Surfer in Tofino

The bucket list for adventurous Canadians

In a country that spans almost 10 million square kilometres of dense rainforest, calm lakes and steep mountains, there are literally thousands of outdoor activities to keep you busy. But what are the quintessential Canadian experiences for your adventure bucket list? Get ready, explorers: here’s a distilled must-do list for adventurous Canadians:

1. Ride the waves in Tofino

On the far west coast, Tofino promises the best surfing in Canada. It has 35km of year-round break (yep, a wetsuit is a must), along with epic scenery and the relaxed atmosphere you’d expect from a laidback beach town surrounded by rainforest.

2. Scale a mountain in Banff

Nothing speaks to Canada’s scenic power quite like the Rockies. If you’re not an experienced mountaineer, you can still traverse the alpine with the Via Ferrata at Mt. Norquay in Banff National Park. Common in the Alps, a Via Ferrata is a network of ladders, cables and bridges that make a mountain face accessible to anyone with a bit of grit and sturdy shoes.

Woman on cliff admiring Moraine Lake and mountains scenic view, Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

3. Canoe tripping in Algonquin

What Ontario lacks in mountains it makes up for with its impressive 250,000 lakes. Nowhere is this more evident than in Algonquin, the country’s oldest provincial park. The true beauty of Algonquin is its promise of complete solitude. Plan a canoe trip and set up camp near a calm lake that you can access from launch points farther north of Highway 60.

4. Hike the Bruce Trail

The Bruce Trail stretches 885km along the Niagara Escarpment from St. Catharines to Tobermory. The whole thing can take more than a month to complete, but there are several well-marked day hikes that explore this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Bruce Peninsula

5. Paddle the 1000 Islands

Sprawled across the St. Lawrence River, these islands are home to history and adventure; 20th-century castles and War of 1812 battle sites punctuate the active archipelago. Take a multi-day kayaking course to get to know the area, or bring your own boat and pitch a tent somewhere off the shores of Gananoque.

6. Cycle La Route Verte

This route in Quebec’s Eastern Townships was hailed as the best cycling route in the world by National Geographic in 2010, three years after the trail’s inauguration. At 5,300km in total, it’s the longest cycling network in the country, weaving past farming communities, cities and riversides (you can even spend the night in a lighthouse). Grab a Quebec cycling guidebook (in French) to plan your trip.

A look at the small town of Percé and its famous Rocher Percé (Perce Rock), part of Gaspe peninsula in Québec.

7. Geocache along the Confederation Trail

Stretching along the island from east to west, the 435-km Confederation Trail is PEI’s portion of the Trans Canada Trail. The path’s gentle gradient makes it accessible for a variety of fitness levels, and there are over 1,600 caches along the route, making it prime for explorers who never travel without their GPS.

8. Climb Gros Morne Mountain

Staring down from the 806-m summit of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne is a humbling endeavor (and proof that you don’t need to travel to Scandinavia for stunning fjords). The 16-km James Callaghan Trail leads through forested paths and a bit of loose rock scrambling before you reach the top.

At the mountain top looking down onto the meandering river

9. Camp under the midnight sun

At summer solstice, experience sunlight for a full 24 hours in northern regions like the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The extra daylight give you lots of time to explore before you set up camp in spots like Kluane National Park. If you want to go all out, visit remote Ivvavik National Park, which has guided Arctic base camp trips from Parks Canada.

Canadians are lucky. Extensive trails, mountains next to cities, and a seemingly endless network of rivers and lakes are ready for us anytime we want to take on a little adventure. It’s your move, explorers.

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Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2019.

Joanie Gaudreau

Writer and fitness enthusiast always chasing her next mountain peak. Also coffee. She chases coffee, too.