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The Trans Canada Trail: Ontario

In September 2016, The Trans-Canada Trail was renamed "The Great Trail of Canada." In June, 2021, it went back to being called the Trans Canada Trail. Go figure.

The Great Trail of Canada incorporates a number of trails across Canada, many with distinctive characteristics that make parts of this trail world-class and parts unfriendly to walkers. A few sections are waterways, so bring your canoe!

(The official page, lacks statistics, etc. You can get a better idea of the trail through the Wikipedia page. However, the official page has a great map.)

While the dream is a coast-to-coast trail, it has breaks. Sections end and the trail picks up again to the north or south, with little bits here and there.

A warning: Edmund A. Aunger, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alberta has this to say about the trail:  "Lacking both uniform standards and control, the Trans Canada Trail includes a confusing and dangerous hodgepodge of mountain-bike paths, roadside ditches, dirt ruts, gravel roads and hazardous ATV trails." This quote, from an article by Aunger is a must-read for anyone who really wants to understand the complicated politics of the trails—and the dangers.

Aunger's wife, Elizabeth Anne Sovis, was killed while cycling a portion of the trail in Prince Edward Island.

Aunger has a point. The trail organizers say that the complete  24,000 kilometres of trail have been achieved. However, by 2017 (the latest stats I could find), "only 7,898 kilometres of the trail are actual off-road trails, or 32 per cent," according to a Maclean's magazine article. Trail officials sometimes juggle figures, aso it's hard to get a clear idea of what is and isn't off road. In short, a lot of the trail is simply the edge of a busy road. If you read the articles above and follow related articles, you'll find that both provincial and federal governments of all political stripes don't pay much attention to this. Some positively pander to the ATV/motorized bike/snowmobile crowd, slavering over their bucks and their political power.

The sections I have walked in the area of central Ontario that I live in are disappointing. Abandoned rail beds can be (but are not always) straight and boring; however, they are not a complete loss as they pass through some beautiful terrain. Sections near me allow motorized vehicles which make them dangerous and they have low air quality if there is a steady flow of vehicles.

On the other hand, sections like the Voyageur Hiking Trail (between Sudbury and Thunder bay), or those in more developed areas in the south sound exciting and I'm anxious to give them a try.

The official Trans Canada Trail site has a great trail map that will pinpoint trails and lead you to pages that will give you more specific information on sections of the trail. It's an essential tool, as some sections of the trail are not marked as the Trans Canada Trail. It's beyond me why one unmarked road links one part of the trail to another and yet at another spot the trail breaks off and doesn't officially link to another section via a road.

It seems that the "multi-use" nature of parts of the trail does not encourage fervent allegiance to it in the same way as (say) the Appalachian Trail in the United States acts as a kind of Mecca for walkers. As long as vehicles are allowed in sections, the charm of a coast-to-coast-trail  is weakened. Still, perhaps as the trail develops, it can incorporate sections for non-motorized activities only and leave the road-like trails to the vehicles.

Check out my page on rails to trails if you want more information on rail companies that built and ran some of the rail lines described.

The Trans-Canada Trail) in Ontario
Sections walked are described from east to west. These are the sections I have walked.

Sharbot Lake to Kaladar
Kaladar to Tweed
Tweed to Bonarlaw
Bonarlaw to Campbellford
Campbellford to Hastings

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Page Created: February 3, 2009
Updated: September 6, 2021