Exploring Ontario’s National Parks with your Bike!
Happy 150th Birthday Canada!
Image Credit:Parks Canada
It’s a special year here in Canada with fantastic sesquicentennial events being held all across Canada, including Ontario. If there was ever a time to visit The Great White North, now’s that time! To help celebrate this wonderful occasion and the amazing places Canada has to offer, Parks Canada in 2017 wants to give you unlimited opportunities to enjoy National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites across the country – FOR FREE!
Click here to order your 2017 Free Parks Canada Discovery Pass!
We thought it only appropriate to highlight some of the great cycling in and around Ontario’s National Parks. While many don’t allow cycling on trails, some have fantastic cycling opportunities both in the parks and in close proximity to them.
Point Pelee National Park
Visitors of all kinds flock to Point Pelee National Park!
Located on the northern shore of Lake Erie, about 60 km east of Windsor, Point Pelee National Park is world-renowned as a destination for rare bird species during spring and fall migrations. Cyclists too are frequently spotted riding into the park along the trails or on quieter paved roads. It’s not surprising however, as cycling in Essex County is on the rise and the signed Great Lakes Waterfront Trail skirts the park`s entrance.
Image Credit: Parks Canada
The Centennial Bike and Hike Trail begins across the road from the Marsh Boardwalk, and has been described as a mini-roller coaster ride that whisks you south to the Visitor Centre. If you choose to bike on the road, please be careful: it is very narrow with several curves. Centennial Bike and Hike Trail is crushed stone trail and parallels the main road from the park entrance to the Visitor Centre: 7.5 km. Additionally, a seasonal, 2.5 km crushed stone trail, adds a loop option between the Visitor Centre and the DeLaurier area, closed to cyclists between April 15 and May 31 for birding.
Enjoy a 7 km quiet, road ride into the park along the main paved road from the gate to the Visitor Centre. Extend the ride for another 2 km along the main road from the Visitor Centre to the tip area (southernmost mainland Canada). This section is closed to vehicular traffic during business hours.
Download the park (and trail) map here.
For more cycling experiences, maps and a list of bicycle friendly places to eat, sleep and visit in Windsor, Essex and Pelee Island check here
For tourism and visitor information for Windsor Essex and Pelee check out visitwindsoressex.com.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Located along the northern edges of Severn Sound, this National Park allows visitors to experience the windswept pines and rocky Canadian Shield shoreline that inspired a generation of Canadian artists and continues to marvel visitors from around the world. What makes this national park even more attractive to visitors with an interest in nature is that lying on the edge of the Canadian Shield, the Georgian Bay Islands National Park islands are home to both northern and southern species of plants and animals. With a trail network open to biking and hiking, consider Beausoleil Island a destination for your next (or first) bike and hike adventure! We’d be lying if we didn’t favour riding, and it’s easy to say cycling is the best way to explore Beausoleil Island.
Image Credit: www.VisitAmazingPlaces.ca
The Huron, Christian and Georgian trails are all open for cycling – totalling about 15 km of trails. Plan appropriately, as the Huron and Christian trails offer a very pleasant ride through mature forest; the Georgian trail is a more difficult challenge with technical, rocky sections (re: bring your mountain bike!). Bike Rentals are now available at the Cedar Spring Visitor Centre on Beausoleil Island!
Click here for more information on cycling and the other amazing activities available at Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Check out the Amazing Places website to help get inspired and plan out your trip to the park in 2017 and beyond!
For more cycling experiences, maps and a list of bicycle friendly places to eat, sleep and visit around Georgian Bay visit – parrysound, grey, simcoe & manitoulinlacloche
Thousand Islands National Park
This national treasure is located on the mighty St. Lawrence River between Ganonoque and Brockville. While boating and island hopping may be the first thing that comes to mind when considering travelling about the Thousand Islands, cycling may be truly the best way. So it’s our suggestion that you explore the Thousand Islands National Park and surrounding regions from the seat of your bicycle.
Cycle along the 1000 Islands Parkway and enjoy the spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. Take the opportunity to ride along the roughly 37 km (one-way) off-road and paved path and plan a world-class weekend away in the Thousand Islands by downloading this itinerary from The Great Waterway‘s website.
Image Credit: Alan Medcalf
The pathway is also part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and a memorable portion of the journey a growing number of travellers make, riding from Montreal to Toronto (and beyond).
Book-ended by the larger communities of Ganonoque and Brockville, there are ample bike shops and services as well as a variety accommodation offerings from camping to boutique inns. Downtown Brockville was certified in 2016 as a bicycle friendly business area by Ontario By Bike, making it a great place to start/end your trip to the Thousand Islands National Park.
Looking for accommodation along the route?
Other options to extend your visit and ride in new destinations would be to explore the Frontenac Arch Biosphere by bike! Featuring a number of suggested road routes including family-friendly and casual rides and more long-distance routes. Visit The Great Waterway website to download a variety of cycling itineraries for the greater tourism region, including an epic 8-day, 740km (454 mile) self-guided, looped route!
Click here for more information on cycling and the other amazing activities available at Thousand Islands National Park.
For more cycling experiences, maps and a list of bicycle friendly places to eat, sleep and visit around The Great Waterway.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Bruce County, the opportunities for adventures are endless among stunning landscapes that include the northern end of the Niagara Escarpment. From hiking, rock climbing and paddling excursions in kayak or canoe to snorkelling and SCUBA diving among shipwrecks, Bruce Peninsula National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground! Take the family camping or overnight in a Yurt! Challenge yourself amidst the rugged beauty of Georgian Bay coastlines.
Image Credit: www.MTBtheBruce.com
While no cycling is permitted in the park itself, the Bruce Peninsula and neighbouring regions are filled with opportunities to find your two-wheeled thrills. Visit the MTB the Bruce website for access to trail maps and trip ideas among four trail networks and an MTB Adventure Park throughout Bruce County!
Head over to Explore The Bruce site to request a free copy of the Bruce County Cycling Routes, a brochure outlining 13 different themed tours with maps, or download ride sheets for each from their website.
From Tobermory, take the famed Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. A relaxing and comfortable journey on this large car ferry takes less than 2 hours. Find shops, food and deck chairs for lounging all onboard. Take advantage of free overnight parking in Tobermory and enjoy walk-on fares with your bike! Tune up before you ride off, using the bike repair station at the ferry terminal in South Baymouth.
For additional cycling resources, maps and certified bicycle friendly places to sleep, eat and visit on Manitoulin Island – check this page ontariobybike.ca/manitoulinlacloche or manitoulincycling.com
Pukaskwa National Park
Located on the northern and rugged shores of Lake Superior about halfway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, Pukaskwa National Park is the most remote of the National Parks in Ontario and really the only true wilderness National Park in Ontario. Unfortunately for lovers of two-wheeled adventures it also offers the fewest cycling opportunities. Bicycles are not allowed on any trail in the park and riding is only permitted on Highway 627 and on the campground roads.
That said, there is lots to do here and dare we say even bucketlist-worthy experiences (yes, non-cycling experiences can be memorable too). The Coastal Hiking Trail is one of Ontario’s premier wilderness experiences. A 60 km hiking trail of Lake Superior’s wild and rugged north shore will test even the most seasoned backpacker.
Image Credit: Parks Canada
For the tamer wilderness adventurer, explore the Anishinaabe Camp and wiigwaam and jiibaakwewgamig (cook tent). Participate with park interpreters as they host cultural programs and share the cultural significance of the area and the Anishinaabe Creation Story.
Click here for more information to learn more about all the great activities and facilities available at the park.
Read IMBA Canada’s blog post from a few years back about experiencing the park first hand.
Image Credit: Trailforks.com & MTB in Marathon
Click here for tourism and visitor information for Northern Ontario. For mountain bike riding in the region connect with the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club.
Rouge National Urban Park
This list wouldn’t be complete without including the newest (and likely most unique) kid on the block. Rouge National Urban Park’s close proximity to Canada’s largest city and metropolitan area, and roughly 20% of Canada’s population, means Rouge National Urban Park is both accessible to a great number of Canadians, yet under increasing pressure from visitation due to a rising profile.
Image Credit: Rouge Park Twitter
While riding on trails in the park is strictly prohibited due to sensitive natural ecosystems, road riding is popular and cyclists are frequently seen exploring the road network that criss-cross this unique protected area. For cycling routes, download this route map or find additional routes or cycling opportunities nearby on the City of Toronto Cycling Map. With bicycles allowed on weekends and off-peak hours along the regional GO Train network, consider taking GO Transit trains to Rouge Hill GO Station and explore Rouge Beach and the paved path west (see image above) or ride north further into the park.
Rouge National Urban Park is an absolute gem. Beyond the cycling, it’s got a star-studded line up and is home to rich biodiversity, some of the last remaining working farms in the Greater Toronto Area, Carolinian ecosystems, Toronto’s only campground, one of the region’s largest marshes, unspoiled beaches, amazing hiking opportunities, and human history dating back over 10,000 years, including some of Canada’s oldest known Indigenous sites.
Click here for information on getting off your bike and hiking trail information.
Also, Rouge National Urban Park is the final destination along the 2017 Great Waterfront Trail Adventure. This 7-day cycling holiday and fully-supported tour, starts August 6, with the route this year taking riders from Point Pelee National Park to Rouge Urban National Park.