In 1992, three Canadians, inspired by their country’s 125th birthday celebration, thought up a crazy plan. What if they could connect all of Canada’s hiking trails, footpaths, rail trails, and boardwalks and into one giant mega-trail that snaked from coast to coast?
It’s now 2017. Canada has celebrated its 150th birthday. And on August 26th, those three dreamers—along with the thousands of volunteers who helped clear brush, fix planks, put up signs, and do all the other little tasks that make wilderness passable—celebrated the coast-to-coast connection of what they’re calling the Great Trail.
As MTLBlog reports, the trail can be used for biking, hiking, and horseback riding in the summer, and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. “First you build it, then get people using it and then it becomes an icon that will hopefully last forever,” Paul LaBarge, one of the original founders, told the Globe and Mail.
The path stretches 24,000 kilometers, or nearly 15,000 miles, criss-crossing southern Canada before forming a huge loop in the Northwest. A quarter of this length is water—wetland and river routes where hikers will have to trade boots for boats.
It’s almost four times as long as the Grand Italian trail, which covers all of Italy. It’s also over five times as long as the West Coast’s famed Pacific Crest Trail, and over six times as long as the Appalachian. (In case you were wondering, it would take a roller-grill hot dog 76 years and 256 days to travel the entire trail network.)
The trail is far from finished. As LaBarge tells the Globe and Mail, connection is merely “phase one.” Now, signs must be added, more funds must be raised for upkeep, and—most importantly—people must be brought out to actually use it.
After a few news articles jumped the gun and called the trail “complete,” the Trail’s twitter account jumped in to correct them: “It is not, it is CONNECTED,” it clarified. “Work remains to be done but it’s time to 🎉.” (That emoji is presumably a cone of trail mix.) If you’d like to join in, this map will tell you the closest spot to hop on. Happy hiking!
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