Travel

8 waterside trails near major Canadian cities for gorgeous warm weather walks

These scenic blue spaces offer lake, river or ocean views that are easy for city dwellers to get to.

These scenic blue spaces offer lake, river or ocean views that are easy for city dwellers to get to

Left: 5 people walking on a trail, surrounded by green, grassy marshlands, with ocean and mountains in the background. Right: A lakeshore at sunset. 2 people are paddling an inflatable boat, and some are sitting and relaxing on sandbanks.
(Source, left: Tourism Richmond; right: Martin Lortz/Great Lakes Waterfront Trail)

The soft sound of waves lapping against the shore, sun glinting off rippling currents, crisp fresh air — being near water is a sensory experience all its own, so it's no surprise researchers are drawing connections between access to blue spaces and mental well-being

Sunset strolls on the beach or boardwalk may be regular rituals for Canadians living along a coastline, but for many city dwellers, accessing blue space requires a bit more effort — especially when it comes to combing local waterfront areas for that perfect combination of views and a bit of solitude.

To help you find some calm, and maybe even a great spot for a dip or picnic, we set out to uncover some of the best waterside walking trails across Canada. These spots are all within an hour's drive of major cities, accessible by public transit and will have you completely immersed in your surroundings this summer.

Live in the Vancouver area? Head to the West Dyke Trail in Richmond

5 people walking on a trail, surrounded by green, grassy marshlands, with ocean and mountains in the background
(Source: Tourism Richmond)

Ideal for a stroll by the seaside, the West Dyke Trail in Richmond features six kilometres of flat terrain. The trail runs from Garry Point Park in the south to Terra Nova Rural Park in the north, and is bursting with natural beauty. Stroll past the lush green marshlands of Sturgeon Banks, situated alongside the Strait of Georgia. The North Shore Mountains are visible as you walk the trail, and you'll spot the peaks of the Gulf Islands in the distance. 

How to get there: There is parking at both ends of the trail for drivers. Those travelling from downtown Vancouver via transit will want to hop on the Canada Line to Richmond-Brighouse Station, where you can take a bus to either park. To get to Terra Nova Rural Park, transfer to bus 401, and get off at the intersection of No. 1 Road and Westminster Highway. For Garry Point Park, transfer to bus 401, 402, 406 or 407. 

Good to know: Dogs are welcome, but they must be on a leash at all times. If you're starting from Terra Nova Rural Park, you can conclude your journey at one of the beaches in Garry Point Park or walk into the historic village of Steveston and stroll through the nearby Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. The heritage park boasts a collection of some of the oldest buildings along the banks of the Fraser River. 

Live in the Calgary area? Head to the Bowmont Park Pathway

2 people standing on a wooden deck looking out over a river with trees on both sides of the river.
(Source: Lori Beattie, Fit Frog Adventures)

For some instant serenity, set your sights on Bowmont Natural Environment Park and Dale Hodges Park on the outskirts of Calgary. Choose the Bow River Pathway for the best water views. The south part of the trail, which is situated along the Bow River, boasts wildflower-filled grasslands, Rocky Mountain vistas and even a waterfall nearby. 

How to get there: Drivers can park at the east end parking lot on 52 Street N.W. just off Home Road N.W. Those taking transit from downtown Calgary should hop on the No. 1 bus to 52 Street N.W. 

Good to know: Walk west off the Bow River Pathway through the Dale Hodges Park's wetlands and you'll descend into Waterfall Valley, where you'll encounter the valley's namesake three-metre spectacle. Looking for a more immersive experience? Lori Beattie, a local guidebook author and the owner of Fit Frog Adventures, offers guided tours in the area year-round.

Live in the Whitehorse area? Head to the Miles Canyon Loop

2 people looking at a map and standing on a walking path overlooking a turquoise river surrounded by forest
(Source: Paddy Pallin/Nathan Hendry)

When it comes to gorgeous bodies of water, it's hard to beat the wild turquoise depths of the Yukon River, the third longest river in North America. The full Miles Canyon Loop is a 15-kilometre trek, but for a shorter hike along the water, follow the portion of the trail that lies along the river's edge. And whether you walk or drive, don't miss the chance for a photo op on the 26-metre-long suspension bridge.  

How to get there: Drivers can access the trail via Miles Canyon Road off the Alaska Highway or a second entrance off Robert Service Way. No wheels? No problem. You can also make a full day of your riverside walking experience. Starting in Whitehorse, walk the Millennium Trail to the fish ladder and follow the path along the Yukon River, which will lead you to the canyon.

Good to know: In summer, the Yukon Conservation Society runs free interpretive hikes that offer information on flora and fauna as well as insight into the area's past as a First Nations' fishing camp and Gold Rush thoroughfare. Dogs are welcome, but be aware of bear activity and consider bringing bear spray.

Live in the Winnipeg area? Head to the Seine River Greenway South Trail 

a shallow river in the middle of the image, with trees on both sides, and a walking trail on the right.
(Source: Tourism Winnipeg)

With ample tree cover and well-groomed trails, this two-kilometre pathway following the Seine River is a great option even on hot summer days. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, turtles and "The Hand" — a giant statue of an open palm located on the southern portion of the trail.

How to get there: Drivers can park at the nearby Southglen Shopping Centre, which is a few minutes' walk from the trail, while those opting to take transit should board the No. 55 bus from downtown Winnipeg to the Eastbound Compark at St. Anne's stop.

Good to know: The trail is currently interrupted at 180 Creek Bend Road due to a new development, but with its completion, walkers will be able to travel smoothly all the way from Royalwood Bridge to the Perimeter Highway. Dogs are welcome on a leash, and there are plenty of benches along the trail for those wanting to stop for a snack or rest.

Live in the Toronto area? Head to the Rouge Marsh Trail 

A lakeshore at sunset. 2 people are paddling an inflatable boat, and some are sitting and relaxing on sandbanks.
(Source: Martin Lortz/Great Lakes Waterfront Trail)

It's hard to believe this waterside oasis is just a stone's throw from downtown Toronto. The Rouge Marsh Trail, part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail network spanning 3,600 kilometres, runs along Lake Ontario through part of Canada's first national urban park. The Rouge National Urban Park is home to 1,700 species of plants, fungi and animals including deer, coyote, opossums, beavers, porcupines and even black bears. Start at the Rouge Hill GO station and take a two-kilometre stroll along the Waterfront Trail toward Rouge Beach, where you can spend the day swimming and sunbathing.

How to get there: Parking is scarce, so your best bet is to take transit. Hop on the Lakeshore East GO train and exit at Rouge Hill station. You can access the trail right from the platform or walk northeast to Chesterton Shores to start your stroll.

Good to know: Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leash and kept away from wildlife. There are also no concessions in the area, so you'll want to bring your own snacks. Finally, save some extra time to cross the pedestrian bridge heading northeast, where you'll be treated to a stunning view via a lookout over the Rouge River.

Live in the Montreal area? Head to Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques 

4 young people at a beach at sunset, running into the lake
(Source: Yves Kéroack, Ville de Montréal)

Framed by Lac des Deux Montagnes and Rivière des Prairies, Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques on the western part of the island boasts great water access and plenty to explore. For the best walk along the water, take the red trail running along the river from the reception chalet to the ecological farm (roughly 2.5 kilometres), where you can visit with goats, cows and horses, and purchase fresh produce.

How to get there: Drivers will want to park in the P1 lot for easy access to the red trail. Those travelling by transit from downtown Montreal will want to make their way to Metro to Côte-Vertu station and use a transit planner to find the best bus routes to the park for the time of day. Planning your visit on a Saturday? If you're lucky, you might be able to score a seat on the free shuttle bus departing from Berri-UQAM station. 

Good to know: The park is also home to a lovely sandy beach perfect for a summer swim in the lake. (Note: it's on the opposite side of the park from the waterfront trail, and entry fees apply for everyone over five years old.) Dogs are allowed on the red trail on a leash but are prohibited on the beach.

Live in the Fredericton area? Head to the South Riverfront Trail

Overhead shot of a small city on a river in summer with lots of trees, 2 bridges over the water and a walking trail visible along the river.
(Source: Fredericton Capital Region Tourism)

Traverse Fredericton in the most scenic way possible via the South Riverfront Trail. It runs 3.6 kilometres along the Saint John River, from the Delta hotel at one end to the Salamanca Trail at the other, and passes a number of notable spots along the way including Government House, the Historic Garrison District and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

How to get there: Parking is available at the Delta hotel; behind the Victoria Health Centre; on Carleton Street near the library; at Morrell Park on Waterloo Row near the ball field; and along Queen Street. Public transit's central hub is Kings Place Mall on King Street, just two blocks from the trail. 

Good to know: If you fancy a beverage and have your furry friend in tow, head across the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge (near the south end of the trail) for a pint at dog-friendly Picaroons Brewing Company, which boasts local microbrews and a stick library for pups.

Live in the Halifax area? Head to the seawall walkway at Sir Sandford Fleming Park

2 people walking away from camera on a paved walking trail along an inlet on the ocean. Trees with fall foliage are on the left of them, and large homes are visible behind the water, in the background on the right.
(Source: Tourism Nova Scotia/Carolina Andrade)

Crisp Atlantic breezes and scenic, saltwater views abound during a stroll along the seawall walkway, situated on Halifax's Northwest Arm inlet. The 2.1-kilometre pathway sits within a park donated to the city in 1908 by Sir Sandford Fleming, the father of international standard time and designer of Canada's first postage stamp.

How to get there: There's on-site parking at Sir Sandford Fleming Park for drivers. Those taking transit from downtown Halifax will want to use a transit planner to find the quickest route to the park. (The nearest bus stop is Purcells Cove Road after Colindale Street, and the park is an eight-minute walk from there.)

Good to know: Sir Sandford Fleming Park is also home to a sandy beach for swimming and the iconic Dingle Tower, proposed by Fleming to commemorate 150 years of representative government in Nova Scotia. As with most public parks, dogs are welcome if they remain on a leash. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jen O'Brien is an award-winning editor and freelance writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Instagram @thejenobrien.

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