You don't have to travel far from the city to get some dirt under your feet (or wheels) thanks to Canada's vast urban trail networks. Discover wild spaces where you'd least expect them and enjoy all the rugged, off-road fun without the long drive out of town.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC
Destination VancouverThis inner-city gem is well-known for its paved routes, but those who care to step off the seawall will discover a gravel and dirt trail network extending more than 27 kilometres through forests, past beaches and around lagoons.
Best route to explore: Third beach parking lot is a great starting point to explore the picturesque Lovers Walk, Bridle Path and Tatlow Trail. Hollow Tree and Siwash Rock are popular photo opportunities along the way. Check out Prospect Point for sweeping views of the harbour and Lions Gate Bridge.
Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, BC
Grouse Mountain ResortKnown as the Peak of Vancouver, the views from the top of Grouse Mountain are sensational. Hike your way up or start exploring from the gondola. Be prepared for major elevation gains!
Best route to explore: Hikers and trail runners can tackle the notorious Grouse Grind, a 2.5 kilometre, 2,830 step woodland stair climb to the summit with an average gradient of 30 per cent. Alternatively, immediately east of the Grouse Grind, starting from the same trailhead, the BCMC trail offers a quieter, though just as direct, alternative to the top. Those seeking to enjoy a longer (and less steep) route or ride up can tackle the Grouse Mountain Highway trail, a 12-kilometre trail to the summit starting from Lynn Valley.
Fish Creek Park, Calgary, AB
Sharon CrowtherFeaturing over 80 kilometres of pathways and stretching 19 kilometres, this large provincial park in south Calgary features a varied landscape which is hilly to the west and flatter in the east with meandering riverside and grassland trails in one direction and treed slopes carved with single track in the other.
Best route to explore: Park at Shannon Terrace or Bebo Grove and cross the river to access an impressive network of undulating, unmarked forest trails on the park's southern slope. Beneath the park's thick canopy of tree cover, city noise soon disappears. Moose, beavers, coyotes, cougars and occasional bears frequent the park; be wildlife smart.
North Saskatchewan River Valley Park System, Edmonton, AB
Explore EdmontonA thunderous 72.6-square-kilometres large, the North Saskatchewan River Valley Park system and its ravines are home to 90 kilometres of paved trails and 70 kilometres of unpaved gravel and single-track. The network connects more than 30 urban parks in the Edmonton Metropolitan Area. Also known as the Ribbon of Green, it's a spectacular place surrounded by nature.
Bison Butte, Winnipeg, MB
Dan HarperLocated in the Fort Whyte Alive wilderness conservation area in the southwest of the city, Bison Butte is a legacy course from the 2017 Canada Summer Games Mountain Bike competition. Today, it's used by all levels of recreational mountain bikers and trail runners.
Best route to explore: The hand- and machine-built mountain bike trail is just six kilometres long but packs a punch for riders in terms of speed and technical features. Runners and walkers can use the trails but should be vigilant of bikers. An additional 10 kilometres of trails, pathways and a boardwalk lead walkers and runners through woodland around Lake Devonian.
Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto, ON
©Parks Canada / Rouge National Urban ParkCanada's first National Urban Park covers more than 79-square-kilometres, making it the largest urban park in North America. The park is centred around the Rouge River and its tributaries in the Greater Toronto Area. The park's extensive trail network includes a wide variety of rivers, creeks, gullies, meadows and old-growth forest.
Best route to explore: Set off on the popular Vista Trail (park at the trailhead by the zoo) to enjoy the best views of the valley. Crossing Twyn Rivers Drive, take the Mast Trail, a breathtaking 200-year-old logging trail, for a loop to the Glen Rouge campground and back and a total of nine kilometres.
Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, Kingston, ON
Cataraqui Region Conservation AuthorityNorth of Kingston you'll find the spectacular Cataraqui Conservation Area, a 394-hectare protected habitat of wetlands which empty into Lake Ontario. Cataracoui is an Algonquin term meaning ‘great meeting place’; the French derived it into ‘Cataraqui,’ which may mean ‘muddy river’ or ‘impregnable.’ Near Kingston, you'll also find the 104-kilometre Cataraqui Trail, a recreational gravel trail which runs between Smith Falls in the east to Strathcona in the west.
Best route to explore: Take Little Cataraqui Creek Big Loop, starting from the information centre, for a 10-kilometre meander through woods and marshlands. This loop takes you around the perimeter of the conservation area. With less than 100 metres of elevation gain, it's a fast trail and ideal for novice runners.
Parc du Mont Royal, Montreal, QC
@Ibticem Adjal, Les Amis de la montagne photo contest The Mountain in PicturesHike, run or mountain bike on the slopes of the famous Parc du Mont Royal for incredible views of Montreal. Known as the city's Green Jewel, the park features century-old trees, a vast array of wildlife and a long and colourful history.
Best route to explore: Start at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Monument on Park Avenue and take the Olmsted Trail up the mountain, exploring the smaller, quieter trails which branch off as you go. The mix of woodland wandering, single track, gravel and paved paths will easily allow for 10 kilometres of exploring your way to the top.
Gatineau Park, Ottawa, QC
Ottawa TourismOn the doorstep of Ottawa but in the province of Quebec, Gatineau Park is as vast as it is scenic. Over 360-square-kilometres large, the Gatineau Hills form the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, which stretch east through Quebec into Vermont. The park offers more than 180 kilometres of marked trails for running, hiking or biking.
Best route to explore: The challenging 8.3-kilometre Wolf Trail from Blanchet Beach on Meech Lake is a great trail with 220-metre elevation gain from which to experience the landscape of the park. Take a dip in the lake afterwards to cool off.
East Coast Trail, St. Johns, NL
Steve DentyThis sensational long-distance coastal trail hugs the Avalon Peninsula for more than 300 kilometres and runs right through the city of St. Johns. With dramatic bays, cliffs and sea stacks around every corner, the trails immediately north and south of the city are unmissable.
Best route to explore: North from St. Johns, try the nine-kilometre Sugarloaf Path or South from St. Johns, tackle the 21 kilometres Deadman's Bay Path. Both trails have large elevation gains and incredible views.