What’s Next? How About The Great Trail?

Maybe you’ve just finished the Triple Crown. Possibly you’ve completed the Camino Frances. Or perhaps you’ve sampled trails from around the world, and are looking for your next big adventure. If you’re a long-distance hiker and you find yourself pining away at home and asking, “What’s next?” we think the Great Trail is definitely worth considering.

The Great Trail

The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) is a system of greenways, waterways, and roadways that stretches across Canada from the Atlantic, to the Pacific, to the Arctic oceans. It will take you past rugged coastlines and lighthouses, beautiful boreal forest, wide open prairies, the Rocky Mountains, lush coastal rain forests, and the Arctic Circle. You will also visit over 15,000 communities, all the provincial capitals, as well as Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. And maybe best of all, you’ll be able to brag that you’ve walked the longest trail in the world—something that to date only two people have done!

Map of the world's longest trail, the Great Trail

Just How Long Is the Longest Trail in the World?

As of 2018, the Great Trail was approximately 24,134 km (14,999 miles) long. To put this in perspective, traversing its entire length is equivalent to walking:

The Appalachian Trail (USA) 6.8 times. Trail distance: ~3,509 km (2,181 mi).
The Pacific Crest Trail (USA) 5.5 times. Trail distance: ~4,265 km (2,651 mi).
The Continental Divide Trail (USA) 4.8 times. Trail distance: ~4,988 km (3,100 mi).
Triple Crown (USA) 1.9 times. Total distance: ~ 12,762 km (7,932 mi).
The Bruce Trail (Canada) 27 times. Trail distance: ~ 890 km (553 mi).
Camino Frances (Spain) 30 times. Trail distance: ~ 805 km (500 mi).
Te Araroa Trail (New Zealand) 8 times. Trail distance: ~ 3,000 km (1,864 mi).
Shikoku Pilgrimage (Japan) 20 times. Trail distance: ~ 1,200 km (746 mi).
Greater Patagonia Trail (South America) 11.5 times. Trail distance ~2,092 km (1,300 mi).

A Few Extra Challenges

The trail is a network of greenways and waterways, meaning some portions are designed to be paddled. Thru-hikers must either arrange intermittent access to a canoe, or find alternate routes around the water sections, one of which is over 1,000 km long. Around 30% of the trail currently exists on roadways or highways, not all of which have well-established shoulders. Finally, the trail cannot be completed on foot within three seasons, which adds a level of complexity to planning, preparing, and surviving.

And Some Juicy Opportunities

If you think you’re up for the challenge, you could well put yourself in the record books. The Great Trail was officially completed in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday. Dana Meise became the first person to officially complete the entire trail (excluding waterways) when he reached Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, in November 2018. Sarah (Rose) Jackson was the first woman to complete the east-west portion of the Great Trail in 2017, taking one day less than two years to complete it. There are two incredible ladies currently out there on the trail: Mel Vogel has been solo hiking continuously since 2017, and Diane Whelan is making a trail documentary of her hike (check out the trailer she recently released). To our knowledge no else has officially completed the entire trail, leaving many records to be set, broken, and attempted.

Sean and I aren’t heading out to break any records, but we are hiking for a cause. Our next post will explain why we’re inviting people to Come Walk With Us by following our blog, and how we’re hoping to inspire people to connect with nature through birding as we hike across Canada.

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