“The Great Trail exists because there are always people prepared to step in, turn their faces toward the horizon, pick up where others have left off, and move the Trail forward a few more kilometers.”
-Paul LaBarge–Great Trail Founder
After 25 years of grit and determination Canada can now claim the title of world’s longest hiking trail. The newly connected trail spans almost 15,000 miles across Canada and touches three oceans–The Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic.
The concept for the Trans Canada Trail (AKA “The Great Trail”) began in 1992 when three people came up with the idea of linking the existing trails into one monumental trail. The ambitious goal was to connect the “The Great Trail” in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
This meant acquiring land, buying signage and rallying volunteers.
Just one year ago, Cycling Magazine reported that the trail was only 87 percent connected. As the deadline approached, the Canadian government began matching 50 cents to every dollar donated to the cause.
“The Trail reaffirms the greatness of our country and its communities, and epitomizes our Canadian idea of community,” said trail founder Paul LaBarge. “It is almost impossible to name all of those who have built this Trail, but I can say this: The Great Trail exists because there are always people prepared to step in, turn their faces toward the horizon, pick up where others have left off, and move the Trail forward a few more kilometers.”
Trail organizers are quick to point out that “connected” does not mean “completed”. On August 29, The Trans Canada Trail Twitter account corrected an article that referred to the trail as complete.
So How’s the Trail?
While “The Great Trail” cuts through very rural areas of the countryside it also runs through some major cities. In fact, 80% of Canadians live within 30 minutes of the Trail.
- 7168 feet is the highest point
- 4,900 miles are off-road trails
- 5,340 miles are along road or highway shoulders
- 3,770 miles are water trails
- 1,110 miles share the trail with ATV’s
- 8000 trail signs have been installed (4000 more to go)
Some feel the trail fell short of its original promises.
For much of the designated Great Trail between Edmonton and Calgary, the link is Highway 2A. It’s the narrow-shouldered secondary road between Alberta’s two metropolises, ranging from two lanes to four lanes, with more than 8,000 cars and trucks counted daily on some of the sections designated as trail.
This wasn’t at all how the dream was conceived. A quarter-century ago, the project founders envisioned off-road greenways spanning the country, largely using abandoned rail beds to link existing trail networks.
How does “The Great Trail” compare to U.S. trails?
- The Great Trail- 14,912 miles – Canada
- Pacific Crest- 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada
- Appalachian- 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine
- Continental Divide- 3,100 miles from New Mexico to Montana
You can explore more about “The Great Trail” on their website.