11 Unforgettable Getaways for Minneapolis-St. Paul Cyclists

Look across the border for outstanding biking. These are the finest Ontario routes and trails for cyclists from Minnesota.

Twin Cities cyclists are fortunate to have excellent riding right on their doorstep. But for those who venture a few hours further afield, Northwestern Ontario offers an alluring world of new pedaling possibilities. Thunder Bay and the spectacular North Shore of Lake Superior boast road rides, gravel routes, and mountain biking trails perfect for a long weekend getaway from Minnesota’s urban centers. For more information on the destinations below and more, check out Ontario by Bike.

Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is the metropolitan heart of Northwestern Ontario, with great amenities and attractions for travellers coming from the U.S. Explore the city of Thunder Bay on its network of bike paths and recreational trails, then choose from the mind-blowing off-road trails or one of the superb road rides mapped by the Thunder Bay Cycling Club. 

Recreational Trails

Thunder Bay has over 56 km (35 miles) of multi-use trails and over 42 km (26 miles) of bike lanes and shared lanes reaching all corners of the city. Download a map of the trails to plan your route, and don’t miss the pretty 5-km (3-mile) loop around Boulevard Lake.

Waterfall pouring over rocks with bridge in background
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. Photo: @lortzphoto

Road Routes

Explore the beautiful hills, rural farming valleys, and endless forests surrounding the city on lightly travelled country roads. Choose from loops of 25 to 90 km (15 to 55 miles), with surfaces ranging from smooth pavement to epic gravel grinds. Thunder Bay Cycling Club members recommend the 56-km (35-mile) ride west to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, where cyclists can view the spectacular “Niagara Falls of the North” and recharge at the Moose Coffee Shop, a popular meeting point for area riders.

View a map of the route here.

Two cyclists standing in front of waterfall
Cycle to the Niagara Falls of the North. Photo: @grnology

The long-running Central Canada Charity Ride (formerly the Caribou Charity Ride) draws hundreds of cyclists to picturesque Oliver Paipoonge Township, just west of Thunder Bay, each September. Short, medium and long courses take in the scenic shores of the Kaministiquia River and some of the area’s prettiest hill country.

Can’t make the September event? View the ride’s maps page to plan your own tour.

Mountain Biking

Thunder Bay is swiftly becoming known as a mountain biking mecca, thanks to the outstanding network of purpose-built singletrack trails found within Trowbridge Forest. Winding through an area of old silver mining grounds, the trails are locally known as Shuniah Mines. With some 15 km (9 miles) of singletrack, and nearly 42 km (26 miles) of total trail, the area features a series of flowing ridgelines, rugged boreal forest, and natural, hand-carved tread with plenty of rocks and roots. There are even some North Shore-style elements like bridges, A-frames and teeter-totters to challenge more advanced riders.

Person on bike riding over bridge in forest
Riding the famous Grand Chasm at Shuniah Mines. Photo: @grnology

Signature Shuniah Mines trails include Grand Chasm, Dagobah, Doctors, Snakes & Ladders, and the flowing Hilltop Trail. Visit the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club website for an excellent interactive trail map, and an exciting master plan for future trail development.

Read more about the Shuniah Mines riding experience and area history here.

Visiting in the winter? The fat biking scene has exploded recently in Thunder Bay, with snow season transforming the trails at Shuniah Mines and neighbouring Centennial Park. Big-tire beginners should stick to the easier trails at the latter, while the Mines draw experienced rippers.

Rent equipment, get tuned up, or just get some local advice at Thunder Bay’s friendly bike shops: Petrie’s Cycles, Rollin’ Thunder, and Fresh Air Experience.

Cliffs overlooking water
Spectacular cliffs soar above Lake Superior on the Sibley Peninsula. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Sibley Peninsula

Ever-present across the shining waters east of Thunder Bay, the hulking silhouette of the Sibley Peninsula hints at its exciting potential for adventurous cyclists. Just 40 minutes past the city on Trans-Canada Highway 17, relatively few riders take the turn-off onto 50-km-long (31 miles) Pass Lake Road (ON-587) to explore this stunning peninsula. Stock up on supplies in Thunder Bay—amenities are very limited once you leave town.

Road Routes

Lightly trafficked Pass Lake Road is the peninsula’s main artery, and a rewarding ride for skinny-tire cyclists. Start at Pass Lake—where there’s a campground, convenience store and Karen’s Kountry Kitchen, a cozy restaurant with delicious desserts (treat yourself post-ride, or take one to go). Heading south, riders soon enter Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and the road bisects wild forest for nearly 30 km (19 miles) before ending with a 6-km loop through the historic mining village of Silver Islet—once home to the world’s richest silver mine. Here, locals have transformed the original 1800s miners’ homes into a funky summer community. The end of the road perches between the rustic camps and mighty Lake Superior and is closed to vehicle traffic from June through September, making it perfect for a laid-back pedal.

Road next to old house
Idyllic end-of-the-road in Silver Islet. Photo: @heliinaville

A gravel or XC bike opens up the scenic rural hinterland east of Pass Lake Road, where a handful of unpaved roads cross to the peninsula’s eastern shore. Plan a loop of 20 or 30 km (12 or 19 miles), combining Pass Lake Crossroad and Portage Drive. Base your ride out of a lakeside log cabin at Beyond the Giant Nature Retreats, situated in a spectacular secluded cove overlooking Black Bay.

Mountain Biking

For a true backcountry mountain bike adventure, hit the trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The park takes its name from the immense cuesta formation edged in steep cliffs, which resembles a giant lying on his back when seen from across the water in Thunder Bay.

More than half of the park’s 110-km (68-mile) trail network is bike-friendly, with the most popular ride being the 23-km round-trip to jaw-dropping views atop the Top of the Giant Trail. Follow the Kabeyun Trail past serene Tee Harbour to the Talus Lake Trail, and leave your bike in the rack at the bottom of the 2.7-km climb.

Elsewhere in the park, the 11-km (7-mile) Burma Trail allows mountain bikers to connect rugged road rides around Marie Louise Lake (where you’ll also find a fully-serviced vehicle campground and five cozy cabins) and up to breathtaking Thunder Bay Lookout.

Find more trail and park information here.

Fat bikers are beginning to discover Sleeping Giant’s winter potential. Book a night (or two) in one of the year-round, lakeside cabins at Marie Louise Campground, and come prepared for plentiful snow and epic solitude.

Bikes leaning against railing at a lookout point
The views are worth the rubber-legged climb to the Thunder Bay Lookout. Photo: @petriescycleandsports

More incredible road and trail riding awaits in Northwest Ontario—start planning now and you could be cycling these routes by the weekend!

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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