Ready to go the distance? We’ve picked out the best long bike rides Ontario has to offer, including a Trans-Canada classic, riding on the world’s largest freshwater island, forgotten backroads in the heart of the Canadian Shield, and epic trails. The long distances involved are just the beginning. Our list has something for everyone: no one said you had to ride 200 kilometres in a single outing! We’ve included tips for some of Ontario’s best places to stay and other bike-friendly attractions, focusing on the vast, wide-open spaces of Northern and Central Ontario.
The Best of the Trans-Canada Ride: Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie
The north shore of Lake Superior is renowned as one of Canada’s finest drives. It’s just as notorious among cross-country cyclists, for it is equal parts pain and pleasure: here you’ll find some of the biggest hills east of the Rockies, as well as amazing scenery that will make you feel like you’re riding along the ocean. The 230-km section between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie captures it all, featuring many roadside beaches where you can pull over and cool down in Lake Superior’s crisp water. There’s a decent paved shoulder most of the way, though it’s best to make this epic ride in the shoulder seasons (or at least avoid summer weekends) to encounter less traffic. Riding from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie takes advantage of the prevailing winds and allows you to go with gravity on the long hill at Montreal River Harbour. Approaching Sault Ste. Marie, veer east off the Trans-Canada Highway on Highway 552 in Goulais River. Combined with Highway 556, this detour adds a bit of distance but avoids commuter traffic and serves up some amazing scenery to finish your ride.
- While you’ll find good, smooth tarmac the entire way, riding a touring bike with wider tires gives you the option of dropping onto soft shoulders. Whatever you ride, be prepared for an isolated ride: make sure your bike is in tip-top mechanical condition and bring along a spare tube, pump, and basic repair tools and parts.
- A one-day, 200-plus km ride is a great challenge…but you’ll find a couple of good options to camp along the way: Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Agawa Bay and Pancake Bay Provincial Park are neck in neck in terms of amazing beaches and sunsets.
- Make sure you stop at the Voyageurs’ Lodge and Cookhouse for a meal in Batchawana Bay. At least sample one of their world-famous apple fritters.
- You’ll ride right by Velorution on your way into Sault Ste. Marie. This local bike shop offers professional service and sales. Also check out Algoma Bicycle on Queen Street.
Headwaters of the French Loop
A number of quiet, scenic secondary highways depart from the Trans-Canada Highway, veering north and south to parts unknown. The community of Sturgeon Falls, located about 40 kilometres west of North Bay, is a great spot to stage a long bike ride of discovery in the headwaters of the French River watershed. Start by heading north on Highway 64, before turning west on Highway 539 at the community of Field (which has a dynamite roadside chip stand) towards River Valley. The route follows the Sturgeon River, eventually swinging south and crossing Highway 17. Follow your GPS carefully at this point, navigating a mix of paved and loose-surface roads to Highway 535 at St. Charles. Continue south to Noelville, where you double back north on Highway 64 along the west side of Lake Nipissing to Leclair Road, south of Verner. A 12-km ride on Leclair and Levac roads and a short segment of the Trans-Canada Highway complete your circuit back to Sturgeon Falls.
- Bring your dependable touring bike for this ride: most of the distance is on paved highways, with a few short sections of well-maintained gravel.
- Sturgeon Falls is a bustling community with a great Franco-Ontarian bakery and Twiggs Coffee serving locally roasted java. There are several places to stay, including the Comfort Inn. Check out AirBnB for more accommodation options, including waterfront cottage rentals on Lake Nipissing.
- North Bay is your nearest place for a bike tune up. Visit Wheelhouse and Cycle Works for sales and service.
Park to Park from Parry Sound
The Park to Park Trail stretches over 200 km from Killbear Provincial Park, on Georgian Bay, to central Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. The trail’s most popular sections are in Parry Sound-Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands areas. While most cycling enthusiasts tackle this mostly-gravel trail in segments, truly adventurous riders can attempt it all at once. Starting at Killbear, the adventure begins with 15 km of bush trails through Carling Township to Nobel. Next, the Guncotton section leads to Parry Sound city limits, where you’ll find the rugged North Shore Trail (mountain bike only) and easy Fitness Trail. The Rose Point Trail spans Oastler Lake Provincial Park to the Georgian Bay Visitor Centre, on Highway 69. The longest segment of the trail, 80-km Seguin section, heads east along a former railbed to Highway 11 near Sprucedale. From here, the trail splits, with the Old Bethune section connecting to Algonquin Park at Kearney and the Settler’s Trail veering south to Huntsville. From Huntsville, the Fairy Vista, Portage and Ragged trails complete the connection to Algonquin Park at the Oxtongue River.
- The Park to Park Trail is primarily dirt and gravel with the odd muddy bit, so it’s best to ride on a rugged cyclocross or mountain bike (most of the trail is open to fat bikes in the winter, too).
- While in Parry Sound stay at one of many local inns and bed and breakfasts. Enjoy seasonal microbrews at the town’s two local breweries, Norse Brewery and Trestle Brewing Company. Meanwhile, Deerhurst Resort is renowned for its upscale accommodations and fine dining in Huntsville.
- Book a tune up at Parry Sound Bikes to make sure your mountain bike is up for the trail or check out The Bike Shop and Muskoka Bicycle in Huntsville.
Elliot Lake’s Deer Trail
This popular driving route north of the Trans-Canada Highway, between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, is equally rewarding (and a whole lot harder) on a bicycle. Make it a loop by starting in the town of Blind River for a 200-km, paved-surface ride. Heading clockwise, the route includes a segment of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (along Highway 17) before veering north on secondary Highway 546. This stunning wilderness road traces the Little White River, which cascades beneath steep, pine-clad cliffs. The scenery here easily matches some of Ontario’s most popular fall colour routes, such as Algonquin Park’s Highway 60—with a mere fraction of the traffic. The route heads south at Highway 639 through Mississagi Provincial Park, before merging with Highway 108 to the city of Elliot Lake.
- You’ll appreciate the comfort and forgiveness of a touring bike for this backroads route.
- Mississagi Provincial Park north of Elliot Lake is a great spot to stop along the way. The park is a true hidden gem, featuring a quiet campground and scenic hiking trails.
- For upscale accommodations book a cabin or condo-style room at Laurentian Lodge, located just north of Elliot Lake on Flack Lake.
- In Blind River, eat at The Pier Sports Bar.
- Sudbury is your nearest place for bike rentals, sales, and repairs. Check out Adventure 365, the Outside Store and Sessions Ride Company.
Manitoulin Island Circumnavigation
Each year, the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates host guided tours to introduce road riders to the amazing opportunities on the largest freshwater island in the world. If you’re looking to challenge yourself to more than 200 kilometres of riding in five amazing days on Lake Huron’s Manitoulin Island take a look at the Alvar Cycle Tour, with multiple dates scheduled for June and September. You’ll experience all of the island’s greatest highlights, including unique limestone geology, sand beaches, waterfalls and indigenous communities. Meanwhile, the annual Manitoulin Passage Ride is a two-day, fully supported event in June with a total distance ranging from 100 to 200 kilometres. Rather do it yourself? It’s easy to plan a 200-km (or more) ride on Manitoulin’s quiet country roads. Best of all, you can leave your car in Tobermory and ride the ferry with your bike.
- You’ll find plenty of smooth asphalt on Manitoulin to satisfy your need for speed on skinny-tire road bikes.
- For accommodations, stay at the newly renovated, six-room Wayside Motel in Manitowaning. Other accommodations include Viva Villa’s waterfront cottages and On The Bay Bed and Breakfast in Providence Bay.
- Loco Beanz has several cafes on Manitoulin Island. You can visit the Split Rail microbrewery in Gore Bay, a community on Manitoulin’s north shore. While in Gore Bay check out New Grain Kitchen for farm to fork meals.
- Breakaway Sports offers bike repair and sales in Little Current
Two hundred kilometres might seem like a lot of distance to cover, but these routes though some of the most beautiful areas of Ontario are the type that will leave you wanting even more, which can be arranged.