A map showing 10 trails across the country. (Illustration: Katy Dockrill)

Topics: Ethical Living | Society

10 spiritual hikes to rejuvenate your soul

If you feel a deeper connection to life, the universe and a higher power when you’re out in nature, you'll love these Canadian caminos

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1. Island Walk
Prince Edward Island 

700 km

 

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This loop starts outside Charlottetown and takes hikers across red-sand beaches and along quiet roads, up one side of Prince Edward Island and down the other. Bryson Guptill, a member of the group Island Trails, decided to create the walk after hiking the Camino de Santiago. “It’s about walking and thinking and the people you run into and chatting with them,” he told the Globe and Mail last year. “And part of what’s so special about P.E.I. is the people.” 

2. The Way of Stella Maris
Nova Scotia 

120 km 

Each summer, this six-day pilgrimage follows rural trails and highways along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, starting at Holy Cross Church in Middle Musquodoboit and ending at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Halifax. Stella Maris means “Star of the Sea,” and it’s an ancient name for Jesus’ mother, Mary. Rev. Rob Elford, a Catholic priest who led the initial pilgrimage in 2019, was inspired by his two journeys on the Camino. According to the pilgrimage’s website, Elford has “a deep sense of knowing the Holy Spirit works through the stillness of the routine of walking pilgrimages.”

3. Sentier Notre-Dame Kapatakan

Quebec

215 km 

Quebec’s take on the Camino starts at the statue of Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay in Rivière-Éternité and ends at the national shrine at Ermitage Saint-Antoine in Lac-Bouchette. Fall is an especially beautiful time to hike here and take in the views of the pastoral countryside and quiet lakes. The trail is dotted with spiritual and cultural sites. (Kapatakan means “portage” or “path” in the Innu language.)


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4. Martyrs’ Shrine
Ontario

89 km 

On local trails, this route leads north of Barrie to Martyrs’ Shrine, a Catholic church and historical site in Midland. The shrine is named for St. Jean de Brébeuf and other Jesuit missionaries who came to Canada 400 years ago from France to try to convert First Nations people in the area. This is a popular pilgrimage site, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year from different faiths and cultures. There are plans to expand the pilgrimage route further south to Toronto. 

5. Sudbury Camino
Ontario

30 km

Also inspired by the Camino de Santiago, this day-long hike takes place on sections of the Trans Canada Trail as well as the Rainbow Routes Association trail network. The route changes every year, and the goal is for participants to try to “challenge yourself, explore and appreciate our community by foot.” Daniel Barrette, the association’s executive director, told the CBC, “The Camino is about slowing down the pace, walking more slowly, being aware of your environment, of yourself.”

6. Crow Wing Trail
Manitoba 

193 km

 

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A section of the Trans Canada Trail, this route runs between Emerson and Winnipeg. It dates back to the 1800s, when it was one of several trails that crossed the Prairies. Back then, it was used to transport goods and people between the Métis Red River Settlement (now Winnipeg) and the Ojibwe, Dakota and Métis Crow Wing Settlement on the Mississippi River (present-day St. Paul, Minn.). 

7. Great Divide Trail
Canadian Rockies 

1,100 km

This trail — which, in some sections, is not always a defined trail — follows the continental divide between British Columbia and Alberta. It passes through the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Cree,Lheidli T’enneh, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, Sinixt and Métis peoples. Historically, Indigenous people used passes along the divide as trading and hunting routes. As the trail’s association describes it: “A journey on the Great Divide Trail promises to be demanding but…you’ll discover a definitive wilderness experience in one of the most magnificent settings on Earth.”

8. Nootka Trail
British Columbia

35 to 40 km 

 

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This secluded wilderness hike on the west coast of Nootka Island is challenging, with slippery roots, mud, tides, rocks and steep slopes to contend with. But the views of sandy beaches, crashing waves and old-growth rainforest are breathtaking. It’s necessary to buy a hiking pass to travel along the final portion of the trail on the traditional territory of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation. When you finish hiking, visit the church in Yuquot, an ancient Mowachaht village.


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9. Dena Cho Trail
Yukon

67 km 

 

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This remote route follows the north bank of the Pelly River from the small First Nations community of Ross River to Faro, offering forested hiking as well as open views over the water. Historically, the Kaska Dena people used the Dena Cho to travel to Mount Mye, which today is home to a Yukon government sheep-viewing centre. There are four cabins along the trail available for public camping. With virtually no cell service, and a high likelihood of seeing bears and other wildlife, this journey is all about appreciating solitude and nature. 

10. Itijjagiaq Trail
Nunavut

120 km 

Located on Baffin Island in Katannilik Territorial Park, this hike takes its name from the Inuktitut word for “over the land.” Inuit have traversed this route for generations. It’s often used by locals to get between Iqaluit and Kimmirut, and it’s now part of the Trans Canada Trail. Recommended for adventurers with backcountry experience, the hike is remote and there are no path markers. The Itijjagiaq Trail is a place to soak up the beauty of the North and bear witness to nature’s phenomena. Hikers may spot caribou, geese, owls and foxes. 

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Rhiannon Russell is a writer in Whitehorse.

This story first appeared in Broadview’s July/August 2022 issue with the title “10 Canadian caminos.”


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