Ontario's five best hiking trails, according to an expert

Author Marlis Butcher, one of Canada’s foremost explorers, walks The Weather Network's Mark Robinson through her favourite Ontario trails after visiting every park in the country.

My bike tire bounced off the same root that I’d managed to hit the other 42 times I’d been down the trail near my house and this time I didn’t nearly go over the handlebars and into the bush. I expertly twisted the wheel and recovered, ensuring that I’d make it to the end of the trail, approximately 2 minutes 37 seconds ahead. That was also the point that I realized that maybe I’d been going up and down this trail a few too many times.

I needed some new trails to check out, but there’s so many in Ontario, there was no way I’d be able to pick the most interesting in any sort of normal timeframe. I had storms to chase, houses to get ready for tornadoes, sleeping to do. You know, normal stuff.

I needed to find someone that knew about trails in Ontario and luckily, I knew exactly who to talk to. When you want to know about something, you go to the experts. And the if you want to know where the best hikes are in Ontario, there’s no better expert than Marlis Butcher, one of Canada’s foremost explorers.

Marlis has recently written a book detailing her adventures in visiting every National park in Canada, even the most distant and hard to get to. Since camping and hiking are her life, I figured she’d be the perfect resource to get me to the best trails in Ontario.

So, on a hot, mosquito infested trail near Campbelville, I met up with Marlis to find out more about her book and to get her to give up her secrets to her favourite trails. I also found out all about her new book, but that’s another story (which involves some near-death experiences – Marlis’s, not mine. For once.)

Lucky for me, Marlis was delighted to tell me all about her favourite trails in Ontario and in the interests of public enjoyment, I pass them on to you (also, Marlis wants everyone to know about them).

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In no particular order, here are Marlis’s top five trails:

1. The Bruce Trail

The Bruce Trail is an 890 km long trail running from Niagara Falls to Tobermory. Created in the early 1960’s, it was designed to run along the Niagara Escarpment and allow people to visit some of the unique ecoregions along the trail.

Bruce Trail 1: Credit: Marlis Butcher/Submitted

Bruce Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

Hiking the entire trail in one go is a major undertaking, sections of the Trail are easily accessible for daily hikes and it happens to include some of my own favourites (like Limehouse Conservation Area).

Bruce Trail 2 Credit: Marlis Butcher/Submitted

Bruce Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

2. Pukaskwa

Pukaskwa sits on the shores of Lake Superior near Thunder Bay. According to Marlis, going on a stormy day, you can experience the true power of Lake Superior as waves crash on the shore along the trail. This is when I’d go, but for most other people, seeing Lake Superior on a calm, sunny day means that you’ll be able to see forever over the sea green waters.

Pukaskwa, Ontario. Credit: Marlis Butcher/Submitted

Pukaskwa (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

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3. Culham Trail

An urban trail in Mississauga, this route leads along edge of the Credit River and is easy to access for everyone. In the fall, you can watch salmon swimming up the river to their spawning grounds while riding your bike along the path.

Culham Trail, Ontario. Credit: Marlis Butcher

Culham Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

It’s also easy for families with strollers to hike as well. Being an urban trail does mean that it can get quite busy at times, but it’s a bit of a hidden gem in the heart of the Greater Toronto Area.

Culham Trail, Ontario. Hiking (Marlis Butcher/Submitted) 2

Culham Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

4. The Rideau Trail

The Rideau Trail is a hiking trail of over 300-km long between Kingston and Ottawa. It crosses a variety of terrain ranging from urban areas, placid farmland to the rugged rocks of the Canadian Shield.

Rideau Trail, Ontario (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

Rideau Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

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The urban areas in Kingston and Ottawa are paved so you can bike, walk and families can take their strollers.

Rideau Trail. Credit: Marlis Butcher/Submitted

Rideau Trail. (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

5. Mizzy Lake Trail

This trail sits right in the middle of Algonquin Park and can be accessed from the highway that leads through the park. Its not an easy trail, especially in the spring as it can get quite muddy, but the opportunities for seeing wildlife (like moose or bear) are quite high.

Mizzy Lake Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

Moose spotting at Mizzy Lake Trail (Marlis Butcher/Submitted)

I have to admit that I was thinking that Marlis’s favourite trails were going to be deep in the far wilderness, given her incredible feat of visiting every park in Canada (which she then wrote a book about) and that I wouldn’t be able to visit any of them. The pleasant surprise of knowing that these trails are easy to access and available even if you live deep in the Greater Toronto Area now means that you can get out and see a bit of natural Ontario. And, don’t forget that fall is coming and the brilliant fire of fall leaves is about to ignite across the province.

I’ll be out and about on the trails as soon as I can, so I’ll see you out there. And, hopefully, I’m not lying in a heap beside my bike having found a brand-new root system to wipe out on.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article insinuated that the Rideau Trail ran along the Rideau Canal. That is not the case. The Rideau Trail runs between Ottawa and Kingston, and it rarely touches the Rideau Canal, even though it bears its name. The Weather Network apologizes for this oversight.