There’s hiking, and then there’s the Canol. Possibly North America’s most rigorous backpacking trail, this 355-kilometre trek follows the route of a defunct military road that once transected the Mackenzie Mountains. The trail was constructed by more than 30,000 workers during World War II as part of a wildly ambitious effort to pump gas from Norman Wells to the allied forces on the Pacific Front. Today the pipe dream is long gone and the “road” is an overgrown path. But historic buildings, vehicles and other relics of the era still dot the trail, making this an irresistible excursion for adventure-hardy history buffs.
Be forewarned, though. Tackling the Canol is an exercise in self-sufficiency and endurance. Most hikers require three weeks to travel its length, carrying food, survival gear and an inflatable raft with them to cross numerous swift, glacier-fed rivers. This is an expert only expedition that requires a local guide or outfitter to be completed safely (Think Grizzly Bear country). But those that brave this trail are rewarded with astounding views, like the idyllic Carcajou Falls and the red rock gulch of Dodo Canyon.