My love affair with biking started in Ottawa with a turquoise-coloured CCM that was two sizes too big – because that’s what you did in the 60’s – you grew into your bike. Since then I have always loved the freedom a bike offers and the amount of country you can cover in a day.
Ontario in particular has loads to offer the cyclist. Here are 7 of the best bike rides you’ll find.
I was lucky to grow up in Ottawa for the city was ahead of the curve when it came to bike trails and Sunday street closures. One of my favourite bike rides takes you from downtown Ottawa along the Rideau Canal all the way to Hogsback Falls. It’s ideal for a visitor as there is a bike rental shop located in a railway tunnel just a few minutes’ walk from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
With over 600 kilometres of trails, there’s a lot of exploring you can do in the Ottawa area. Pick a part of the city you want to discover on a bike by downloading a map here. Don’t forget you can head across the Ottawa River and include Quebec in your plans for the day.
The Peterborough area is full of delightful surprises for the cyclist but is not well-known outside of the local cycling community. Offering everything from farm country to cottage country to kick-ass hills called drumlins, this part of Ontario will keep you coming back. Even better, there are great places to stay like Elmhirst Resort (speak to Greg Elmhirst to get a local’s suggestions on where to bike) so you can easily head out for a multi-day trip. Another bonus is the number of great locally owned places where you can refuel. Don’t miss the Pastry Peddler Cafe in Millbrook or the Lantern Restaurant and Grill overlooking Stoney Lake.
The BACKROADS of PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
All you need to explore Prince Edward County is a map and a sense of adventure. Avoid Highways 33 and 62 – but all other roads are fair game. The biking is mostly easy with only the odd gently rolling hill. There are three towns that offer accommodation and great food – Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington. On hot summer days include a trip to Sandbanks Provincial Park for a swim. Check out the Arts Trail with 29 galleries or studios to visit. There is also a Taste Trail – featuring 35 plus wineries and the area’s best restaurants and food stands. Allow a long weekend to do the area justice.
NIAGARA-on-the-Lake to NIAGARA FALLS
The standout bike ride in the Niagara region takes you from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls on a bike trail that parallels the Niagara River Parkway. All but the final few kilometres to the falls are on dedicated bike trails. And the ride is easy except for the climb up the escarpment – and it’s short and who says you can’t walk your bike? There are stops you can make at wineries or orchards along the way but if you haven’t seen Niagara Falls then that’s the obvious goal.
If you have more time you could continue to Fort Erie across from Buffalo or do a bigger loop over three to four days and catch more of the wine country in the Jordan area. After Fort Erie some of the cycling is on roads but for the most part they’re quiet.
Download: Guide to Biking the Niagara Area
Ontario’s Waterfront Trail stretches from Niagara to Quebec and travels through: 84 communities, 3 UNESCO biospheres, 15 National Historic Sites, three national parks, 19 provincial parks, 58 conservation areas, three wine regions, 90 beaches and down 25 historical main streets. There’s a tremendous amount of variety depending on what section(s) you do. Bike on a combination of dedicated bike trails, quiet backroads and neighbourhood streets.
I loved the peaceful 45 kilometre section of trail running between Gananoque and Brockville. It parallels both the 1000 Islands Parkway and the St. Lawrence River. The section through 1000 Islands National Park is especially scenic – and a great place to stop for a picnic.
For help with detailed planning visit the Waterfront Trail website.
RIDEAU HERITAGE ROUTE
You have a choice. You can bike the Rideau Heritage Route between Ottawa and Kingston or you can kayak it. Its 202 kilometres long so it will likely take you between two to four days to complete. There are loads of options for the cyclist so to figure out what’s best for you check out the detailed information on the Rideau Heritage Route website. Don’t miss a stop in favourite town on the route – picturesque Merrickville.
GREY and SIMCOE COUNTIES
Just 90 minutes north of Toronto you’ll find a tremendous diversity of cycling in Grey and Simcoe Counties.
Some of the old railways have been turned into bike trails. In particular you can cycle 77 kilometres on the Grey County CP Rail Trail and enjoy views of the Georgian Bay. Or try the 32 kilometre Georgian Trail that takes you from Meaford to Collingwood along the original Northern Railway beside Georgian Bay. This trail offers access to beaches, takes you through apple orchards and crosses several trestle bridges.
The Blue Mountain Loop starts with a gondola ride to the top of the escarpment. Then it’s a downhill cruise through farm and apple orchard country.
Energetic cyclists will love the 96 kilometre route that starts in Durham and follows the Saugeen River through former mill towns.
For loads of suggestions that will keep you busy on every summer weekend check out other ideas on the BruceGreySimcoe website.
July 2018 update – Biking in Oxford County
Oxford County is an easy drive from Toronto but truly a world away. Criss-crossed with quiet country roads through rolling farm country, there are cycling loops for literally every ability. The kind folks at Oxford Tourism will even help you plan an itinerary if you email them at email@example.com.
I highly recommend a big loop using Otterville as a base. While there were minor hills on a 30 kilometre loop, it was primarily flat. Dirt roads are easily avoidable. Enjoy pastoral scenes like fields of peonies in season, a tunnel of trees and the fresh green of new growth in a farmer’s fields. Drivers are respectful and most roads are quiet.
To choose a pre-made itinerary check out this page.
Northumberland County for Biking
I’d also highly recommend cycling in Northumberland County. Read about my biking experience here.
This is not a complete list so please leave a comment if you’ve got a favourite bike ride you’d like to share.
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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