Trail hiking has always been a favorite pastime of many people worldwide. However, over the past decade, leisure activity has seen a spike in popularity, especially in countries like the United States.
A report recently conducted by Statista found that nearly 59 million people in the United States had engaged in at least one form of hiking activity in 2021. Compared to just two years prior, the number of people hiking has increased by more than 10 million.
While this survey represents all types of hikers, a large portion of people are looking for their next challenge and want to traverse the longest trails in the world. Most people assume the Appalachian Trail is the longest because of its popularity. However, another trail is seven times longer than the Appalachian and has nearly 10,000 more miles of paths than the second-longest trail in the world: The Great Trail.
Top 10 Longest Trails in the World
Across the world, there are many beautiful trails to explore with winding pathways throughout different countries. Although, if you’re looking for the longest trail to explore, you’ll need to head to Canada, home of The Great Trail.
As you can see from the table below, there is no comparison between The Great Trail of Canada and other trails. In fact, the enormous trail is longer than the other four longest routes combined.
|The Great Trail of Canada
|E1 European Long-Distance Path
|Grand Italian Trail
|Continental Divide Trail
|Hokkaido Nature Trail
|Tohoku Nature Trail
|Pacific Crest Trail
|Chubu Hokuriku Nature Trail
The Great Trail — Overview
The Great Trail of Canada is an explorer’s dream and should make the bucket list of every hiking enthusiast. It stretches nearly 15,000 miles, and there are various ways to transverse the path, from hiking and biking to paddling and horseback riding.
Depending on which end you start, The Great Trail spans from the East Coast of Canada in Newfoundland to the West Coast of British Columbia. Along the way, hikers can investigate close to 500 individual trails that comprise the large network pathway.
History of The Great Trail
While many people might assume The Great Trail has been around for hundreds of years, the idea of the extensive network of trails only came about in 1992. However, once the project began, it only took until 2017 to officially complete.
Since the trail’s conception, the name of the large network of pathways has been changed back and forth between “The Trans Canada Trail” and “The Great Trail of Canada.” Today many locals often use the two names interchangeably when referring to the roughly 15,000-mile route throughout the country.
The original plan was for the entire network to use existing, newly constructed, and modified trails. However, due to a lack of financing, the project hit a snag, and so far, only 32% of the trail includes off-road routes. The rest of The Great Trail consists of roads, highways, waterways, and hybrid paths.
With the help of private donors and non-profit organizations, the hope is that they will be able to turn the remaining 68% of the route into green pathways for hikers to enjoy.
Things to Do on The Great Trail
One of the biggest advantages of exploring Canada’s Great Trail is how you can enjoy the pathway. Some trails throughout the network allow you to hike and bike, while others allow horseback riding, canoeing, and kayaking.
Hiking is the most popular way to enjoy the massive network of trails. Depending on the level of intensity you’re looking for, there are options ranging from day hikes, such as the Fundy Trail Parkway, to walks that take weeks to finish, like the High Rockies Trail.
Biking is another excellent way to enjoy the scenery and nature of the long pathway. For instance, biking the Meewasin Trail allows for a comfortable ride along the riverbank with many places to stop and explore. Several parks and museums along the trail make for great areas to stop and rest for a bit.
Explorers looking to ride horseback can do so along The Great Trail. While not every section of the 15,000-mile route allows for horseback riding, there are several communities throughout the country where experienced and new equestrians can ride through the countryside.
Canoeing & Kayaking
For individuals looking for an authentic experience, paddling trails offer a unique way to experience nature. One of the most popular options is the Mackenzie River Trail which takes travelers along a gentle, winding waterway that spans 1,659 kilometers.
The river trail is steeped in history as everyone, from local Aboriginal people to fur traders and missionaries, has used the waterways for travel.
What Type of Wildlife Can You Find on The Great Trail?
With the Great Trail spanning the entire country, there are endless opportunities to encounter wildlife. One of the best places to take in nature and potentially see incredible animals like bears, horn sheep, and moose is on the Banff Legacy Trail section.
Banff Legacy Trail is only 12.6 miles long but offers some of the most breathtaking views. Adventurers will have the opportunity to hike, bike, or paddle the multi-hour-long route while being surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
Best Places to Stay on The Great Trail
When officials first envisioned the expansive project, they wanted to create a network of pathways that all Canadians and visitors could enjoy. To accomplish this goal, they laid out the branches of the trail so that most people could get to a section of the route within an hour.
In fact, according to the Trans Canada Trail, four out of five Canadians live within 30 minutes of The Great Trail.
Since the network is easily accessible, there are many places you can stay while going on multi-day hikes. For example, hikers planning on tackling the Caledon Trailway can stay in various high-end B&Bs in Ontario. The pathway also offers the opportunity to stay in the former steel town, Hamilton.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Autumn Sky Photography/Shutterstock.com
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