Family fun in Alberta in 48 hours or less

Family fun in Alberta in 48 hours or less

Exploring the Trans Canada Trail

History, Highlights, and Family Adventures

Beaver River Trestle Bridge, part of the Iron Horse Trail and Trans Canada Trail. Credit: Brandon Born @brandonborn

The Trans Canada Trail, also known as The Great Trail, is a vast network that weaves through the breathtaking landscapes of Canada. Stretching over 28,000 kilometers, it is the world’s longest network of recreational trails, crossing every province and territory in Canada, and offering endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

The History of the Trans Canada Trail

The idea for the Trans Canada Trail was born in 1992, inspired by Canada’s 125th anniversary of Confederation. The trail was envisioned as a project to connect communities across the country and to celebrate Canada’s rich natural and cultural heritage.

It officially began to take shape under the leadership of The Trans Canada Trail Foundation, a non-profit organization established to oversee the development and maintenance of the trail. By 2017, the trail was fully connected from coast to coast to coast, making it a symbol of national unity and pride.

The Alberta Portion of the Trans Canada Trail

Alberta’s segment of the Trans Canada Trail offers a diverse range of experiences, from urban pathways to rugged wilderness trails. Here are the key sections of the Alberta portion of the trail and their highlights:

1. West Bragg Creek Trail

Stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, dense forests, and diverse wildlife.  Provides access between the communities of Calgary, Cochrane, Redwood, Bragg Creek and Canmore.

2. High Rockies Trail

Spectacular scenery of the Canadian Rockies, numerous lakes, and suspension bridges. Connects Goat Creek at the Banff National Park boundary to Elk Pass on the Alberta/B.C. boundary.  The westernmost section of the Trans Canada Trail in Alberta.

3. Edmonton River Valley Trails

The largest urban parkland in North America, with over 160 kilometers of maintained pathways.

4. Iron Horse Trail

Follows an abandoned CN line for 177 km, from Heinsburg to Waskatenau, crossing through several communities. 

5. Banff Legacy Trail

Scenic route connecting Banff and Canmore, with stunning mountain views.

Notable Achievements on the Trans Canada Trail

Several adventurers have completed the entire Trans Canada Trail, gaining recognition for their incredible feats. Notably, Sarah Jackson became the first woman to hike the trail from coast to coast, finishing her journey in 2017. Their stories inspire many to explore the trail and appreciate its beauty and challenges.

Tips for Exploring the Trans Canada Trail with Your Family

The Trans Canada Trail offers countless ways for families to explore and enjoy its beauty:

Hiking and Walking

  • Choose family-friendly sections with well-maintained paths and moderate distances.
  • Pack plenty of water, snacks, and a first aid kit.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the terrain and weather conditions.


  • Many sections of the trail are suitable for cycling. Ensure bikes are in good condition and bring repair kits.
  • Helmets are a must for safety.

RV Road Trips

  • Combine trail exploration with an RV road trip. Find campgrounds along the trail for convenient overnight stays.
  • Plan your route to include multiple trail sections and scenic stops.

Picnics and Nature Watching

  • Pack a picnic and enjoy it at one of the many scenic spots along the trail.
  • Bring binoculars and a camera for wildlife and nature observation.

Additional Tips and Hints

Trail Etiquette: Respect other trail users by following trail rules, staying on marked paths, and keeping noise levels down.

Safety: Always let someone know your plans and estimated return time. Carry a map, compass, or GPS device.

Weather Preparedness: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes, especially in mountain areas.

Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding camping, fires, and wildlife interactions.


The Trans Canada Trail offers endless opportunities for family adventures, whether you’re hiking through the Rockies, biking urban pathways, or embarking on a scenic RV road trip. By exploring Alberta’s portion of the trail, you’ll discover the province’s natural beauty and rich history while creating unforgettable family memories.