As the second-largest country in the world (geographically), and with a population of just 35-million, Canada has a lot of open space. Given its size, it’s also incredibly diverse.
Canada has an enormous offering of hiking options, and hiking in Canada is attracting more and more travellers to the trails in summer months. That can mean coastal hikes, mountain passes, day hikes, scrambles, multi-day backpacking excursions, or mountaineering.
The general rule in Canada, however, is that the season for hiking in Canada really doesn’t begin until the late spring and early summer months. Canadian winters can be long and harsh, with huge amounts of snowfall and persistent sub-zero temperatures for many months. In areas of high elevation and latitude, such as the Rockies, Coast Mountains, Yukon, and the Territories, snow and ice potentially lingers well into the summer, and many sub-ranges see permanent ice and snow. In these areas, hiking season could potentially start early, but most trails don’t open until at least late May/early June.
In low elevation or sea-level, hiking season can begin as early as April. But the best time to go hiking in Canada is surely summer, generally from early June to late September.
Alberta and British Columbia
Alberta and British Columbia in the west probably see the most hiking traffic than any of the other provinces. The Rockies, Okanagan Valley, and Coast Mountains offer endless choice for hiking recreation and other derivatives. Seasons are short in the high mountains, starting in June and ending in early fall. But there are exceptions in the mountain areas, with certain areas receiving much less precipitation, such as Kananaskis Country in Alberta.
Atlantic Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick)
Being at low elevation, mostly at sea-level, snow cover is usually not as problematic as it is in the mountains out west. Many of the big trail networks are coastal, or at least within a few kilometres of the coast, so rainfall cuts down the snow pack early. Seasons are a bit longer than mountainous regions, but Atlantic Canada gets considerably more rain. Trails are usually fair game from April or May to late October or even November. But early on the trails will still be wet and muddy. Many trail networks can also be completed with snowshoes in winter.
The Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan)
Warm weather generally starts in late April and May, so trails should be clear of any lingering snow and ice. Since these provinces are consistently flat and at low elevation, it doesn’t take long for the trails to thaw and eventually dry out. Plan to head here from May to October.
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Eastern and Central (Ontario, Quebec)
Similar to the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec are generally very flat, and the Great Lakes regions and southern sections of these provinces experience warm springs and hot summers. Trails and parks are accessible from April/May well into September and October.
The Territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut)
Yukon Territory is becoming a more sought-after destination for backpacking, mountaineering, and hiking trips. Parks like Tombstone Territorial Park and Kluane National Park have amazing backcountry trails that are some of the least visited in North America. Hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and climbing seasons are short, usually running from June to September, but summers can be hot with the midnight sun. Northwest Territories and Nunavut are much less visited due to very high transportation costs and much less infrastructure.