It's no secret that I love riding in Northeastern Ontario. It's much more than a job for me, almost a spiritual connection – the open spaces, the miles of forests, lakes and rivers, the small towns and the big cities of Timmins, Sudbury, Temiskaming Shores and North Bay (the official boundary line that signifies the start of the Northeastern part of Ontario).
At only three and a half hours from Toronto, it's also a place that I ride frequently enough to know where all the good roads are, and I'll go out of my way time and again to make sure I get them in each season. While the region is vast, you'll have no trouble finding more than ten roads to ride, but these are the ones that never fail to put a smile on my face.
1. Highway 64 from French River to Marten River
If there ever was a definition of twisty country road, this is it. South of Highway 11 Highway 64 has fast curves and rapidly rolling hills, while north of the TransCanada, it's longer sweepers with very light traffic. Even when heading home from the Bikers Reunion, I'll go out of my way to take this road home, just for the sheer thrill.
2. Highway 144 from Sudbury to Timmins
This road didn't use to figure very highly in my rankings, mainly because it was chewed up, full of frost heaves and tar strips, and could be downright scary on any of it's many rapidly escalating corners (especially the closer you get to Sudbury) – however, those mad wizards at the Ministry of Transportation have seen fit to re-pave the entire road from stem to stern, and it's a thing of beauty.
This road is a part of: Great Legends Tour
3. 66 from Matachewan to Highway 11
This is one of those roads that you'll only find in Northern Ontario. Take a zig-zagging bunny trail of a logging road, and then pave it. It's a blast to ride, even if the scenery isn't a show stopper. Do this as a loop with the Elk Lake road AKA Highway 65 when attending Bikers Reunion – you won't be disappointed.
4. Highway 6 from Espanola to Manitoulin Island
Anyone who's done the Georgian Bay Coastal Loop looks forward to this road. Going south from the TransCanada, it has long sweepers, massive rock cuts, and views of the massive dam just outside Espanola. When you get closer to the island, you'll get tighter curves over dozens of puddle-like lakes, and a turnoff for the hair-raising Willisville Road. Not to mention the swing bridge, the only road link to Manitoulin Island.
5. Highway 63 From North Bay to Quebec
Riding through the little town of Eldee from North Bay, this integral part of the Temiskaming Loop offers an incredible view of the Ottawa river, as you ride down a ridge overlooking the river that separates Ontario and Quebec. If you're headed north on this road, there's a great little dirt turn off just big enough for two bikes to stop for a photo op.
This road is a part of: Lake Temiskaming Tour
6. Highway 637 to Killarney
OK, so the road quality isn't amazing, but there are enough twists, the scenery is pretty good – Lake St. George is probably one of my favourite rest stops in Ontario – but the village of Killarney, with both the Killarney Mountain Lodge and it's glorious kitsch, and the Sportsman's Inn, with it's indefatigable opulence, make it so worth the ride. And of course, Herberts' Fish and Chips – some say they might be the best in Ontario.
7. Highway 542 On Manitoulin Island
Probably one of the only roads in the province with banked corners. The pavement is the chip-tar, but that does mean plenty of grip...and maybe some premature tire wear, but who's counting.
8. Willisville Road
While this road is pretty short, it's a special one. Not many roads in Ontario can give you a nice technically twisty ride while running you around a small mountain with epic views from high above the surrounding landscape. It might be an oversell, but it's fun.
9. Highway 11B through Cobalt to Temiskaming Shores
While this certainly isn't the most technical road, it does offer the best unobstructed views of Lake Temiskaming and is always part of the Freedom Ride at the Bikers Reunion. It's got new pavement in most sections, and with a slight detour, you can ride out to see the unfinished Grant mansion that is ranked as the most expensive house in Canada.
10. Highway 560 to Elk Lake
While other roads might be twistier, better paved, or have more eye-opening scenery, this is one of those zen roads, you can ride and just bliss out on. I particularly like the switchbacks through town in Gowganda – I'm sure the OPP has had lots of fun slowing people down through there. And the Elk Lake Eco Centre has some of the best food in the North, hands down.
Consider adding this road to: Great Legends Tour
So that's my top 10 – there are plenty of other roads to explore in this region, and lots of dirt if you're an off-road rider. You can have fun combining these into one giant tour loop, or check out RideTheNorth.com to do one of their pre-built loops, like the Temiskaming Loop or Georgian Bay Coastal Route.