The Complete Guide to Hiking in Ontario
With over 41,000 km of non-motorized trails winding through 71 million hectares of forest, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had on foot in Ontario. Hiking trails here span the spectrum of quaint community projects with boardwalks and interpretive signs to epic backpacking routes where cell service is nonexistent and the only reminder of civilization is the infrequent blue blazes on trees, which means there’s something for everyone no matter where in the province you find yourself. From the boulder-beaches of Lake Superior to the white quartzite ridges of Killarney, from the exposed Canadian Shield of Muskoka to the stands of red and white pines of Temagami, each part of the province offers a different kind of beauty that simply requires walking into the woods to witness.
Hiking truly is the best way to experience this beauty, as you travel at a pace that allows you to take in your surroundings. You’ll be cognizant of every tree root and rock you step over, mindful of small animals that hide in the underbrush and the way the sunlight filters through the tree leaves, and attentive to the smell of pine needles and clean air present in each intake of breath. You may not see all 1.067 million km sq of Ontario if hiking is your outdoor activity of choice, but you’ll have a more intimate relationship with the parts of it you’ve taken the time to walk through.
If you’re new to outdoor adventure, hiking is the perfect place to start. That’s because it’s one of the most accessible outdoor pursuits you can do. Simply lace up your shoes, throw some snacks and drinks in a backpack, and head out the door. The only costs you may encounter are entry fees at provincial parks and conservation areas, and parking fees at select trailheads. These are typically quite inexpensive, and even then you can always find free options if you take the time to look nearby.
Even multi-day trips don’t require as much equipment as other outdoor activities like canoe tripping or bikepacking. You won’t need to invest in a canoe or bike, and since you can only carry what’s on your back, you won’t be tempted to bring that extra blanket or pair of shoes—suddenly even the handle of your toothbrush might seem like an unnecessary luxury. In fact, the simplicity is what many people love about backpacking. You’ll be forced to free yourself of worldly things and find out what really counts as “essential.” And at the end of your trip, you’ll feel more accomplished for it, knowing you can truly rely on just yourself and a few select items to not only survive, but thrive.
Whether you’re just starting to explore Ontario’s trails or are in search of hidden gems you haven’t yet tried, you’ll find what you’re looking for among the articles below.
We weren’t lying—getting started with hiking really is as simple as putting your shoes on and going. But the longer and more rugged a trail is, the more prepared you need to be. There are also many pieces of advice and equipment that make different scenarios and aspects of hiking more enjoyable. The tips, tricks and hacks you may find useful are available below.
Hiking can be as solitary or as group-oriented as you want it to be. Find new hiking buddies, give back to the trails you use regularly, or celebrate your love for the outdoors with like-minded people at various hiking events, festivals and clubs in Ontario.
Whether you want to get out in the woods for a few hours, plan a road trip hitting all the best trails in the province, or disappear into the wilderness for a week (or longer) on a backpacking trip, we can help. Find detailed guides and inspiration for your bucket list below.
These roundups of hiking trails will show you the best options for whatever type of experience you’re looking to have. Take in the brilliance of autumn, plan your first overnight, and get in a good workout below.
- 16 Best Fall Hikes In Ontario Parks
- 13 Of Ontario’s Best Hikes
- Best Overnight Hikes In Northern Ontario
- Backcountry Paddling And Hiking In Ontario Parks
- 8 Get-Fit-Fast Hikes In Ontario
- Lake Superior’s 10 Best Hikes You Can Do In A Day
- 5 Stunning, Under-The-Radar Hiking Trails In Northwest Ontario
Already have a vacation planned and want to know what hikes you can squeeze in while you’re in the area? Or maybe you want to pick your destination based on the hikes it has to offer—we wouldn’t blame you if you went this route. Each part of the province has something different to offer. See all our specific guides for hiking at provincial parks, conservation areas, national parks and more below.
Grab a hotel room in communities such as North Bay, Kapuskasing and Killarney, or a campsite at René Brunelle Provincial Park, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park and Point Grondine Park to take advantage of the areas’ hiking trails. With forests, lakes, rivers and even mountains, you’ll never get tired of exploring. Visit Northeastern Ontario’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.
Sault Ste. Marie – Algoma
Many make the obvious choice of staying in Sault Ste. Marie or Wawa when adventuring in this area of the province, but you’ll find many charming small towns dotting the eastern coast of Lake Superior, each more inviting than the last. Lake Superior Provincial Park has the largest concentration of trails in the area, but keep an eye out for trailheads along the Trans-Canada Highway and never be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Visit Algoma Country’s website to learn more and browse the resources below.
- A Guide To Hiking The Lake Superior Coastal Trail
- Hiking The Agawa Falls Trail Will Leave You Breathless
- Hike The Pukaskwa Coastal Trail Along Lake Superior
- Video: Are You Tough Enough To Hike The Pukaskwa Coastal Trail?
The farther north in this region you go, the fewer trails you’ll find. Many of the provincial parks here are accessible only by train, plane or canoe so no formal hiking trails exist. Stick close to the coast of Superior or the border with Manitoba, though, and you’ll have a long list of trails to tick off, such as those at Blue Lake Provincial Park, Eagle Dogtooth Provincial Park and Quetico Provincial Park. Visit Sunset Country and Superior Country’s websites to learn more and browse the resources below.
Hearing the accounts of others is often what inspires our next adventure. Read about the first-hand hiking experiences below to get a sense of the place before you go.
Take a hike
In today's busy and stressful world, hiking is an easy way to gain some repose and perspective. Stretching your legs, breathing in fresh air, listening to the sounds of nature, soaking up vitamin D—all of these things improve our mental and physical health and are part and parcel of going out for a hike. All trails have their own secret beauty if you take the time to look. So take your pick, make the time, and get walking. Ontario's trails are waiting for you.