Bike Across Canada: Top Trails For Cyclists

Bike Across Canada: Top Trails For Cyclists

There’s no better way to see Canada than by bicycle! While you’ll be going fast enough to cover lots of ground, you’ll also be going slow enough to enjoy the scenery and stop whenever you want. Canada features many cycling trails through national parks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, geographic features and more. Here are some of the best routes to bike across Canada:

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia 

Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia

If you plan to bike across Canada, you’ll want to include the Cabot Trail on your itinerary. While it is touted as “one of the world’s most scenic drives,” this 300-kilometre highway is certainly not just for cars! Take in incredible views of the ocean and ride through fishing villages along the curvy roads and pathways.

It’s also a great way to cycle through beautiful Cape Breton Island. There are many places to stop and enjoy activities beside the trail. Along the way, you can stop to hike in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, go kayaking in the bay, play golf at Highlands Links, whale watch or just enjoy being outdoors. If you are considering any hikes, the Skyline Trail is a great option. It’s an easy, but unforgettable hike with the most incredible views. 

The Cabot Trail can be completed by most cyclists in a matter of 3 to 4 days. Some helpful tips to keep in mind are to pack light, since there are many hills to conquer along the way. As well, prepare for some windy conditions, especially if you bike counter-clockwise on the trail. Although the view is better for cyclists, consider travelling with the wind (clockwise). 

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Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

View On Prince Edward Island

When it comes to the best bike trails across Canada, Prince Edward Island in its entirety is perfect for cyclists! The Confederation Trail makes it easy for cyclists to pedal tip-to-tip through the entire province. Don’t own a bike, but interested in exploring PEI on wheels? The island makes it simple to find a bicycle tour and rental.

As the site of the island’s abandoned railway, this trail offers a tour of the province and its culture. Along the way, you’ll discover the best of PEI’s culture, which includes charming villages, art galleries, delicious food (seafood, anyone?) and beautiful viewpoints. 

The Confederation trail is 435 kilometres long, but if you want to extend your journey, continue onto the Trans Canada Trail into New Brunswick. On average, it takes 4 to 6 days to cycle through the province. 

If you plan on biking during the summer, consider an early start in the morning to beat the heat waves. While most of the trail is a smoother terrain of rolled stone dust, there are sections of the trail covered in loose gravel, which makes it more difficult to pedal through. And, yes, there are some hills to conquer along the way!

However, you’ll see that it’s worth the effort when you capture views of rolling hills and seascapes, as well as quaint villages.

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Viking Trail, Newfoundland

View of Newfoundland and Labrador

Continuing with Eastern Canada and great Canadian cycling routes, the Viking Trail in Newfoundland is definitely worth adding to the list. Rich in history about vikings, of course, and filled with jaw-dropping views, there is plenty to learn and marvel at while you pedal along. There are lovely little fishing towns down the coast where friendly locals are generally up for conversation. A stop at the Viking Trail’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a must. L’Anse aux Meadows is a historic Viking village that now serves as a living history museum. 

Around 600 kilometres long, start your journey near Deer Lake and cycle through the beautiful fjords of Gros Morne National Park. As one of Newfoundland’s most popular spots for outdoor activities, you may want to fit in a hike to capture a photo or two of the breathtaking landscapes that the park has to offer. It’s also a great spot for birdwatchers with a variety of species, including the iconic Rock Ptarmigan. 

Another view you’ll enjoy while cycling through the Viking Trail are the magnificent icebergs. You can see them along the trail – especially through the months of May and July. For iceberg watching, you’ll want to include Iceberg Alley on your itinerary, where you can catch a glimpse of hundreds of icebergs passing through the water. Would you believe that some of these icebergs are as old as 10,000 years?

Back to cycling through the Viking Trail. If you are planning to take the journey, the best season for biking conditions is summer – primarily between the months of June and September. Like with most islands, the weather in Newfoundland can be very unpredictable and rains often. One recommendation is to prepare for the varying weather conditions – a waterproof jacket goes a long way! The cycling route takes a minimum of 7 days. However, if you bake in a few stops along the way, it typically will take up to 10 days.

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Kettle Valley Rail Trail, British Columbia

Kettle Valley Trail in British Columbia

Moving to the West Coast, one of the best bike trails across Canada is the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in beautiful British Columbia. It has had the honour of being included in the list of “top 10 trails to cycle” – according to Outside Magazine. 

Similar to the Confederation Trail, Kettle Valley Rail Trail was originally the Kettle Valley Railway, built in 1915.  It was decommissioned back in 1989 and has been converted to a popular cycling path. It provides approximately 650 kilometres of connected pathways throughout the region – extending through many towns and communities.

Since part of the trail does go through some backcountry, there are some precautions to take. For starters, there are rattlesnakes around that you’ll definitely want to avoid. There are also bears in some areas, so carrying a can of bear spray is recommended. Another tip is to make sure you know what poison ivy looks like ahead of time, since the trail does have some along the way. 

Now, for one of the most scenic routes along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, you’ll want to ride along the Myra Canyon Trestles Trail. The relatively flat and wider paths make this a more family friendly route. During your ride, a major highlight will be the 18 bridges and 2 tunnels. Since you’re so high up, you’ll also get incredible views of the Okanagan Valley, vineyards, orchards, and much more! 

If you only intend on biking along the Myra Canyon, you may want to consider driving there with your bikes. The trail is 12 kilometres one way – for a total of 24 kilometres. If you’re going at a slower pace to take in the views, it can take up to 3 to 4 hours to complete. You’ll constantly find yourself in full view of some of Canada’s most incredible scenery while on this trail.

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The Golden Triangle, Alberta and British Columbia

Lake Louise in Alberta

This one gets all the gold stars. If you’re biking across Canada, the Golden Triangle is a must for cyclists. This route passes through the heart of the Canadian Rockies with views that you have to see to believe.  Along the way, you’ll see the Rocky Mountains and a variety of wildlife – including a wolf sanctuary. You can even rest those sore muscles in the pools of the Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia!

Where does the name ‘Golden Triangle’ come from? It goes along the borders of British Columbia and Alberta, which forms a triangle with Lake Louise, Golden and Radium Hot Springs. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why this would be a beautiful route to cycle!

Another perk of this route is that you will pedal through 3 major Canadian national parks: Banff, Kootenay and Yoho. Starting with Banff National Park, it is home to the world famous Lake Louise. You will definitely want to make a stop to take in the view and grab a photo or two. To see one of the highest waterfalls in the country, Yoho National Park is the place to be. It is also where you can visit the picturesque Emerald Lake. Lastly, you’ll want to take some time to rest while passing through Kootenay National Park. Home to the hot mineral waters of the Radium Hot Springs, it’s a great way to restore your muscles and energy. After you’ve rested up, consider a hike on one of the many trails the park has to offer. 

The Golden Triangle is a 300 kilometre loop that can take approximately 3 days to complete. It is a more challenging route due to several climbs along the way, as well as narrower roads. Therefore, experience in cycling is a must before attempting to ride this route. 

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Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, Ontario

Lakefront View In Ontario

In Central Canada, cycling enthusiasts will find one of the best bike trails in Ontario with the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. To honour the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes, the trail was created. Now, it’s a popular destination for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts and helps to preserve and protect the lakes. 

As a fully signed route, it is 3,000 kilometres long and extends from Sault Ste. Marie to the border of Quebec. It even connects 140 communities. The trail truly is a marvel as it includes 42 provincial parks, 3 major wine regions and, most importantly, 25 bike-friendly communities. 

It’s a great option for cyclists seeking a multi-day adventure, or just a short day trip to enjoy the outdoors. With many route options that are under 30 kilometres, you can plan a day trip for the entire family. For some off-road trails for casual cyclists, go on a relaxing port to port bike ride from Port Weller to Port Dalhousie, which is only 10 kilometres in one direction. Or, pedal past beautiful sand dunes and beaches during an 11 kilometre bike ride from Hamilton to Burlington.

For a multi-day adventure that provides a challenge, travel from Pelee Island to Grand Bend. It takes an average of 5 days to complete and covers a total distance of 380 kilometres. The route terrain is a combination of trails, roads with paved shoulders or bike lanes, and county roads. For an 8 day adventure, cycle from Niagara-on-the-Lake to South Glengarry, which is at the border of Quebec and 740 kilometres ride. For more detailed itineraries and other great multi-day routes, check out the official website for The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.

There is never a dull moment while biking on the Waterfront Trail and each day brings something new. From preserved wetlands to beautiful beachside towns, there is so much to explore along the way!

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Bonus: For Those Up For A Real Challenge

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Alberta

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

For Canadian cycling routes that are more challenging for experienced riders, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in Alberta will be right up your alley. The route travels as far as New Mexico, if you’re starting from Jasper, Alberta and is over 4,900 kilometres long. 

As the name implies, the route requires a bike that can handle an off-road journey on dirt or gravel roads. There are also many portions of the route that are unmaintained – adding to the challenge. 

While it may seem intimidating, the unforgettable scenic views and engaging terrain are more than worth it. You get to experience the best of both Canada and the United States on this trail. The route is about as remote as it gets, so if you’re craving an escape from humanity, this is the way to go. While people may be in short supply along the trail, you’ll certainly have no shortage of animal companions! Keep your eyes open for a glimpse of bear, deer, osprey and more!

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Ocean views, mountains, and exciting trails await you on your next biking adventure. Whether you would rather rent a cottage in Nova Scotia, or visit the beautiful island and rent a PEI waterfront home, find the perfect home base for your next cycling adventure!