How to Hike Without a Car

The answer is simple really! Find a friend with a car 🙂

The end.

No more cars!

Just kidding of course. But be honest, how many times have you told yourself “oh I would definitely go out hiking or camping or visit that place if I just had a car!” because I am definitely guilty of that mindset.

Just learn how to drive, Kat!

I kept putting off learning how to drive because I didn’t have anyone to teach me or driving school was too expensive, and then well I enrolled in driving school but Miss Rona won’t leave us alone so 5 years and an expired learners permit later I am on a mission to erase the words “if only I had a car…”. from my mindset.

For the month of May, I will be going out hiking to a new and beautiful trail every weekend (or work weekend) without a car. Here is how I am going to do it and how you can join!

I am very fortunate to live in the big city of Toronto and to have access to a decent and large enough transit system to get me where I want to go. Luckily, if you live in a dense urban city, chances are the trails are easier to get to than you think. Especially in Canada. This brings me to my first carless hiking tip.

Urban hiking is hiking!

A lot of the discourse around hiking is focused on getting into the backcountry without another person in sight for miles and miles. While that is definitely an amazing experience, especially after a long work week, the backcountry is not always accessible to us less vehicle-y inclined.

Spud the stud on a beautiful urban hike!

A quick google search of “your city” + “hiking trails” is bound to get you some results near and far. I also definitely recommend downloading the app “All Trails” which will show you all the trails in your area including reviews, difficulty ratings, elevation gains, and pictures.

No hiking trails in your area? No problem, explore a new street in your city, or roll a die and walk that many blocks. Really the only difference between hiking and walking is the letters. It’s also waaay more fun to tell people you are going on a hike instead of a walk ;).

Shuttle services

Another great option for us in a car deficit is shuttle services. Parkbus is a great option for Canadian hikers offering bus rides from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax. Currently, only some routes are being offered due to covid-19 restrictions and while I have never been on Parkbus I have heard great reviews and plan to use it for my Killarney Provincial Park thru-hike in September. One caveat with Parkbus is I believe it only runs on weekends which does limit your hiking dates but if you work Monday to Friday it works in your favour.

For a cheaper option you could also reach out to Facebook groups or trail conservatories/clubs to get a rideshare or carpool with someone else to and from the trail. I have seen this method used by Bruce Trail end to end hikers that do not have access to a vehicle, they reach out to the Bruce Trail clubs and see if any trail angels could offer them a lift on X Y or Z dates. If you do go for this option definitely offer your share or gas money and gratitude!

Public transit

Often times the trails near you or in your city have some sort of transit network attached to them (or close enough to walk or catch a taxi). Sure sometimes the buses you need run at weird times and once in a blue moon but hey! they’re out there. For in the city hiking, this is definitely a very accessible way to access the trails and in an area like the GTA, there are transit networks connecting to many different and cool spots.

Scenic hiking in Hamilton (exact location forgotten I am so sorry!)

No more excuses!

Hiking is not driver exclusive, there are so many ways to get out there!

  • Urban hiking in your neighborhood
    • its freeeeeee (and covid safe)
  • Shuttle services
    • Can be expensive and seasonal dependent. But reliable and typically safe
  • Carpool/rideshare
    • Can be cheaper than a shuttle bus service but less reliable and riskier.
  • Public transit
    • Cheap but usually unreliable and inconvenient.

It would be so easy to just sit back at home and watch all the hikers on youtube without ever enjoying the trail simply because you don’t have a car. While it is a very real obstacle, do not let it get in the way of you hiking in and around your town, and definitely look into shuttle services in your area! The outdoors can be so much more accessible than we are led to believe. Or download Tinder and find yourself someone who drives 3:) (or that’s my next plan anyway!).

Don’t forget to check back here all May as I venture into a new trail every weekend/work weekend (without driving!). Due to Covid I will be staying in the city but am excited to explore all the urban trails Toronto has to offer! Comment below on what trails I should check out.

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