If you're hot for adventure but strapped for cash, our neighbor to the north has just what you need!
Devotees of adventure travel find more of it for less in Canada than anywhere else. With the U.S. dollar exchanged for about CAD$1.34, the outdoor bargains there are awesome, as we attempt to show in the following seven examples. (All prices are listed in U.S. dollars and are based on double occupancy.)
Nestled within Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in part because of its unique combination of quartzite rock and wetland terrain, the Long Range Mountains are among the few remnants of pristine wilderness within a three-hour flight of New York, Boston, or Chicago. In Gros Morne, there are no roads, no power lines, not even manicured trails with the requisite hiking maps and wooden signs that show you which way to go and the exact mileage to get there.
The Long Range Traverse is a 22-mile, semicircular route where topographical maps and a compass are a necessity to find your way among the web of caribou paths. Thus, there's the need of a guide like local outfitter Gros Morne Adventures (800/685-4624, grosmorneadventures.com/). On their eight-day, seven-night trek through Gros Morne National Park, they'll take you into stunning fjords and up snowcapped peaks where the caribou and moose far outnumber backpackers. Most of the hiking is on bog-like ground where water is ubiquitous. Sure, you'll slip and slide in the muddy moss, but you can also dip your water bottle into a running creek the color of gin and not have to worry about filtration. Backpacking experience and decent physical condition are musts. Cost of the eight-day trip is $1040, including two nights' accommodations at a B&B, all meals, camping equipment, boat tour, airport shuttle, and park permit.
Biking Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island will always be synonymous with that 11-year-old girl in braids that Lucy Maud Montgomery made famous in her 1908 book, Anne of Green Gables. Indeed, the Green Gables site and Lucy Maud Montgomery's home are the top two places visitors venture to as they make their pilgrimage to this banana-shaped island in eastern Canada. Yet, there's a smaller group of folks who return to PEI as often as possible to bike through the bucolic countryside.
Local outfitter MacQueen's Island Tours (800/969-2822, macqueens.com/) will provide you with a bike, detailed routes, lodging at B&Bs, breakfasts daily, and emergency road repair on their six-day, five-night self-guided tour of the island. Daily route cards average a leisurely 30-35 miles a day but can be adjusted according to expertise. You'll start in the capital city of Charlottetown before heading southeast past seaside communities. Pedal around the Rossignol Estate Winery in Little Sands before heading to the fishing village of Murray Harbour. The latter part of the trip takes you inland past brilliant-green potato farmland to the riverside town of Montague. And since the routes are designed by locals, rest assured that most of the biking is on less-traveled country roads and converted railroad beds. Cost of the trip is $742 (single supplement $246.)
Sea kayaking Quebec
Writer Walt Whitman described the waters of Quebec's Saguenay Fjord as "dark as ink, exquisitely polished and sheeny under the August sun." Quebec Adventures (888/678-3232, quebecadv.com/) offers a five-day, four-night tour of Saguenay in which you'll be up close and personal with that same water as you kayak the length of the fjord. Two guides will lead you through this St. Lawrence estuary, a Marine Park in Canada, alongside walls of ash-colored rock that rise some 1,150 feet. An added bonus is that this sheltered cove is a rich feeding ground for whales. Humpbacks, smaller minkes, and the curious white beluga whales have all been spotted on past trips. Each night, you'll be sleeping at campsites along the shores that only a kayak can venture to. The put-in is located two-and-a-half-hours northeast of Quebec City. No previous kayaking experience is necessary. Cost of the trip is $795.
A mere three-hour drive north of Toronto, Algonquin Provincial Park provides paddlers with a seemingly endless connection of waterways snaking through forests of tall pines, birches, maples, and cedars. Voyageur Quest (800/794-9660, voyageurquest.com/), an Algonquin-based outfitter, offers a five-day, four-night guided paddle on a few of Algonquin's 1,500-plus lakes and rivers. You'll spend two nights camping and two nights at a rustic log cabin on this trip geared toward families.
During the day, wilderness guides travel at a slow pace, teaching kids how to perfect their stroke and properly navigate their canoes. You'll stop at hidden shores to relax and swim or throw out a line to fish for brook and lake trout. Moving at such an unhurried speed, you'll very likely spot moose or hear the call of wolves. All dinners are cooked over an open fire, so kids can polish off the day by roasting marshmallows or making s'mores. Price of the trip is $466 for adults, $317 per child, including lodging, all meals, equipment, and guides. Round-trip transfer to Toronto costs an extra $97 per person.
With the added costs of guide service, floatplane flights, and fancy meals, fly-fishing in the northern lakes of Canada has become as prohibitively expensive as yachting in the Caribbean. Cost averages $400 to $500 per day. That's why we're telling you to dispense with the guide and cook your own meals.
George Lake Camp Outfitting (406/644-2297, georgelake.net/) will fly you and your buddies 81 miles north of the airport in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, on a floatplane to your final destination of George Lake. You'll be staying at one of their cabins on a sand beach smack-dab in the middle of a 4,000-acre lake and its slew of uninhabited coves, bays, and islands. There's no need for a guide in these waters. All you have to do is grab one of their 14-foot aluminum boats and soon you'll be reeling in trophy-size northern pike that can reach lengths of 50 inches. There's also lake trout, or if you want to try your luck hooking walleye, take a short trail to an adjacent lake. The five-day, four-night cost for accommodations, flights, and use of boats is $750. You're in charge of food and tackle.
Horseback riding Alberta
One of the best ways to savor the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies is snug in a saddle atop a horse. GORPtravel (877/440-4677, gorptravel.com/) features a five-day, four-night trip in Banff National Park, where you'll ride 10 to 15 miles a day and then spend the night at rustic lodges, one of which has been in operation for more than 60 years. Each of the lodges has hot water for showers, and hearty meals.
The ride starts at Martin Stables outside the town of Banff, about an 80-mile drive west of Calgary, Alberta. From here, you'll trot along the glacial-fed waters of Bow River and Healy Creek to the Sundance Lodge. Deep in the heart of the Rockies, you'll continue on the historic Strom Pack Trail, all within view of the majestic Sundance Range. Elevations rise to 8,100 feet as you make your way to your next accommodation, Halfway Lodge. Cost of the five-day trip, including meals, lodging, horses, and guides, starts at only $690.
Multisport in British Columbia
A little more than an hour's drive from Lake Louise in Alberta is British Columbia's far less frequented Kootenay National Park. Not yet as big a name in America as Banff or Jasper, Kootenay has that same Canadian Rocky splendor: hanging glaciers, the limestone Marble Canyon, soaring 11,000-foot summits, and natural mineral pools at Radium Hot Springs. It's not surprising that this majestic backdrop was once home to fur traders and Native Americans.
Kootenay Wilderness Tours (877/659-7665, kootenaywildernesstours.ca/) has taken advantage of the region's history to provide activities that utilize aspects of Native American culture to hopefully feed both body and mind. On their six-day, five-night Rocky Mountain Basic Trip, guests will learn traditional wilderness skills while horseback riding; white-water rafting; fishing for cutthroat, rainbow, and bull trout in the streams; or visiting the largest hot springs in the Canadian national parks system. Depending on your interests, you design an itinerary with the guides. You'll be spending the nights not in a tepee but in cabins at a new, secluded mountain lodge just outside of the park. The drive from Calgary is approximately two-and-a-half hours. Budget Travel readers get a $200 reduction in cost, down to $654. Also ask about their other trips, including Backpacking Is Wild and the Spirit Walker.