There are adventurers and then there are these daredevils we’re about to present to you. Bold travellers who have clawed up mountains, trekked across glaciers, and voyaged to some of the most remote places on earth. We interviewed them for their picks of the most extreme experiences in Canada. Think you can follow in their footsteps? Let’s find out!
Maligne Canyon Icewalk – Jasper, Alberta
Expert: Matt Gibson of Xpatt Matt
“It’s hard to nail down any one adventure as the ‘most epic’ because Canada is so full of rad things to do that are all epic in their own ways.
When people talk about these kinds of things, most people will point to mountains to climb, or rivers to raft, and that sort of thing. So, I thought I’d tell you about one of the most uniquely epic adventures I’ve been on.
The Maligne Canyon Icewalk, just outside of Jasper, Alberta, blew me away. Maligne Canyon is a tall, narrow gorge that sits between two tectonic plates. The walls are sheer and up to 30 meters tall. In the summer, it’s filled to the top with a powerful river, which is fed through a network of underground streams that trickle into the canyon through its walls.
In the winter, all that water freezes and the river level drops dramatically, leaving only a flat strip of ice along the bottom of the gorge. The water trickling in from the sides of the canyon decorate the walls with spectacular ice formations, and there are several ice waterfalls and caves along the walk.”
Expedia.ca tip: Jasper National Park is one of those places you need to experience at least once in your lifetime. We suggest looking through the largest telescope in the Canadian Rockies at the Jasper Planetarium, zipping through the waters in a whitewater raft with Wild Current Outfitters, and endeavoring in some savage mountain biking with Vicious Canada.
Summiting Heart Mountain – Bow River Valley, Alberta
Expert: Tanya Koob of Family Adventures in Canadian Rockies
“Last weekend we hiked to the summit of a popular mountain, Heart Mountain, located 30 minutes east of the Town of Banff along the TransCanada Highway. Heart Mountain is appropriately named for the heart-shaped summit you can see from the highway, and this hike sees a lot of foot traffic on the short ascent that can be tackled in a quick 2-hour walk up.
In my family though, we don’t do “normal,” and so we took our approach to Heart Mountain a little bit differently. First, we did the outing, a challenging hike for most adults, with two 8-year old boys. The approach required climbing a small exposed cliff band and also required a lot of hands-on moments where we ascended steep terrain, holding onto rocks to pull ourselves up, and trying not to look down.
For our descent, we chose to return via the Heart Horseshoe, a multi-peaked loop that took us 4.5 hours to complete (in addition to the 2.5-hour climb up.) It was a long day and the boys tired of going up and down endless peaks, one after another on our long alpine ridge walk. The horseshoe loop turned our day into a real adventure though, and we had a much easier time descending the far side of the horseshoe without the steep scrambling we did on our ascent.
I love challenging kids and giving them opportunities to show us adults what they are truly capable of doing. They never cease to amaze me with their energy, endurance, and strength.”
Expedia.ca tip: You have a ton of outdoorsy wonders at your fingertips when you visit the area. Take time to explore Bow Valley Provincial Park, get your feet wet along Bow River, and take stunning photos of Grant MacEwan Peak. Or, if you want to balance wilderness with city life, downtown Calgary is just an hour away.
Backcountry Ski Trip – Bow Lake, Alberta to Field, British Columbia
Expert: Jeff Bartlett of Jeff Bartlett Media
“When I think about my favourite Canadian adventures, my mind settles on winter in the Canadian Rockies. I recently completed the Little Yoho Ski Traverse across the Wapta Icefield, which is an epic 4-day backcountry ski tour across the continental divide. The trip begins at Bow Lake, Alberta, which is one of the most scenic locations in the Canadian Rockies. After three days on the Wapta Icefield, the route descends past Takakkaw Falls to Field, British Columbia. Along the way, we stayed at three Alpine Club of Canada backcountry huts: Bow Hut, Richard and Louise Guy hut, and Stanley Mitchell Hut.
Throughout the trip, we summited Mt. Olive, crossed the Wapta Icefield, and descended the Poilus Glacier. It felt like a wild adventure, too, as we carried avalanche and crevasse rescue equipment. We skied as a rope team, tied into the rope 10 m intervals that is considered the standard for crossing glaciers and their hidden crevasses. Our trip went smooth, so they were four of the most rewarding days I have ever spent in the mountains.”
Expedia.ca tip: You’re likely starving once you arrive in Field, and there’s one place you absolutely must try: Truffle Pigs bistro. Once you’ve fueled up, burn off calories while rock climbing around the ethereal Lake Louise area (26 km from Field) or white water rafting along the Kicking Horse River with a group like Glacier Raft Company.
Rock Climbing in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park – Penticton, British Columbia
Expert: Josée Bergeron of Backwoods Mama
“The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is well known for its sandy beaches, delicious wine, and tree-ripened fruit, but it also happens to be an internationally renowned rock climbing destination. Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park is located just south of Penticton, BC and this climbing hot spot boasts 66 separate crags and over 1,000 routes. The great thing about this park is that it’s the perfect spot for an epic family rock climbing adventure. These days, rock climbing is for everyone—families and kids included! This spring we’ve been taking our three kids climbing at Skaha Bluffs and they’ve been building up some serious grit and self-confidence. Rock climbing as a family is an adventure that you won’t forget, and it’s one that you can return to again and again. If your family is looking for something epic to do outside this summer, then rock climbing at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park is where you want to go.”
Expedia.ca tip: Not only is rock climbing popular around here, but biking and kayaking are also top favs. Of course, if you would prefer to take it easy after hitting the summit, check out the SS Sicamous (the largest stern wheeler in the country) or order some pineapple cheesecake and listen to live music at the Dream Café.
Hiking Elk Island National Park – Edmonton, Alberta
Expert: Laurel Robbins of Monkeys and Mountains
“My most epic Canadian adventure is hiking with bison in Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton. It’s not only one of the best places to see bison on the entire planet, it’s also only second to the Serengeti in numbers of hoofed wildlife. While you can observe them from the safety of your car, a much more fun and adventurous option is to go for a hike. Choose one of the trails where the approximately 750 bison are known to hang out—but proceed with caution. They’re the largest terrestrial animal in North America and can weigh up to 900 kg (2000 lbs). It should also go without saying to watch where you step. While I normally prefer hiking in mountains to hiking in grasslands, this is such a rare opportunity to get up.”
Expedia tip: Can’t get enough animals? The Edmonton Zoo is a can’t-miss attraction when you’re resting up in the city. You may also want to get your thrills at Galaxyland Amusement Park, or aim your trip for the extremely popular K-Days festival.
Helicoptering – Stave Glacier Range, British Columbian Mountains
Expert: Nadine Sykora of Hey Nadine
“Born and raised in British Columbia, I have a soft spot for all types of travel around this province. I’ve been all along the coast and across the province, but I’ve never been above it; a bird’s eye view. Which is why when my friend Mischa took myself and my boyfriend Matt on a helicopter ride over Stave Lake and up onto the Stave Glacier Range, it instantly topped my list. Seeing how grand and majestic our province is, reaffirmed my love for BC. And the cherry on top: We landed on an old logging road for a dip at the Pitt River Hot Springs. Our own private natural hot springs only accessible by, you guessed it, helicopter or boat.”
Expedia tip: After experiencing dizzying heights, it’s only right to get some downhome grub at Old Bauernhaus Restaurant in nearby Kimberley. And if you want to continue to stretch while in town, hit up the popular Spirit Rock climbing gym or any of the local golf courses.
Panorama Ridge Hike – Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Expert: Alicia Haque of Go Live Explore
“One of my favourite Canadian adventures is the hike up to Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful spots in BC and although at 30km it’s quite the challenge, the incredible views from the top make the sore legs all worthwhile! With the stunning mountain vistas, bright turquoise glacier lake, and the amazing wildlife that lives there (including bears!) it’s undoubtedly the best hike I’ve ever done and I’ve never seen a view quite like it.”
Expedia tip: After traversing the mountains on foot, fancy a quick ride down one of the mountains? Make your way to nearby Whistler, where you can zip line down the mountains with Ziptrek Ecotours. Or, take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for incredible views.
Expert: Kenton de Jong of Kenton de Jong Travel
“Saskatchewan is known for being green, but not so much for its abundant trees. If you venture north however, you’ll find things are very different. Instead of being surrounded by a sea of wheat, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a dense forest with one hundred thousand lakes. With jagged cliffs, rocky hills, and sporadic outside communication, Northern Saskatchewan is a nature escape you didn’t know you needed. When visiting here, prepare to hike, fish, swim, and canoe yourself to countless adventures. On your way, you’ll find rapids, waterfalls, hiking paths and a sun that never sets. If you look carefully, you can even see rock paintings done centuries past to guide travellers just like you down the winding, twisting rivers. Northern Saskatchewan is a world lost in time, and one that is waiting for you to explore.”
Expedia tip: When you venture into the northern area of the province, you won’t meet anyone who isn’t an avid boater or hiker. Give your oar arms and walking feet a workout in areas like Wollaston Lake, Fond-du-Lac, and Gunnar.
Ivvavik National Park – Yukon
Expert: Robin Esrock of The Great Canadian Bucket List
“My Great Canadian Bucket List took me to every province and territory many times, with so many standout adventures. Crossing the Northwest Passage, conquering the West Coast Trail, ziplining, kayaking, horse riding, rafting, biking, canoeing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, dog sledding, sailing, ice-climbing, cave bashing, heli-skiing, surfing, snowmobiling, and even something called deepelling, which is a sort of reverse abseil. It’s hard to pick one stand-out, but one fine Canada Day I found myself in Ivvavik National Park in northern Yukon, on a magnificent hike called Halfway to Heaven. More people visit Everest Base Camp each year than visit Ivvavik, where Parks Canada offers a comfortable base camp complete with bear fences, hot meals, and flush toilets. Flying in over the stunning Mackenzie Delta, our small group of hikers set out each day to explore this pristine and remote wilderness, encountering jaw-dropping views, bright wildflowers, and a rather large grizzly bear, too. Beneath a summer midnight sun, I wish every Canadian could experience the magic of the far north.”
Expedia.ca tip: Given how remote this area is (only 100 people travel to the park each year), our tip is a simple one: Use the good ole fashioned buddy system, and don’t get lost!
Inner Coast of Newfoundland
Expert: Kevin Wagar of Wandering Wagars
“Gros Morne National Park is one of the most stunning of Canada’s national parks. Its namesake, Gros Morne Mountain, is surrounded by a dramatic landscape that includes the Tablelands—bare rock pushed up from the earth’s mantle billions of years ago. Just north of Gros Morne National Park is the iconic Western Brook Pond. A boat tour is available to take you to the foot of the pond where you can witness the tallest waterfall in eastern North America: the aptly named Pissing Mare Falls. This is also where intrepid hikers can disembark for the 3-day long-range traverse hike over Gros Morne Mountain.
A 2-hour drive from Western Brook Pond, L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO world heritage site that marks the oldest known location where the Vikings set foot in the Americas nearly 500 years before Columbus arrived. The area features a recreated Viking village near the remains of the original foundations of the Viking structures. At Newfoundland’s northern tip, in the town of St. Anthony, the beginnings of the famous Iceberg Alley take shape. Every year, thousands of floating ice mountains make their way down from Greenland and through the Atlantic currents.”
Expedia.ca tip: While you’re in the area, pop into the scenic town of Rocky Harbour. The views from a kayak are unbeatable, as are sights from Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.
When it comes to extreme adventures, trust the experts. You can do more than you think and push yourself harder than you imagine. And if you do that, you’ll be rewarded with sights and experiences that continue to reverberate in your memories. Happy travels!