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The Top 7 Cycling Routes and Destinations in Canada

by Destination Canada
June 27, 2008

If you're interested in bike travel or cycling adventures while you're traveling, be sure to read on to find out about travel specialists to Canada, Destination Canada, and their list of the Top 7 Cycling Routes in Canada. 

Get the real experience of Canada's nature and wilderness.  From Banff to Prince Edward Island and the Okanagan Valley, the Gaspé Peninsula in Québec and trails in Newfoundland, check out this list of cycling routes in Canada.

Also, the next time you are visiting, taking a holiday or taveling to Canada, don't miss out on Destination Canada's list of the Top 10 Attractions in Canada: travel sights and destinations that cannot be missed if you're visiting the Great White North.

Top 7 Cycling Routes in Canada

These are what we consider to be the best "free-wheeling" routes in Canada but we caution that they vary greatly in difficulty. Many of them are part of the Trans-Canada Trail system, a 18,000 km recreational trail that will be completed in 2010. If your priority is safety we suggest one of the routes that follow "re-cycled" (no pun intended!) railway lines that have been abandoned and given new life as multi-purpose trails for walkers and cyclists.

To get the most out of your tour we advise you to plan well. Whichever route you choose you can make your journey safer by reading about, and adhering to, advice on local road hazards, wildlife meetings and applicable safety laws (helmets etc.). Enjoy your tour!

 

 

Confederation Trail1) Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island (PEI)

This section of the Trans Canada Trail is a 279 km route developed on abandoned railway lines that run from Tignish at the one tip of the island to Elmira at the other tip. Including branch trails, there are 357 km altogether of rolled stone dust surfaced trails. That, together with the islands pastoral landscapes, a teeming habitat and a rich heritage are what make Prince Edward Island a great destination for cyclists of all persuasions. The Confederation Trail traverses the entire province, along rivers and through wood- and wetlands; passing through quaint villages. Having little in the way of challenging terrain it is especially suitable for families and those looking for a more relaxing style of holiday. As a multi-purpose trail it also accommodates pedestrians and wheelchairs.

Recommendations for Sights in Prince Edward Island and Charlottetown

  • Take branch trails into the heart of PEI's capital city Charlottetown and to the waterside communities of Souris, Georgetown and Montague, plus the link to the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton
  • Green Gables, Charlottetown: learn more about 100 years of Anne of Green Gables. Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel "Anne of Green Gables" and the TV-series of the same name have made this one of Canada's most popular tourist destinations. 2008 will be a special year here as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of the novels publication

2) The Kettle Valley Rail Trail, British Columbia

The Kettle Valley Rail TrailThe Kettle Valley Railway trail is an abandoned railway bed that winds through 600 km of the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia. As an abandoned rail line it means you get from the valleys up into the mountains at a very manageable grade, 2,2% at the steepest . That means most sections are suitable for casual family cycling or easy day riding but there are more than enough challenges and adventure for those who seek it. There are countless trestles and tunnels, and the landscape ranges from cool mountain forests to Canada's only pocket desert. It also slithers through several provincial parks, recreation areas and protected areas. In the wilder parts of the trail you're likely to spot wildlife including grizzly and black bears, moose, mountain sheep, elk, deer and cougar. There are also more "civilized" trails through level countryside that branch off to some of the region's famous wineries. Though you can cycle most of its trails year round, the region's best weather conditions occur between April and October.

Recommendations in the Okanagan and British Columbia

Avalon Peninsula3) Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland

Newfoundland's remoteness, rugged terrain and inclement weather can be a challenge for visitors, especially for cyclists, but those who meet the challenge will find the rugged beauty and the quaint, isolated culture of the Islanders makes for a rewarding experience. The roads of Avalon Peninsula, at the southeast tip of Newfoundland, take you through 16th century villages, across barren lands and along rocky Atlantic shores. Along the coastal roads you can see whales, icebergs and two of North America's largest sea bird colonies. Be sure to allot time to spend with the locals and enjoy the rambunctious Newfoundland culture in fishing outports, shaped by two centuries of isolation. Where else but Newfoundland would you find place names like Witless Bay, Come-by-Chance or Heart's Content?

St. John's, the capital city of Newfoundland is also on Avalon and, with its international airport, is a good starting point. When cycling around Newfoundland bear in mind that the distances between towns that offer services is often quite far, so be prepared with food and a tent when cycling.

Recommendations for Seeing Newfoundland

  • On any given day be the first North American to see the sun rise at Cape Spear
  • Enjoy St. John's vivid nightlife

Gaspé Peninsula4) The Gaspé Peninsula, Québec

This circuit is a classic destination for touring cyclists in it for the long haul. A loop around the entire Gaspé Peninsula is about 900 km. If you're not quite so ambitious you can cycle the approx. 500 km that belongs to "Le Route Vert"* (more below). This is decidedly the best section anyway. It follows Route 132 through the southern portion of the peninsula, through coastal villages and dramatic landscapes and panoramic ocean vistas. The Gaspé is steeped in Acadian and French culture, and synonymous with fishing, sailing, misty mornings and steep cliffs.

Recommendations Pour Gaspé and Québec

  • Chaleur Bay, often recognized as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, on Route 132, on the southern side of the peninsula.
  • Le Route Verte covers over 4,000 km of bicycle paths and roads in Quebec. It was officially inaugurated on August 10, 2007, after more than 12 years of development. It is based on the use of public right-of-ways (abandoned rail corridors, towpaths, hydroelectric right-of-ways, etc.); by paving shoulders to make roads safer for cyclists and/or by identifying certain rural roads with little traffic as "designated cycling routes."

Véloroute des Bleuets5) Véloroute des Bleuets, Québec (Blueberry Bicycle Trail)

A 271.8-km cycling circuit around Lake Saint-Jean and an excellent way to explore the region and is a great combination of nature and culture. Along the route are many great vistas of this vast expanse of water. The path hugs the shore of the lake, looks out over it and occasionally veers away from it. 30% of the route is path, 70% is roadway. It's 90% paved and 10% stone dust.

Recommendations While You're in Québec

  • Begin your cycling journey in Alma
  • Extend your journey with a trip to Saguenay, at the western end of the Saguenay Fjord (part of the larger "La Route Verte")

6) The Gulf Islands, British Columbia

Gulf IslandsIsland-hopping, by bicycle, on the southern, Canadian part of the Gulf Islands archipelago lying off the southeast coast of Vancouver Island; specifically, Saltspring, Pender, Saturna, Mayne and Galiano- makes for a great vacation or getaway. There are plenty of parks, beach accesses, marinas, shops and restaurants featuring local fare. Since they only get about 30 inches of rain per year it means lots of good weather in which to enjoy the beautiful seascapes and the rural atmosphere. The islands have a unique ecosystem, and to protect it Parks Canada established the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada in 2003, Canada's newest national park. Although roads are frequently narrow and undulating the pace on the islands is slow and the locals that use these quiet country roads are usually courteous, friendly and cautious. Ferries run to the five main Gulf Islands from Swartz Bay, near Victoria on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the mainland, near Vancouver.

Lake Louise7) Golden Triangle, British Columbia

This route is for the more adventurous, but the rewards equal and surmount the challenges. It's a 310-km loop that crosses the Great Divide (i.e. the Rocky Mountains) twice, winding along the border of the provinces of B.C. and Alberta, bringing you through some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in the world. The route is characterized by mountain passes, many flats and downhill stretches passing through three World Heritage National Parks, many historical points of interest and hundreds of miles of wildlife habitat.

There are also many interesting, small towns along the route: Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta; Field, Golden and Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia.

**Caution: This route follows trafficked highways and roads most of the route. Pre-tour research on the route is strongly advised. If you are arriving by airplane, it's probably best to start at Banff or Lake Louise as they are reasonably close to, and accessible from, the airport in Calgary.

Recommendations for Activities and Adventures in British Columbia

  • Plan to have one of your day-rides end in Radium Hot Springs. A swim in the hot springs is a great end to a hard day of riding
  • Whitewater rafting trip on the Kicking Horse River Kayaking on the Columbia River
  • A glider flight over the Rockies at Banff and Lake Louise

For more information and links, please visit: www.destinationcanada.info

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