There’s something magical and serene about winter hiking – the views of snow–capped mountains, the sound of ice crunching beneath your boots and those first gasps of crisp, clean air. It’s easy to see why some hiking trails undeniably peak once the snow begins to fall. Here are seven of the best winter hikes in Canada to explore this year.
Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia —Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Skyline trail is a winding coastal trail known as where the mountain meets the sea. With an elevation of 455 metres, the 9.5–kilometre loop takes you along the edge of a dramatic cliff that overlooks the Cabot Trail and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and is suitable for hikers of all levels. Keep your eyes peeled for moose, bald eagles and black bears that wander in this wilderness–protected habitat.
Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland —Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park on the western coast of Newfoundland is known for its astounding glacier–carved fjord and views of the Long Range Mountains. The easy 6–kilometre loop, with an open landscape and low elevation makes it perfect to explore on snowshoes or skis. If you’re up for an extended adventure, head to the historic Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse to take in a brilliant sunset.
Sulphur Mountain, Alberta —Banff’s Sulphur Mountain shines during the winter due to the steady uphill trek through the trees that feels like a scene out of Narnia. The 10.1–kilometre hike has a moderate elevation up to the summit ridge – well worth it to feel like you're on top of the world as you marvel at the 360–degree views of the Bow Valley and town of Banff. Give your legs a rest on the way down, and take in the spectacular views from the glass–enclosed gondola, which is free during winter.
Montmorency Falls, Quebec —We all know how breathtaking a rushing waterfall can be, but how about a frozen waterfall – where ice cylinders crystallize in place creating a natural ice sculpture crafted by mother earth herself. Visit Parc de la Chute’s Montmorency Falls in the peak of winter to catch the miraculous view. The moderate hike is 4.3 kilometres and offers a view of the falls, which, at 83 meters, are even taller than Ontario’s Niagara Falls.
Parlee Brook, New Brunswick —Parlee Brook Amphitheatre’s jaw–dropping, massive ice wall is a mecca for ice climbers. The trail itself is a moderate 6.6–kilometre hike for walking, snowshoeing and soaking up the views of the frozen waterfall that shifts in colour as it reflects light from the sun.
Hollyburn Mountain, British Columbia —HollyBurn Mountain Snowshoe Trail is a 7–kilometre intermediate–level trek located in Cypress Mountain Park, just outside of Vancouver. The farther you get, the steeper it becomes – offering a hard–core cardio session with the reward of gorgeous mountain views. You can hike or snowshoe the trail which leads to a panoramic view of the neighbouring Cypress Mountain and the city of Vancouver.
Scenic Caves Nature Adventure, Ontario —At the highest point of Niagara Escarpment lies the Scenic Caves Nordic Centre in The Blue Mountains, Ontario. Hike, snowshoe or ski along 27 kilometers of trails of varying skill levels and don’t miss the trek along Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of winter owls, deer, rabbits and other wildlife that can be spotted on a winter visit.
Winter Hiking Safety
To ensure you stay safe and warm during your winter hiking adventure, make sure to follow these pro–tips:
Check the avalanche forecasts prior to your trip.
Pack all the winter hiking essentials you may need, from first–aid kits to heat packs and hiking poles.
Dress accordingly and wear warm and waterproof clothing.
Always bring more food and water than you think you’ll need and remember to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink half a litre of water per hour of hiking.