We never thought we'd say this, but we're absolutely desperate to go for a hike. A simple, wholesome hike. It doesn't even have to be anywhere fancy — we'd be happy just hiking around Ontario.
Alas, current restrictions mean that we, erm, can't really venture much beyond our own four walls. But — please god, please — things are slowly starting to look up, and then adventures (on our home turf, at least) could soon be back in the cards.
And we're excited, because Ontario is pretty darn gorgeous. There are parks, paths, ravines, quays and coast just out there, waiting to be explored — and hiking is one of the best ways to do it.
You'll need some swish gear to make sure you look the part, plus plenty of water and snacks (obvs), but other than that, all you need is your own two feet (and possibly — definitely — a map). You can plan to camp, or you can use a cool cabin as your base, or team your hike with a road trip.
Grab your hiking boots, make like Reese Witherspoon in Wild and find yourself.
Disclaimer: we've picked some good-looking hikes here for you, but make sure you plan your route thoroughly. We've organised them according to difficulty, so make sure you choose something that's right for you. And in the meantime, you can always practice by hiking to the grocery store…
Ontario's best hikes: Easy difficulty
Whiskey Jack Trail
The 2.5 km Whiskey Jack Trail starts on a beautiful boardwalk. So far, so good. You'll find your way through the forested lowlands and glassy lakes of Quetico, a pristine wilderness west of Lake Superior. The lakes here were once water routes travelled by fur traders; today, these waterways are used by canoeists looking for peaceful paddling and shy wildlife.
Bluff Trail, Awenda Provincial Park
View on Instagram
Awenda Park's Bluff Trail is easy enough, but at 8 km it's also long enough to make for a brilliant day trip. Spy Ontario's old-growth forest before climbing the Nipissing Bluff, a beach that rises to 60 m in the air. An extra fact for you: Awenda Park neighbours the sweet-sounding Township of Tiny.
Pickerel Lake Trail
The Pickerel Lake Trail is a hike-of-all-trades: you can walk, you can run, you can camp and, in the winter, you can ski. It's also suitable for all levels, so even if you're more tortoise than hare, this is a track you'll enjoy thanks to stunning views over Lake Superior. And while this is an all-season trail, you'll find us here in spring and summer, when the wildflowers show their pretty little faces. Walk an extra 1.8 km to The Pines and you'll be rewarded with a secluded beach where you can cool off with a dip before striking out on your journey home.
Ontario's best hikes: Medium difficulty
Lake of The Woods Trail
This three-hour, 3.5 km trail in Killarney park circles around Lake of the Woods. The spectrum of terrain here means you'll never get bored. Gawp at ancient trees; huff and puff your way past rocky outcrops; and be sure to take a breath when you get to the lakeshore, before meandering over a short boardwalk that'll take you to the lake's sole island.
Waterdown to Smokey Hollow Trail
View on Instagram
If you want to stretch your legs a bit more, this 10.3 km trail near Burlington makes for a delightful day trip. It has a waterfall (tick), a ravine (double tick), and if you stop off in the Waterdown community, there's the Copper Kettle Café, known for its apple fritters and an artisanal chocolate maker called BeanerMunky (tick!). Stop here to stock up on snacks for your journey — which you'll need as the way down is easy, but the way back up will make sure you break a sweat.
Niagara Glen Trail
There's more to Niagara than the Falls; head into Niagara Glen and you'll find prehistoric rock formations, pristine Carolinian forest, a river whirlpool and more flora and fauna than you can shake a hiking stick at. You can bring your doggo, too, but you'll have to keep them on a lead, no matter how cute they are.
Ontario's best hikes: Hard difficulty
A note on hiking during Covid-19
Check travel restrictions before you go anywhere, but a few broad rules of thumb: avoid travelling outside your municipality. Stay home if you are unwell. While you're hiking, practice physical distancing, and hike only with members of your household (in keeping with latest provincial outdoor gathering restrictions). Keep 2m apart from anyone not in your household, and wear a mask when you can't do so. Move aside to allow others to pass.
Time to step things up a gear: the Bruce Trail — Ontario's longest, oldest footpath — rings in at 900 km from Niagara to Tobermory, making it a bit more than your average day hike. In fact, if you want to go the whole hog, the average time to complete it is 30 days, so if that's your kind of thing… But if you're after something a bit less time-consuming, you can split this splendid trail into easily digestible chunks to suit your timeframe and your ability level. Your best bet is to check the trail's well-informed website, which can show you routes according to your fitness.
La Cloche Silhouette Trail
Another trail that isn't for the faint of heart, La Cloche Silhouette is an 80 km loop that should take you around a week to complete (although you can break it up into shorter sections, too). The route is mostly moderate, taking you on a scenic tour past small streams, rivers, along picturesque lake shores. It's at the Crack, a ridge with the best views of the bunch, that things start to get a bit, erm, sticky. You'll need to do 12 hours of steady hiking and clambering over large boulders to get to the money shot — make sure you're fit and start early.
The White River Suspension Bridge Trail
View on Instagram
This Thunder Bay trail is one for thrill-seekers — not only because it requires more than a scenic amble, but because it also features a 23m-long suspension bridge over Chigamiwinigum Falls. But before you get to the bridge, there are wetlands, swimmable waters and picnic spots aplenty — so you can just enjoy those and then turn back, right? Break it up, or for a challenging hike you could start from the Hattie Cove Visitor Center and go out and back in one day.