Canada’s Great Trail Hike by Dr. Sonya Richmond, TWS Alumna

My name is Dr. Sonya Richmond and until recently I was a GIS Analyst assisting in the development of Provincial Bird Atlases for Bird Studies Canada, and an Ornithological Researcher for the Canadian Wildlife Service.  In 2019 I left my job, sold my house and donated my possessions to fund a 28,000 km hike across Canada along the world’s longest pathway, the Trans Canada Trail.  While few others have made this trek in its entirety, none have done so for a cause and with the primary purpose of promoting diversity and accessibility outdoors while striving to get youth engaged with and connected to nature through citizen science.

We are only two of a very number of people to have ever completed the main route of the Canada’s Great Trail on foot by hiking from the Atlantic to the Pacific unsupported.  Indeed, fewer people have accomplished this goal than have walked on the moon.  In the process of hiking coast to coast we are the first duo to trek on foot from the East to the West on the Trans Canada Trail.  We are the first to comprehensively blog and document the Great Trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific providing a comprehensive guide and map of the national trail for others to follow in the future for their own exploration of this amazing country.  I am the first to bird the nation along the Trans Canada Trail and share more than 400 species with Canadians striving to learn about Canada and its wildlife.  Sean Morton is the first to comprehensively photograph and document the TCT and the modern Canadian experience along the trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  In the process we took more than 750,000 pictures of Canada and have shared more than 100,000 of them on social media.  Finally, we are the first to trek the national pathway for a cause, dedicated to encouraging Canadians to engage in Citizen Science and using the TCT to campaign for Bird Conservation, the protection of Important Bird Areas and the Boreal forest, as well as promote youth engagement in their home communities.


While trekking, the #Hike4Birds gave more than 150 free presentations to school and nature groups, hiking clubs, conservation organizations, Parks Canada Sites, and communities across the country.  We published more than 24 articles on the national pathway and released more than 800 blogs detailing every day on the Trans Canada Trail providing a guide for future Canadian explorers, while striving to share Canada with Canadians.


En route we have been privileged to be advised by members of the Canadian Explorer’s Club, collaborate with the Great Trail and to have partnered with groups such as Nature Newfoundland, the Island Nature TrustNature New BrunswickBird Protection Quebec / Protection des oiseaux du Quebec, and Parks Canada throughout the Maritimes as well as Ontario NatureNature Alberta and Can Geo Education.   The efforts of this endeavour, have led us to become members of the Canadian Explorer’s Club, be inducted as Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society as well as be supported as an official flag carrying RCGS Expedition and RCGS Researchers.  In 2021 and 2022 owing to our efforts we received a generous letter of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were a finalist for the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Inspiration Award, was awarded the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s prestigious Stan Hodgkiss Canadian Outdoorsperson of the Year,  and was named by the Universal Women’s Network as one of Canada’s Inspirational Women for promoting diversity in the outdoors, advocating increased accessibility to nature and striving inspire youth to reconnect to the nation’s wildlife and land through Citizen Science. In the past year we have also received an Ontario Federation of Ornithologist’s Certificate of Appreciation in acknowledgement of our leadership and dedication to promoting bird conservation and ornithological research through the #Hike4Birds across the Trans Canada Trail in recognition for connecting people to nature and promoting stewardship for birds and their habitats.


In 2023 we are set to venture onto the last major spur of the Trans Canada Trail, and will hike more than 4000 km north to the Arctic hiking from Fort Saskatchewan, AB. to Tuktoyaktuk, NT while continuing to share Canada’s north, its landscapes, wildlife, and birds with all persons. We invite you to “Come Walk With Us” as we continue to hike across Canada on the Trans Canada Trail.


To follow our journey and learn more about our #Hike4Birds, please visit the links below: