Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors. In fact, some of the most beautiful hikes in the country are accessible year-round… and some are (arguably) even more stunning in winter.
Of course, winter hiking requires a bit more preparation and planning than a warm-weather hike. Trails may be icy and slippery, so be sure you’ve got appropriate footwear, whether that’s hiking boots or snowshoes. Temperatures may fluctuate quickly, so be prepared by wearing lots of warm layers. And don’t forget the sunscreen; UV rays can still cause sunburn during the winter months.
Here are a few of our favourite winter hiking trails, from B.C. to Nova Scotia and in-between.
Lightning Lake Loop, British Columbia
For a winter walk that offers striking scenery without a huge elevation gain, visit E.C. Manning Provincial Park and hike the Lightning Lake Loop. This full trail offers 8.5 km of peaceful pine forests, scenic bridges and still lakes.
Bring your snow shoes when visiting between January through March. Birdwatchers will want their binoculars, too. If you want a shorter hike, simply hop off the main trail and cross the Rainbow Loop Bridge.
Rawson Lake, Alberta
If you’re craving a workout, Rawson Lake may offer the prefect solution. Hit this trail early in the day after a snowfall, and you’ll get some exercise breaking through the fresh powder. About 7.75 km one way, this trail offers almost 600 m of elevation gain.
Along the way, you’re rewarded with beautiful views of Upper Kananaskis Lake, Sarrail Waterfall, Mount Sarrail and peaceful spruce forests. Bring your snowshoes and poles for this trek.
Johnston Canyon, Alberta
Seeking scenic frozen waterfalls? Head to Banff National Park and hike Johnston Canyon. Choose from two hikes, both boasting icy cascades, bridges and tunnels. Lower Falls offers an easier 1.1 km walk, while Upper Falls features a 2.7-km trail (one way) with more elevation gain.
From December through April, this scenic destination is a popular spot for ice climbing and walking, too. With beginning and advanced climbs available (as well as guided tours), Johnston Canyon is a great place to break out those crampons.
Nassagaweya Trail, Ontario
When a long winter hike is in the cards, Nassagaweya Trail fits the bill. This 14.4 km trek through ancient forests promises glimpses of winter wildlife such as owls and chickadees. Caves, glaciers, cliffs, cedar and hackberry trees line the scenic path to Crawford Lake.
Adding to the fun, the park is a popular geocaching site, so keep your eyes peeled for hidden treasures along the path. If you’re really feeling into nature, you can settle in for some winter camping at Rattlesnake Point.
Montmorency Falls, Quebec
Hiking to a waterfall is amazing enough in summer. Now imagine doing it in winter, when the rushing water is frozen into an icy work of art. That’s exactly what you’ll find when you take a winter hike to Montmorency Falls. Just outside of Quebec City in Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the falls stretch to 83 m tall (that’s higher than Niagara!)
The 4.3 km walk to the falls can be attempted with hiking boots or snowshoes. Park management does keep the Promenade de la Falaise (boardwalk) cleared of snow during winter, but surfaces may still be icy. You can even stop by the Manoir Montmorency for a warm drink along the way.
Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia
For ocean views, this cliff side trail can’t be beat. Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Skyline Trail is a popular summer destination, but it’s gorgeous in winter, too.
Stretching for 9.5 km, this loop trail offers a mix of pavement, boardwalk and gravel, with a moderate elevation gain and a few steep spots. It’s worth a bit of work, though, because the trail leads hikers to an observation deck with stunning views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Don’t forget your camera, because along with the breathtaking views, you might just see some local wildlife; the area is known for its moose, eagles and even the occasional black bear.
Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland
Nestled in Gros Morne National Park, the Western Brook Pond trail offers a dramatic backdrop for a winter photo opp. If you’re willing to strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled glacier and mountain views.
The Western Brook Pond trail is a 6 km loop with little elevation gain. At the far end of the loop, you’ll reach docks overlooking the fjord. Expect snowy, icy conditions if you visit October through April.
Don’t let winter weather keep you cooped up at home. Bundle up and explore the beautiful natural landscapes that Canada offers, from coast to coast.