Ready, set go! Seven awesome places for trail running

The soft bounce of the forest floor beneath your running shoes, the dappled sunlight as you sprint beneath the leafy canopy of the trees or, running along a historic canal in an urban setting. Trail running is a whole different world to running on the treadmill at the gym. If you’re new to trail running or want inspiration as a practiced pro, check out these seven gorgeous destinations taking in National Parks and National Historic Sites across Canada.

All you need is your Discovery Pass and a good pair of running shoes. Let’s go!

1. Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Trails along the Ottawa locks, Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada, Ontario.

Why? No car? No problem! Make tracks to run alongside the Rideau Canal from the heart of the nation’s capital. The canal runs along 200km from the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario and is a great trail for newbies as it covers flat terrain on a mostly paved route and is easily accessible.

Highlights: See if you can spot any of the waterfowl along the way from great blue herons to the beautiful trumpeter swans who enjoy nesting around Opinicon Lake, or spy some of the four species of turtles who live in the canal.

2. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Running along the Mount Norman Trail on South Pender Island in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, British Columbia.

Why? Covering 15 islands, and dozens of reefs and inlets, this West Coast treasure is blessed with a warm Mediterranean climate and varied terrain taking in beaches, the sea, softly sloping mountains and forest. Look out for orca whales, sea lions and bald eagles.

Highlights: Get your heart pumping! It’s an invigorating 244-metre (800-foot) shore-to-sky trek from the campsites at Beaumont to the summit of Mount Norman on South Pender Island.

3. Kouchibouguac National Park

Friends have fun while running along a trail in Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick.

Why? Soft golden sand dunes, warm beaches and a terrain which takes in everything from shady forest to salt marsh. Listen for the barks of sea lions basking on the beach and see if you can spot moose taking a dip to cool off from the sun.

Highlights: While out for your run, check out some of the other favourite park features such as the golden sand dunes, warm beaches and majestic woods. The verdant trails are available to runners all season long.

4. Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

Trail running in the city at Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, Ontario.

Why? Lace up your running shoes for the 2.2 kilometre Attikamek trail located just across the lock gates on South St. Marys Island. There, in the heart of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, you’ll experience the wonder of quiet woods and wetlands as you wind your way to the St. Marys Rapids. The Sault Canal NHS also has a smooth new entry road! Improvements to the road surface, curbs, walkways and surrounding landscapes make this a great place to run in the heart of the city.

Highlights: Keep your eyes open for the ducks, herons, frogs, squirrels, raccoons and other waterfowl and wildlife that co-habitate along this accessible trail as you run under the International Bridge, built in 1962.

5. Terra Nova National Park

Running along the trails in Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland.

Why? Head to Newfoundland to run through Canada’s most easterly National Park where the boreal forest meets the sea, and red fox and Newfoundland marten thrive.

Highlights: Take the Coastal Trail, an easy 10k past tidal mud flats and the Pissamare Falls meandering along the shoreline and through the heart of the forest. Each year the Park hosts a fun ‘Amazing Race’ event where teams compete as they explore Newman Sound.

6. Riding Mountain National Park

The boardwalk connecting Kinosao Lake and Brûlé trail offers a lovely view of the lake through the tamarack trees.

Why? 400kms of trails for everyone. Perfect for first time couch to 5ker’s to marathon-level athletes. Trails will take you through lush prairie lowlands to the heights of the Manitoba Escarpment whose 65 million year-old rocks soar 750m above sea level

Highlights: Tackle the Brulé trail; a gently rolling path to the shores of Kinosao Lake. Take a break and enjoy the soothing cool lake water on your feet before heading back on the trail.

7. Pukaskwa National Park

Horseshoe Bay in Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario.

Why? Hear the haunting cry of the loon as you run through the boreal forest next to the shores of Lake Superior in the vast protected expanse of Ontario’s only wilderness National Park.

Highlights: Newbie trail runners can enjoy the easy route of the Boardwalk Beach Trail around Horseshoe Bay, while advanced runners can test themselves with an 8K combination run around the Southern Headland trail, Beach Trail, North Loop and Bimose Kinoomagewnan through shady forest and sandy beaches, up naturally built stairs, across wooden bridges and over rocky terrain.

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