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How to choose a hiking trail

If you can walk, then you can hike. Now, we aren’t suggesting your first hike is up to the top of a mountain, but hiking can be an easy-going and enjoyable activity for people of all fitness levels.

Here are some tips for how to choose a trail:

Research your trails before heading out

Some trails can be deceiving! A hike may be short, but the trail could be very steep, making it a difficult hike. There is a trail rating scale to help you choose hiking trails for your level of experience:

Easy - The trail itself is obvious and easy to follow. It is uniform, groomed/maintained, relatively flat, and short.

Moderate - There is more of an ascent on moderate trails. They are relatively steady, are a bit longer than easy trails, and may have some roots and rocks.

Strenuous/Advanced - These trails are likely steeper and have more changes in terrain. They cover more remote areas and are usually littered with obstacles like roots and rocks. Of course, they are also the longest out of the three.

Choose a trail that matches your experience and fitness level (be realistic)

Hiking on a trail that is too advanced can cause you problems, like being overtired, getting injured, being unable to finish, and generally not enjoying your hike. If you do something within your comfort level, you will enjoy it and want to do it again! Eventually, you will grow in experience to tackle those more strenuous hikes.

When you’re a beginner, hike somewhere close to home

You are familiar with the area and the climate and you can easily get home if you want to cut your trip short. Something close to a city is likely to be more popular than areas in the deep wilderness. These spots are safer for beginners since there are lots of people around. But even if you don’t live near a city, there are plenty of trails to explore near your home.

Choose a trail that matches your hiking goal

Are you looking for incredible scenery? Pick a trail with great look-out points and resting spots. Do you want to learn about plants and wildlife? Go on a nature walk! Many parks offer guided nature hikes where you can learn from experts about local wildlife. Are you hoping for a good workout? Look for trails that are relatively flat for running, or ones that offer varied terrain for more exercise-driven hiking. You can even join a local walking or running group for a social hike and extra motivation!

Here are some trails that we recommend:


• Middlebrun Bay in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (1-2 hrs)
• Orchard Trail in Rouge National Urban Park (30-60 mins)
• Dossyonshing Trail in Georgian Bay Islands National Park (2 hrs)
• Cyprus Lake Trail in Bruce Peninsula National Park (1-2 hrs)
• Elora Gorge Trail in Elora (2 hrs)


• Cup and Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island (~4 hrs)
• Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park (~6 hrs)
• White Bear Forest Old Growth Trail at Finlayson Point Provincial Park (8 hrs)


• Highland Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park (~5 days)
• Top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (5-7 hrs)
• Kag Trail in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park (30-60 mins)

  • Visit places mentioned in this article