Get Outside (But Stay Safe): 11 Ways to Save Your Summer in Canada

Editor’s Note:

Please—follow all physical distancing/hygiene/group regulations and guidelines. Check with the operator and/or park(s) before your proceed, as the COVID-19 situation is ongoing.

Stay local and stay safe—only proceed with these adventures when it is safe to do so (even if it’s next summer).

This summer, we won’t be travelling far. We like to think of that as an opportunity. No matter where you live in Canada, you’ve got an amazing backyard and we bet you haven’t seen it all.

With staycations in mind, we’ve gathered 11 adventures close to Canadian cities that require little planning or preparation. So pick your city—and get outside!

Big City, Wild Islands

Nearby: Victoria, BC

This archipelago an easy paddle off the city of Victoria is so wild it was home to a wolf for years. Takaya is gone now, but kayakers paddling through the Oak Bay Islands often see seals, sea lions, otters, bald eagles and occasionally orcas. The islets and rocks are also important for bird nesting. Most are ecological reserve or First Nations’ land, but paddlers can go ashore at the provincial park on the south side of Discovery Island. Haul up to stretch legs with a walk around the trails or make it an overnight and pitch a tent in the campground.


Off-Road Sea to Sky

Nearby: Vancouver, BC

Leave the cars racing to-and-from Whistler behind on the Sea to Sky Trail. The 78-kilometre gravel trail between Squamish and Whistler shares the same views of glacier cloaked mountains, raging whitewater canyons and towering forests as the highway. Expect a challenging pedal on the way north—780 metres of elevation gain—with a few hike-a-bikes. Heading south it’s a roller coaster. The fit can do it as a day trip, up and back. Or drag it out, camping along the way, spending a night in (or near) Whistler, or continuing on to Pemberton and D’Arcy on a mix of trail and road.


Okanagan High Rim

Nearby: Kelowna/Vernon, BC

You can hike between the Okanagan cities of Vernon and Kelowna. The High Rim Trail runs atop a ridgeline on the east side of Okanagan Lake between the two towns, through impressive stands of cedar and Douglas-fir, past epic views of the arid valley and with stops at quiet lakes and remote campsites. The 55-kilometre route starts on either end with a serious grunt out of the valley, but once on the “Rim,” it’s pleasant walking. Most people take three to four days, but it’s also possible to break it up into day hikes with forest service roads.


Hike without Crowds

Nearby: Calgary, AB

Highway 532 is the most scenic road no one knows about in Alberta. It cuts west from the rolling foothills south of Calgary and climbs high into the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains before joining Highway 40. The quiet mountains lack the protection further north, but the industrial roads have their uses. Bring a mountain bike and pedal up them before heading off overland, following wildlife trails and instinct to access distant alpine terrain, like the massive summit of Plateau Mountain, along the bumps of Windy Peak or to the epic view from Hailstone Butte fire lookout. 


Meadow Wandering

Nearby: Regina, SK

Bring a map and your orienteering skills to Grasslands National Park’s East Block and go for a wander in the wild short-grass prairie. Navigating the many drainages and flat country can be challenging but the reward is solitude and big sky. Two possible destinations are the Red Buttes, an eight-kilometre cross-country ramble to red sandstone hillsides, and into the hoodoos of the Valley of 1,000 Devils.


Book a Private Island

Nearby: Winnipeg, MB

Adventure Island has everything you could wish for when it comes to outdoor adventure—and you won’t have to share it with anyone else. Bring your family to this secluded getaway for an immersive nature experience. Enjoy a private 1.2-kilometre hiking trail with varying elevation or explore the countless trails on the mainland. The island is surrounded by old gold mine caves on nearby uninhabited islands. These islands can be explored via a short kayak trek. Swim, paddleboard, fish or just enjoy the peaceful nature of your own rented island.


Paddle the Upper Ottawa

Nearby: Ottawa, ON

One of the most impressive sights on the upper Ottawa River is Oiseau Rock, a sheer granite cliff rising 150 metres straight out of the water. It sits on the Quebec side. But the best way to reach it is by paddling 12 kilometres downstream from Deep River, Ontario. A trail near the base of the cliff leads to the summit and an expansive view of the Ottawa valley. With little current in this part of the river, it’s doable as an out and back in a day. Drag it out over several, or paddle all the way back to Ottawa.


Weekend in the Islands

Nearby: Toronto, ON

Easy to access, approachable and sheltered, the Thousand Islands are made for long-weekend paddles. After launching from Gananoque into the Thousand Islands National Park paddle into the Admiralty Group of Islands. There are shipwrecks to paddle over, wetlands to explore and plenty of places to stop for a swim. Many of the larger islands have campgrounds and walking trails.


Your Own Triathlon

Nearby: Toronto, ON

Hold your own multi-sport adventure at Ontario’s Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Start by paddling around the park’s bay and into the marsh, sheltered from the waves and wind of Lake Ontario, keeping watch for the more than 300 bird species that stop here. Back on dry land, switch to running gear and high-tail it around the eight-kilometre Pioneer and Newcastle trails, two connected loops that cut through forest and fields. Round off the trifecta by diving into Lake Ontario from the park’s sandy beach, often listed as one of the finest in the province. Don’t forget to see the lighthouse, too!


New Base for La Mauricie

Nearby: Quebec City & Montreal, QC

Overlooking the Saint-Mauricie River and just outside La Mauricie National Park, the 18 new cottages at Le 2800 du Parc are perfectly situated for a multi-sport weekend. The park between Quebec City and Montreal is an epicentre of hundreds of kilometres of paddling routes, beautiful, rolling country roads, mountain biking trails, more than 16 hikes, a high ropes and zip-line course through the forest and a lake right out front of the cabins for swimming, stand-up paddling and fishing.


Harness the Wind

Nearby: Charlottetown, PE

Two interesting facts about Prince Edward Island: It has more than 1,100 kilometres of coastline; and it’s one of the most consistently windy places in North America. The combo makes “the million-acre farm” a worthy destination for more than Avonlea—it’s one of the best kitesurfing destinations in the world. For newbie fliers, PEI Kiteboarding has lessons and uses wireless communication system for safety and to quicken learning.


PS. Want to get geared up to Live the Adventure?

Join explore magazine‘s Live the Adventure Club.

Four times a year, we’ll deliver a box full of brand-new adventure gear right to your door. Each box contains gear items valued at over $150 for only $97 plus tax!

Sign up now and we’ll even cover shipping!