Canada to complete world’s longest recreational trail

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Trans Canada Trail pavilion in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada(Credit: Ankur  CC-BY-SA-3.0)

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Cyclists in Canada will soon be able to pedal, paddle, walk and gallop from Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast to Vancouver Island in the Pacific Ocean. The Great Trail, as it's known, is set to open in 2017 in time for Canada's 150th birthday. Once complete, the trail will stretch 15,000 miles (24,000km) through each of the country's 13 provinces and territories and touch three oceans, becoming the longest recreational trail in the world.

Besides biking, hiking and horseback riding, the path will be open in winter for cross country skiing and snowmobiling. And with a quarter of the trail on water, canoes, kayaks or other water craft can also be used.

Formerly called the Trans Canada Trail, the Great Trail is made up of newly designated pathways, along with some 400 community trails that have been linked together, such as the Galloping Goose in British Columbia and the Petit Témis in Quebec. A large portion of the trail is located on defunct rail lines donated by Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway. No single entity owns the trail. Instead, it's managed and maintained by trail and conservation groups, as well as local, regional and national government bodies, making it one of the largest volunteer projects in the country.

The idea for the trail network was born in 1992 during Canada's 125th anniversary, and inspired by other major bike routes around the world, such as the UK's 14,000-mile (22,500km) National Cycle Network and the EuroVelo network of cycling routes throughout Europe.

Most of the main sections of the trail connect many of the country's major cities and populated areas in the south, with some 80 percent of Canadians living within 30 minutes of the trail. Cyclists and other users can find shelter and water in pavilions that dot the trail at regular intervals in some portions.

A long northern section runs from Edmonton, Alberta, north through British Columbia and into the Yukon, paralleling the Alaska Highway and other roadways. Eventually, the trail crosses into the Northwest Territories and through to the Arctic Ocean. In the south, cyclists will be able to bike the trail from Calgary and Banff, over the Rocky Mountains, through Vancouver and ending at the southern tip of the B.C. capital of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

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