Welcome to The Great Trail
It was a long time coming. A quarter of a century, to be exact. But in 2017, to commemorate Canada’s 150th year, 432 existing trails in 10 provinces and three territories were officially connected to create The Great Trail, a 15,000-mile (24,000-km) urban, rural, and wilderness route across the world’s second biggest country.
Snaking through Canada from coast-to coast-to-coast—Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic—The Great Trail was a bold dream to join diverse cultures and wildly varied landscapes throughout this vast, sprawling land. With three Mile Zero trailheads—west in Victoria, British Columbia, north in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, and east in St. John’s, Newfoundland—The Great Trail connects more than 15,000 communities, from major cities to country villages, via wilderness trails through mountains and wide open-prairies, on rural and urban roadways and pathways, and even along waterways (25% of the route is on ocean, rivers and lakes). Most importantly, 80% of Canadians can reach The Great Trail within 30 minutes.
A living symbol of national collaboration, the world’s longest recreational trail was a huge effort brought to fruition by thousands of local municipalities and organizations, grass roots supporters, volunteers, partners, and sponsors like Clif Bar & Company, all of whom recognized in The Great Trail the like-minded values of raising awareness of the outdoors and protecting the places where we play.
We already support a roster of more than a dozen exceptional Canadian pro athletes, so it seems only fitting to sponsor 150 kilometers of connecting pathway in honor of Canada’s anniversary. We’re excited by The Great Trail’s potential as an exercise and adventure corridor for athletes and recreation seekers of every fitness level.
For the relatively small population of Canadians living across the huge country, the vast distances have always been a barrier, both physically and culturally. Yet the trail is common ground for all, not only by linking communities, but also by providing a means to discover Canada at a human pace, a communal space.
The Great Trail is a gift from Canadians to themselves, an ongoing legacy project for coming generations that will never be truly finished, as new enthusiasts continue to add loops and extensions.
The trail also pays homage to Canada’s past as it follows in the footsteps of history: of First Nations who travelled this landscape for millennia; of explorers, dreamers, and fur trading voyagers who paddled and portaged from coast to coast; of the late 19th century transcontinental railway that first knit together Canada’s east-west coasts; and finally the modern, nationwide Trans-Canada Highway.
The goal of this artery that wends through the heart of Canada is to introduce the world to friendly Canadians who are proud of their diverse cultures and landscapes. But this epic trail should also tempt and inspire everyone to get outdoors on easily accessible urban, rural, and wilderness pathways.
A Great Trail – Explore Canada app makes planning simple. So, when visiting our neighbors to the north, get out for a walk, hike, bike, ski or paddle. It doesn’t matter for how long—a month across the Arctic tundra or an hour on an urban bicycle path—because how can a nationwide labor of love like this make you feel anything but great?!
What doesn’t run straight in this table-top landscape are rivers. Grinding winding paths down into the plains, they have, over eons, created scenic, snaking gorges that loop and meander—ideal terrain for paddling and hiking.
One such stretch on The Great Trail near Krumm Farm is Wascana Valley Trails, a popular park for kayaking with 9.3 miles (15 km) of hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing trails for every skill level.
Just 8.5 miles (14 km) to the north, Wascana Creek flows into the Qu’Appelle River near Lumsden on The Great Trail. There’s a walking tour here that takes visitors through 51 historical sites and buildings in the classic prairie town, including the 1904 Canadian National Railway station.
Lumsden is also the transition point where The Great Trail becomes a waterway, a canoe and kayak launching point into a 97-mile (155.67-km) oxbow-riddled route of the Qu’Appelle River. The spectacular Qu’Appelle Valley Waterway winds in a leisurely current through a chain of four lakes alongside prairie grass-covered slopes or steep clay banks between Lumsden and the historic town of Fort Qu’Appelle.
Paddle through Indian reserves, past small communities set in a gentle landscape of birch groves, where purple crocuses grow wild and you can toss a line into the water and reel in a walleye, northern pike, or whitefish. It’s one of the Prairies’ best kept paddling secrets.
First Nations once travelled this route in search of buffalo who sheltered in the wooded coulees (ravines) during winter. Then in 1864, the Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Qu'Appelle as a bustling fur trading post, a vital trail hub between far-flung forts for hunters, traders, pioneers, and missionaries.
These days, the HBC’s original fort houses the small town's museum, and the valley is lakeside cottage country for Regina residents. In summer, it’s a busy beach destination with local walking and cycling trails. In winter, hardy Saskatchewan residents morph the frozen lake landscape into a snowy playground dotted with mini-villages of ice fishing huts and a cross-country ski and snowshoe haven beneath the trademark Prairie blue skies.
“Designating The Great Trail through remote rural areas like this makes people look more closely at places they might not have thought to visit. It helps them learn more about the country,” says Brian Krumm, “and it helps bind people together.”