Fans of cycle touring should start making amendments to their bucket list and packing their panniers. This summer will see the official opening of the North Channel Expansion to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. You can explore on your own or join the guided and van-assisted Cycle the North - Great Waterfront Trail Adventure 2019 Tour from July 28 to August 2.
Plenty of Reasons to Pull Over
Between parks, museums, art galleries, and out-of-the-way country stores, the route is dotted with reasons to stop and look around. Visit the must-see Bushplane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie or the rushing waterfalls at Chutes Provincial Park. If some shopping is what you're after, The Round Barn and Gift Shop near Thessalon has unique finds.
It’s a Challenge
At 380 km, completing the full length of the trail requires a multi-day commitment. Most of the route is along lightly trafficked back roads, but some stretches of gravel road, and even dirt path, add to the challenge and the adventure.
Take in Some History
With the area’s settler history dating back centuries, and the Indigenous history stretching back millennia before, there is much to learn and explore. The Lee Valley Hall, located on the outskirts of Espanola, was built in 1913, and still offers the community a place to gather.
Northern Ontario has a culture all its own, and the North Channel is no exception. With influences from First Nations, Mennonite farmers, fishermen, loggers, French, and English, it all makes for a delightful smorgasbord that must be savoured.
From a surprise bake shop serving up some amazing butter tarts in the middle of nowhere to a friendly welcome from your hosts at the campground, motel, cottage, or resort, or even a friendly question from a curious patron at a coffee stop, local hospitality will make you feel welcome.
Soak in the Scenery
Be it the rocky shores and watery vistas of the rugged Lake Huron North Channel, rushing rivers, dense forest, or the green carpet of farmland, the beauty of the Northern landscape is as spectacular as it is varied.
Stop for a Swim
There’s nothing better than breaking up a hot day on the road with a cool dip in a Northern Ontario lake. Among the many sand and water oases not to be missed is Ojibway Park, home of the Laughing Water Beach, near Echo Bay.
No traffic here. It is not uncommon to spend hours in the company of only the people in your group.
The Northern Vibe
From logging lore to farms dating back a century, from stacks of freshly cut logs by the side of the road, to a banged-up steel fishing trawler at the marina, signs of the past and the present abound.
Twenty-six communities dot the route. And they’re all happy to host you, be it for a mid-day lunch stop or for an end of the day round of local craft beer, a delicious meal, and a comfortable night’s rest.
The signs are up and the maps are printed. The North Channel Expansion is ready when you are. If, however, you’d like a guiding hand, you're in luck. The 12th Annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure is Cycling The North this year. This is a fully supported cycling tour that traces the route from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury, between July 28 and August 2, 2019.
Whichever way you do it, the North Channel Expansion is a unique way to experience a region not to be missed.