Amazing Cycling Awaits Near Atikokan

Take a second look at this outdoor adventure destination.

Once the site of open pit mines that ranked as some of the largest in the world and supplied raw materials for Hawker Hurricane planes during the Second World War; today, the former mining town is turning all that energy into outdoor recreation.

The self-appointed Canoe Capital of Canada has a strong claim to the title. As the jumping off point for Quetico Provincial Park and its many fantastic canoe routes, Atikokan is ready and waiting to receive outdoor tourists. And as travellers come and take a second look, cycling is quickly becoming the next big thing in Atikokan.

Mountain biking

The trails in the Airport Trail area can be accessed at Steep Rock Mine Road and are a good mix of double-track roads, and recently, some singletrack.

Trails include green routes such as Mirkwood, Evinrude, Bobsled; also, more technical single track such as D’yer Mak’er and Over the Hills (where you can really get the lead out). Keen riders have some short but steep downhills options, including Cronk’s Crash, Wipeout, and Mikey’s.

A dirt forest trail for mountain biking and other outdoor activities
The trails are calling. Photo: Atikokan Tourism

For more moderate riding on mud and double track roads, also suitable for a gravel bike, the Steep Rock Trail loop is a 22-km ride around the old Hoggarth Pit Mine. Locals recommend stopping at the various viewpoints along the route. The loop takes about an hour and a half to complete.

For a quick 30-minute ride (about five kilometres), the Pal Lake Hill Trail is an easy loop for beginners that has some great views.

The Charleson Recreation Area also has a mountain biking skills park, including a pump track and skinnies where you can practice your bike handling skills.

The Steep Rock Mountain Biking Club runs group rides that are open to everyone on Tuesday and Thursday evenings all summer.

Road Riding/Gravel

Between Thunder Bay and Atikokan is a road cyclist’s dream—Highway 11 is a secondary highway with wide shoulders, few cars and grand views of lakes and rivers. The city made a point of creating wide shoulders heading west into town, just for cyclists. The road gloriously follows lakes and rivers for a wonderfully scenic ride. Cyclists recommend avoiding Highway 17 as it can get quite congested with cottage traffic. Bring water and food as there are few amenities along the route.

cyclist rides on the shoulder of a highway with guardrail
Highway 11 holds grand views of lakes and rivers in wait. Photo: Atikokan Tourism

Gravel Riding

Park at the Charleson Recreation Area parking lot and find many gravel roads in and around the former Steep Rock and Caland Mines. The terrain is undulating hills and the scenery is unique: the man-made lake that was once drained for mining is now coming back to life and nature.

Bike Shop

For a bike tube and some basic tools, the Home Hardware in Atikokan can help. But for more extensive cycling gear, Thunder Bay’s Fresh Air Experience has all you (should) need.

Post-Ride Eats

The Sapawe Motel is a great spot to sleep and eat at a classic diner with home cooked meals and classic fluffy pancakes.

To pick up some snacks and picnic treats, Warren’s Lone Pine Market is a good stop for baked goods and butter tarts. 

For a light snack and chia seed smoothie, T.S. Wellness + Café is a natural food store and lunch spot rolled into one.

Off the Saddle

The parks and paddling in this region are second to none. Hire the experts to show you around.

For a unique fly-in experience to canoe and fish through remote backcountry, the Canoe Canada Outfitters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

To glide through Quetico Provincial Park in a canoe, the Voyageur Wilderness company and many others can arrange fully supported trips 

Closer to downtown, the Little Falls Scenic Lookout affords views of a 15-metre waterfall and is a great spot for a picnic, with shelters and benches.

As you’re driving up north, about 65 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, it’s worth a stop to horseback ride. About an hour’s drive to Atikokan, the guided rides offered at Whispered Dreams Ranch will take you through backcountry waterfalls, panoramic views and wild terrain.

About Melanie Chambers

Melanie Chambers is a writer and university instructor living in Toronto. Ever since cycling from Holland to Spain in 1996, Melanie has penned stories about her amateur athletic challenges such as cycling 105 uphill kilometres in Taiwan's KOM Challenge road race and hiking Northern Africa’s highest peak. As an editor and instructor, she has conducted writing workshops around the globe. Locally, she’s provided workshops at the Alice Munro’s Writers and Readers Festival and Western University’s Homecoming. When she’s not on the road, she teaches food and travel writing courses at Western University.

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