I went on my first bike trip in 2013 and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s hard not to be. What other type of travel is easy on the planet, supports local businesses, is sure to impress your friends and family and will give you a great butt to boot?
I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. A growing number of tourists are taking the pedal-powered route these days, whether as touring cyclists, weekend riders, or in groups. Lucky for us, Canada has a growing range of destinations that cater to the two-wheeler set, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or long-distance cyclist. Herewith, seven hot spots worth oiling your chain for.
Le P’tit Train du Nord, Que.
Hop on Le P’tit Train du Nord for a tranquil trip through Quebec’s Laurentians region. The 200-kilometre rail trail stretches from Saint-Jérôme north to Mont-Laurier, winding through forest, along lake shores and by quaint towns and centres such as Mont Tremblant and Saint-Sauveur. It’s a must-bike part of the province’s 5,300-kilometre Route Verte cycling network, great for a leisurely four-day family excursion, or a quick solo getaway. Make sure to check out the former rail stations along the trail: many have been repurposed as tourist centres – ice cream stop! – B&Bs and restaurants. A shuttle runs between Montreal and Mont-Laurier, where most people start; it will also carry your bags from hotel to hotel for a fee. laurentides.com/en/linearpark
Prince Edward County, Ont.
If you like the idea of packing in some kilometres and the local food and drink, Ontario’s Prince Edward County is your spot. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s quieter cousin has lots of options for all types of cyclists. Make Wellington your home base and plan short jaunts each day out to the sandy shores of Sandbanks or Presqu’ile Provincial parks, around the winery and brewery circuit, or out to the Prince Edward Bird Observatory. Or pack your panniers and plan a multiday tour along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (GLWT), which cuts across the peninsula from east to west. Go Cobourg to Kingston, or Brighton to Brockville – the GLWT website has detailed maps of the entire trail. Whatever your itinerary, make sure to fit in some local fare at PEC spots like the Drake Devonshire Inn, Sand and Pearl, and the Grange on your way. prince-edward-county.com/cat/cycle-touring/
PEI and the Confederation Trail
Quiet country roads, check. Rolling hills, check. Forest-lined trails, check. Seafood by the kilo, red sand beaches and island sunsets to make your heart sing? Check, check and check! What are you waiting for? Load up your bike and get to Prince Edward Island!
Most cyclists know PEI for its 435-kilometre Confederation Trail, a flat, crushed-stone path that follows an abandoned railway and spans the province from Tignish to Elmira. Pedal the whole thing, or find a home base and explore it in sections. But make sure to get out on the road, too: car-free trails are nice, but spending 435 kilometres between trees can get monotonous. Challenging climbs and stunning views await when your wheels hit the pavement. tourismpei.com/pei-confederation-trail
Icefields Parkway, Alta.
Breathe in the fresh mountain air as you glide past the majestic peaks and glaciers that line the Icefields Parkway. This trip isn’t for the faint of heart: along the 230-odd kilometres between Jasper and Banff you’ll face steep climbs, heart-stopping descents – one of which stretches for more than 10 kilometres – and probably a wild animal or two. But if you’re up to the challenge, there’s no better way to experience this unforgettable landscape than on two wheels. Plan to spend at least a week so you can fit in visits to the sparkling, glacial Peyto and Moraine Lakes and the Columbia Icefield and enjoy some down time in Banff. Supported tours are available or you can choose to go it alone. Either way, plan your accommodation ahead of time: Peak season is short and busy. icefieldsparkway.com
On and off the trail in the Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Saddle up and start your exploration of the Okanagan along the longest rail-to-trail network in the province. The 650-kilometre Kettle Valley Rail Trail stretches from Hope to Castlegar, winding through valleys and along trestle bridges high above canyon passes, through old railway tunnels and along scenic cliff sides. Pedal the Okanagan section of the trail and the Myra Canyon Trail for views you just can’t get by car, then go on-road and spend a few days tackling some killer climbs and even more killer wineries, sampling the farm-fresh fare and learning about the area’s mining history. bcrailtrails.com
Manitoulin Island, Ont.
The world’s largest freshwater island boasts 800 kilometres of on-road cycling routes and plenty of natural and human history to explore. Home of the Anishnaabe, Manitoulin Island sits at the top of Lake Huron, reachable by ferry from Tobermory. Hop off the MS Chi-Cheemaun in South Baymouth and hit Highway 6 heading north. Along the way, you’ll pass century-old corner stores, historic mills, trading posts, waterfalls, inland lakes and sandy beaches. Options for how to explore the island are plentiful: Pick a home base and loop out from there, tackle all 800 kilometres, or join one of the Manitoulin Island Cycling Association group tours. manitoulincycling.com
The Viking Trail, Nfld.
Want to test your cycling chops? This is the spot. The 526-kilometre Viking Trail snakes up the west coast of Newfoundland from Deer Lake to St. Anthony, passing through Gros Morne National Park. Prepare for some difficult climbs and even tougher conditions. With the prevailing wind, you can get to 30 kilometres an hour almost without pedalling. When that wind shifts, an easy day trip can turn into an epic battle for kilometres. It’s still worth it. The ride through the otherworldly Tablelands, where the earth’s mantle is exposed, is about as moving as they come. At L’Anse aux Meadows, you’ll be thrown back a thousand years to the time of Leif Erikson’s epic journeys – putting yours in perspective. If you choose an unsupported tour, be warned that amenities become sparse as you head north. vikingtrail.org
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