwhile. Finally, traversing the Sir Sandford Fleming college campus in Lindsay provides another interesting experience.
Insider Tip: Like other trails on our list, the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail connects to other routes in the region, including the Northumberland Rail Trail, the Lang-Hastings Rail Trail, and Jackson's Creek Kiwanis Trail in Peterborough Ontario.
The Kawartha Trans Canada Trail is one of the best trails in Ontario to hike or bike. Photo Credit: Sean Morton
The Kawartha Trans Canada Trail is well marked
Hiking the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail in summer was a pleasure
Rustic barns and rural landscapes border the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail in Ontario
Doubes Trestle Bridge on the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, Ontario, Canada
Great Lakes Waterfront Trail Toronto to Hamilton
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail
is deserving of respect and truly one of the best trails in Ontario. In particular, the stretch between Toronto
and Hamilton is a uniform pathway that links the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), gives people access to nature, and encourages cyclists, walkers, and thru-hikers to explore the region. In the early 1980s, municipalities around the Great Lakes
began to transform their industrial harbourfronts into urban parks, rest areas, and shoreline pathways. The result was a 91 km off-road, paved, hiking and cycling route that runs through the GTA. Specifically, the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail
navigates the harbors and shorelines of Lake Ontario across the cities of Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, and Hamilton.
More to Explore
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail not only serves Toronto, Ontario. It now stretches over 3,600 km along the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron from east of Cornwall to Sault Ste. Marie. While conditions on the Waterfront Trail vary greatly throughout the province, this network of pathways allows cyclists to explore Ontario, the Great Lakes, UNESCO reserves, provincial and national parks, and over 155 communities. As a result, it is not just one of the top hiking paths and cycling routes to explore in the Toronto region, but a stunning network pf pathways across the province of Ontario.
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is a hiking and cycling trail on the shores of Ontario's Great Lakes
Boardwalks on the Waterfront Trail take hikers and cyclists through green spaces
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail offers fantastic wildlife and bird watching opportunities
Hike or bike Lake Ontario's sandy beaches near Toronto on the Waterfront Trail on hot summer day
Admire Toronto's skyline from the Waterfront Trail on the shores of Lake Shore
Explore Toronto's waterfront while hiking, biking, jogging, or sightseeing on the Waterfront Trail, Ontario
Niagara River Recreation Trail
The Niagara River Recreation Trail
is next on our list of great trails to explore in Ontario because it is unique. Specifically, on no other path along the Trans Canada Trail can you visit two of the Great Lakes and trek (at least) six trails at once! The Niagara River Recreation trail alternates between paved routes, packed gravel tracks, and city parks. Furthermore, it parallels the Niagara River and US-Canadian border, spanning 55 km from Fort Erie
, past Niagara Falls
, to Niagara-on-th- Lake. Along the way, the Niagara River Recreational Trail shares sections of its route with the Fort to Fort Trail, the Freedom Trail, Laura Secord Trail
, General Brock's Trail, and the amazing Bruce Trail. In addition, many of these trails are also part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route.
A wealth of outdoor experiences
This well maintained pathway has excellent facilities from end to end, including places to stop, relaxing green spaces, and world class sites to enjoy. For example, hikers and cyclists can visit Parks Canada sites, historical forts, War of 1812 battlefields, the Whirlpool Aero Car
, the Floral Clock, the Butterfly Conservatory, miniature chapels, stunning wineries, and national monuments. Best of all, this trail offers a chance to experience one of the top tourist attractions in Canada - Niagara Falls!
Insider Tip: The Niagara River Recreational Trail also offers an excellent opportunity to learn about Black History on the Trans Canada Trail. Specifically, many historically important sites on the Underground Railroad are highlighted along its length.
Niagara River Recreation Trail for hikers and cyclists in Niagara, Ontario. Photo Credits: Sean Morton
Chase colourful rainbows over Niagara Falls while hiking or biking the Niagara River Recreation Trail
Visit the Floral Clock and other tourist attractions around Niagara Falls while hiking or cycling the trail
Learn about the Underground Railroad along the way
The Niagara River Recreation Trail traces the International border between Canada and the US
Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
The Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
is a 30 km stretch of pathway that begins on the outskirts of Hamilton and ends in Brantford. It was developed in 1996 along the abandoned Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo railway
. Consequently, it is now a well maintained packed gravel recreational pathway that is perfect for walking, hiking, and cycling. While the trail navigates between two large cities, it nonetheless remains in a green corridor under a canopy of shade trees. Furthermore, it traverses the amazing Dundas Valley Conservation Area
where it intersects with the Bruce Trail. Moreover, this beautiful urban green space is one of Ontario's under-celebrated birding hotspots
on the Trans Canada Trail.
Insider Tip: As an extra bonus the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail connects with other amazing sections of the Trans Canada Trail such Norfolk Sunrise, Waterford Heritage, and the T.H & B Rail Trails.
Ontario's Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail offers a way to spend time in nature. Photo Credit: Sean Morton
Hiking or cycling the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a great way to spend a relaxing summer afternoon
Sunset over rolling countryside along Ontario's Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
North Simcoe Rail Trail and Tiny Trail
The North Simcoe Rail Trail and Tiny Trail
are the next two choices for great trails along the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario. This is another duo of trails that seamlessly connect to form a continuous path from just west Barrie north to Penetanguishene. Specifically, the North Simcoe Rail Trail spans 35 km beginning on the outskirts of the city of Barrie
and weaving through the Minesing Wetlands
and Springwater Provincial Park. Next, the Tiny Trail continues north for 19 km through a thin ribbon for forest that intersects beautiful agricultural landscapes. Furthermore, the Tiny Trail provides access to the Tiny Marsh Wildlife Area and connects hikers and cyclists to Penetanguishene and Midland.
Insider Tip: Segments of these trails are also part of an Ontario Camino – the Pilgrim Route to the Martyrs Shrine.
Ontario's North Simcoe Rail Trail is well signed and easy to hike or bike. Photo credits: Sean Morton
A flat, firm surface makes Ontario's Tiny Trail suitable for hikers and cyclists of all fitness levels
Hiking the Tiny Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario was a highlight of our cross-country trek
Tiny Trail, Ontario is open year-round
The Tiny Trails section of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario is also part of the Martyrs' Shrine Pilgrimage Route
Casques Isles Trail
The epic Casque Isles Trail
is one of Ontario's best kept hiking secrets, and the next trail on our list as we move into Northern Ontario
. Casques Isles is not only one of the best sections of the Trans Canada Trail, but it is also part of the extensive Voyageur Trail System
. In particular, this footpath runs along the rugged coastline of Lake Superior for 54 km from Terrace Bay to Rossport. En route, it passes near the community of Schreiber and through the beautiful Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. Parts of this wilderness path are challenging. However, it is extraordinarily well maintained and has established campsites, picnic tables, lookouts, and access points along its entire route. Furthermore, Casques Isles hikers will meander between lush forests, scramble over coastal boulders, and be rewarded with awe inspiring views of Lake Superior. As such, the Casques Isles Trail
is one of Canada's top wilderness experiences and must-do hikes!
The Casque Isles Trail offers stunning views over the north shore of Lake Superior. Photo credits: Sean Morton
Waterfalls, rapids, and rivers are regular features on Ontario's Casque Isles Trail
Scrambling along rocky beaches is one of the challenges hikers encounter on the Casque Isles Trail
Sandy beaches provide a refreshing break on a hot summer day hiking the Casque Isles Trail
Kabeyun Trail, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
The Kabeyun Trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is our western most choice for the top hiking pathway on the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario. This amazing trekking route is 50 km long. Furthermore, it is situated along the coastline of the epic Sleeping Giant itself. Specifically, the Kabeyun Trail leaves from the Ontario Parks Sleeping Giant campground near Silver Islet. It then follows the coast to the southerly tip of the peninsula near the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory, and continues along the western edge of the Giant. En route, adventurous hikers can take side trails climbing the knees, chest, and head of the giant. Those who do will be rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime views of Lake Superior! Not only is this trail wonderful to trek, but there are regular campsites and access to water along the forested coastal route.
Insider Tip: Like the Casques Isles Trail, this one is challenging! It requires thru-hikers to register with Ontario Parks, and you must come prepared for unexpected weather conditions.
Kabeyun Trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario. Photo credits: Sean Morton
Hiking the backcountry Kabeyun Trail, Ontario is even fun in the rain!
Hikers on the Kabeyun Trail enjoy stunning views of Lake Superior, Ontario
Enjoying a campfire at a lakeside campsite is the perfect end to a day on the Kabeyun Trail
Whether you are looking for the perfect day hike, researching your next weekend cycling adventure, or planning a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness backpacking experience, the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario has something for everyone. The diversity and scope of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario are amazing, offering experiences ranging from urban trekking, to cross-country cycling, to backcountry hiking, to paddling adventures on the Great Lakes. As always, Ontario and its natural beauty are yours to discover and yours to enjoy!
Best Trails in Ontario Canada
Great trails along the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario
Fabulous Ontario! Great story & photos Sonya!
Amazing story and photos . Ontario looks so beautiful and there appears to be so many hiking trails. I love your writing and adventures.
Cary Horning Thank you! There are a lot of gorgous trails in Ontario, both on and off the Trans Canada Trail!
Cora Lee Rennie Thank you! There are a lot of different trails ranging from rail trails, to cycling routes, to remote footpaths through wilderness areas - lots of variety, and something for everyone!
Great list of amazing trails!
What a great read and fabulous photos! Than you so much for sharing. I hope to make it back to Ontario one day to visit these trails!
I always enjoy your writing and descriptions of trails taken. The photos really capture Ontario. I'm looking forward to Manitoba, next on your list.
Rene Coatta I hope you get a chance! When you do, let us know and we'd be happy to join you!
Sonya Richmond I have always wanted to visit the Muskoka Area! Looks so scenic and beautiful !
I hope you get the chance! Muskoka is cottage country for Torontonians, and with good reason. The Canadian Shield is beautiful, and there are a lot of options for hiking, paddling, back and front country camping, swimming, and so much more in that area.
Great article Sonya Richmond
Thank you! And thank you for all the training and advice - it is so helpful!