Canada is famed for its diversity, not only that of its people but also that of its landscapes. There are several ways to see this country’s stunning natural beauty but there’s nothing quite like a bike ride to make you fall in love with Canada all over again. Think about it: on a bike, you feel the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. You get to smell the fresh air and stop anywhere you like to get a closer look at the fauna and flora. On top of it all, you get to explore without leaving much of a carbon footprint behind.
The only question is where to ride your bike. Luckily we have the answer: here are the 20 best Canadian bike tours (long and short) to ride before winter. Many of them form part of The Great Trail, a network of car-free, multi-use trails that spans 24,000 km and passes through each of Canada’s provinces and territories. It is the world’s longest recreational trail.
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, Ontario: 3000 km
Most of the route is paved although some sections consist of unpaved paths or gravel roads. There are some 140 communities along the route, including big cities like Toronto. You’ll also pass through farming and wine regions, parks and conservation areas and get to make a pitstop at any of the 169 beaches along the way.
Niagara River Recreation Trail, Ontario: 56 km
Rideau Canal, Ontario: 6.5 km
At the Dows Lake Pavilion you can choose to continue further along the pathway or you can swap the bikes for pedalling of a different kind: paddleboats.
Route Verte, Quebec: 5300 km
The trails are a mix of disused railway tracks, bike paths, secondary roads and stretches of highway.
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Lachine Canal, Quebec: 13.5 km
The Lachine Canal’s bike path offers lots of green space with picnic spots, restrooms and drinking fountains along the way and is an easy route across flat terrain. You can traverse small bridges and watch the canal’s locks in action. The route stretches from the Bonaventure Expressway to Chemin du Musée, where you’ll find the Musée de Lachine with its heritage buildings and one of Canada’s largest sculpture gardens.
Fundy Trail Parkway, New Brunswick: 16 km
Biking the Fundy Trail Parkway isn’t for beginners since it features very steep hills. The scenery more than makes up for the tough going, though.
Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island: 470 km
There are branches to Charlottetown — one of the best places to visit in September — as well as other communities in the south and to the Confederation Bridge too. The Confederation Trail will take you over gentle hills through gorgeous rustic scenery and past the odd beach.
Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia: 113 km
The route varies between flat terrain in the valley itself and some steep climbs when you venture into the mountainous parts. Most of the route is along regular roads, so watch out for traffic.
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Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia: 300 km
Crow Wing Trail, Manitoba: 193 km
It’s not a very difficult trail but surfaces vary from paved road to dirt and gravel roads. After heavy rains you may have to ride on the grass on either side of the trail. You’ll pass through forest and prairie, get to visit small communities like the Roseau River First Nation and maybe even cross a suspension bridge or two.
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Viking Trail, Newfoundland and Labrador: 450 km
Biking the Viking Trail isn’t for the faint of heart: there are a few seriously steep climbs involved. However, you’ll be rewarded with views of a dramatic coastline and maybe even some icebergs and whales. You’ll also pass through quaint fishing villages along the way.
Battleford Trails, Saskatchewan: 40 km
A paved 12.5 km trail takes you from Battleford, along the North Saskatchewan River and across the bridge to North Battleford, and forms part of The Great Trail (it's a great adventure every Canadian must try). Another fun trail runs along the north shore of the North Saskatchewan River, covering some 25 km. The Battleford Trails are easy, running over flat terrain. Trail surfaces are mostly dirt and grass.
Southern Lakes Loop, Yukon: 395 km
The Southern Lakes Loop is a circular route that takes you from Whitehorse to the wilderness and lakes to the south of the city. In Carcross you can see the world’s smallest desert and give your legs a rest by hopping on the scenic White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, one of the best train trips in Canada. The Southern Lakes Loop includes some climbs due to the mountainous terrain but you’ll be riding on highways and paved roads most of the way.
Ridge Road Heritage Trail, Yukon: 33 km
Dempster Highway, Yukon and Northwest Territories: 740 km
The best times to bike this route are in summer or fall, since the unpaved road may still be frozen in spring. It’s also advisable to have a support vehicle, because weather conditions can change very quickly in the mountain passes and you’ll be camping most of the time.
Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, Alberta: 26.8 km
It’s a multi-use trail that you’ll be sharing with hikers and people on horseback and most of it passes through the glorious scenery of Banff National Park. The route is a combination of paved trail and parkway and sine it mostly follows the river valleys, it’s not particularly difficult to ride.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta: 232 km
The route links Jasper and Lake Louise, taking you through three national parks: Jasper, Yoho and Banff. You’ll travel through mountain passes and past incredible waterfalls, icefields and mountain scenery. Be on the lookout for wildlife and beware of traffic: you’ll be sharing the road with motorists who might get distracted by the views.
Kettle Valley Rail Trail, British Columbia: 650 km
Galloping Goose Regional Trail, British Columbia: 55 km
Tranquil coves, forests, farmland, waterways and marshland are some of the scenes you can enjoy on the trail. You’ll also travel along quiet city streets. A reminder of just how close to the city you are is the fact that not everyone uses the Galloping Goose Regional Trail for recreation: many people commute along this route.
Stanley Park Seawall, British Columbia: 9.4 km
The terrain is flat, so the most challenging part of the route is to avoid other cyclists, skaters and pedestrians on what can be a very busy trail. If you want to keep on biking, you can extend your route all the way to Spanish Banks too.