Since March 14, 2014, six-time Canadian Olympic medallist and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson Clara Hughes has been biking across Canada to raise awareness about mental health issues. By the time her 110-day journey ends on July 1st, she’ll have pedalled every province and territory in Canada! You might not have the stamina of an Olympian but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of this country’s best and most beautiful bike routes, from coast-to-coast:
1. ONTARIO’S WATERFRONT TRAIL
For a ridiculously pretty ride, take an easy pedal along Ontario’s southeastern Waterfront Trail. Extending from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, to Quebec, this on- and off-road trail is perfect for rides short and long. (Clara kickstarted her ride here!) Depending on your mood (and stamina), you can cycle as much or as little of the more than 780-kilometre route along the ocean-like shores of Lake Ontario. If you’ve got 33 km in ya, start your ride with a Chez Piggy breakfast in historic Kingston, Ont., then wind your way east towards the Thousand Islands.
2. QUEBEC’S ROUTE VERTE
Suck it, Holland! Quebec is Canada’s most bike-friendly province with over 5,000 km of connected trails. National Geographic has named the newly completed and very well marked Route Verte (Green Road) the best in the world. One of the most stunning strips is the Véloroute des Baleines (the Whale Trail) from Tadoussac, Quebec, to Baie-Trinité, Que. It’s here that the St. Lawrence River takes on a lovely blue hue, and (if you’re lucky) you’ll see humpbacks frolicking as you fly by. Mais oui!
3. NOVA SCOTIA’S CABOT TRAIL
If you want the most cycle bang for your buck, Nova Scotia’s glorious Cabot Trail delivers big time. Vistas, forest and ocean, this 298-km paved loop on Cape Breton Island will make you feel like you’re touring the Scottish Highlands (without the passport). Not for the cycle newbie, the route is hilly, so you’ll definitely need glutes of steel. Tackle it all in three to five days or do bits at a time. We won’t judge.
4. PEI’S CONFEDERATION TRAIL
Who says bigger is better? Canada’s smallest province is perfect for beginners: It’s not very hilly, and you can cover a lot of the island in a few days. The Confederation Trail was built on abandoned railway beds and takes you past rolling hills, woodlands and postcard coastlines that we guarantee will have you mulling Maritime real estate. Bonus: Malpeque oysters freshly harvested from the bay.
5. NEWFOUNDLAND’S VIKING TRAIL
Rugged and striking, Newfoundland could literally kick your butt. The province’s Viking Trail is a challenging 450-km route from Deer Lake, Newfoundland, along the rugged coast, through spectacular Gros Morne National Park and onto the northern tip of the island. Of course, there’s no shame in basing yourself in colorful St. John’s and taking short spins in search of icebergs.
The absolute best time to get out on your wheels in this northern province is around the summer solstice. At this time of year, daylight extends most of the night and the boost to energy and morale is bar none. Since most biking is off-road, treat yourself to a city bike tour of Whitehorse or the scenic trails that surround it. If you don’t see something with an antler, ask for your money back.
7. BRITISH COLUMBIA’S KOOTENAY ROCKIES
If meandering along well marked paths sounds like a yawn then heli-mountain biking might be your perfect cup of adrenaline. Grab some ambitious pals and charter a chopper in Nelson, British Columbia, to take you and your mountain bikes to the trail of your choice in Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Bring plenty of bug spray, a very light picnic then get ready for an epic descent and some envy-inducing selfies.
8. ALBERTA’S ICEFIELDS PARKWAY
“Mind” and “blowing” are words that will come to mind along the 230-km stretch between Jasper and Banff, Alberta. Pedal the Parkway and you’ll pass massive glaciers, wild flowers, turquoise lakes and some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. This trip will take about three days, but there are a few hostels where you can stop for some winks. You’ll be so blown away you’ll hardly notice the 2,000-metre climbs and creeping burn in your thighs. Oh, Canada…
9. SASKATCHEWAN’S BATTLEFORD TRAILS
Rolling hills, rising buttes and sloping river valleys will make your ride through this prairie province oh-so-Canadian. This section of the Trans Canada Trail winds its way through the town of Battleford, Saskatchewan, and crosses the North Saskatchewan River before traveling on to the city of North Battleford, Sask. If you dig flora and fauna, a ride across Finlayson Island is a must. Enter via arched footbridges and you’ll find a paradise of wild marshes, great horned owls and chokecherry trees.
10. MANITOBA’S DUCK MOUNTAIN
In the prairie highlands, along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, Duck Mountain Provincial Park offers a variety of trail rides along trickling streams, prairie grasslands and dense forest. The best part is that trails are marked according to level of difficulty. Start your ride at the campgrounds near Mossberry Lake then meander your way around keeping a lookout for elk, moose, bobcats and black bears.