7 Top Road Rides for Cyclists in Ontario
At the edge of the Canadian Shield and with a network of quiet secondary highways, Northern Ontario offers some of the best road rides in the province if you know where to look. From quiet country roads to segregated multi-use paths, there is something for every skill level up here north of French River. Here are some of my favorites.
John Rowswell Hub Trail in Sault Ste. Marie (25 km loop)
The 25 km Hub Trail is a perfect place to begin any road ride in the Soo and is perfect for beginners and experts alike. The paved segregated circular trail highlights the best of what the city by the river has to offer. A great starting point is the Sault’s bike shop Velorution at 162 Old Garden River Road, where you can rent bicycles (or shop for a new one).
Accessible from almost anywhere in the city, the trail takes you through wooded forests through Fort Creek Conservation Area, down and along the edge of the Korah bench at Finn Hill to the most popular tourists attractions along the historical St Mary’s River where you can stop to visit the Bushplane Museum (50 Pim St), the Sault’s most popular tourist attraction, and go around to back for a free sample of Northern Superior Brewing Co’s fine craft beers just behind the museum.
You can also try out the brand-new multi-use path along Bay Street and drop by one of the local cyclist’s hang outs OutSpoken Breweries (350 Queen St.) next door to Algoma Bicycles (360 Queen St.). The Sault is famous for its pizzas. Stop by East Street Pizza Company (76 East St) for one of the best pizza in town a few meters away from the Hub Trail and around the corner from the third bike shop in the Soo, Duke of Windsor Sports (655 Queen St).
The Lines in Sault Ste. Marie (50–75 km loop)
Based on Strava stats, this is the most popular road ride for Soo-area cyclists and deservedly so. Starting on the waterfront, follow the Hub Trail to the Finn Hill section and ride north on the newly paved wide shoulders of Black Road and up the eight percent grade to Hiawatha Park where you can stop for an ice cream break at the Kin Centre (780 Landslide Road), which also serves at the trail head for the best MTB trails east of the Rockies.
Then you “do the lines” up and down the edge of the Canadian Shield starting with Fifth Line to Old Goulais Bay Road, Fourth Line to the end, Third Line to the end and finally Second Line to end at Gros Cap where you will be treated to a spectacular view of Lake Superior. For the return leg, you can choose to follow Second Line which is part of the Lake Huron North Shore Bike Route or go south to Baseline for a quieter scenic ride back to the city’s waterfront. You can also take a 10 km ride down airport Road to Pointe des Chenes Beach overlooking the mouth of the St Mary’s River. It’s an energetic 50 to 75 km and two to four hours ride depending on how many detours you wish to take.
Searchmont Hwy 556 (100 km out and back)
If you like hills and climbing this is the ride for you. Hwy 556 is a quiet secondary highway that follows the edge of the Goulais River—but don’t be fooled as the edge is not flat. The road offers several twisty long climbs up and down the Canadian Shield before finally arriving in Searchmont, famous for its ski hill and pub. It’s a perennial favorite among the hardcore roadies in Sault Ste Marie, who typically do the famous spring ride for the last weekend of the ski season to enjoy a beer at the base of the hill with the downhill crowd. For those who just want a bit more climbing, make a right on Bellevue Valley Road on the return leg for a go at the left on Hwy 552 to down to Bellevue Valley Road and up again to the 6 km climb back to Hwy 556. If you start to bonk on the way home, a great place to carbo load is Heyden Restaurant at the corner of Hwy 556 and 17N.
Lake Huron North Shore Bike Route (~300 km)
This new signed bike route was officially opened four years ago connecting Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury and Manitoulin Island. It’s part of a province wide 3,600 km trail network which begins in Sault Ste Marie and goes east along the great lakes to the Quebec border along the great lakes. The route mostly follows poster card rural country roads into Mennonite country and pastoral lands along the North Shore of Lake Huron. It parallels and avoids the busy Trans Canada Hwy for the most part and, where it doesn’t, wide buffered paved shoulders exist. Use the interactive map provided by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to find all you need for a great multi-day trip.
St Joseph Island (50–100 km)
Like most islands, St Joseph Island is known for its very low traffic, scenic drives on quiet backcountry roads with quaint villages at Hilton Beach and Richard’s Landing. It’s a busy day if you see more than two or three cars per hour. You can choose to do the 100 km perimeter loop and stop at the historical National Park Fort St Joseph for a packed lunch. In Hilton Beach, the “tilting Hilton” more formally known as the Hilton Beach Inn provides a more substantial fare and a great staging area. The Sault Cycling Club’s annual donut ride is usually run in the spring. For details on this ride and others check out saultcyclingclub.ca which is full of useful local cycling information.
Chippewa Falls (~100 km return)
With fresh new pavement and wide paved shoulders, Hwy 17 North has now become a staple ride for local riders. It’s 60 km to the scenic falls, a Group of Seven signature site where you can grab a bite at the Chippewa River Restaurant. Many choose a shorter 45 km ride to Harmony Beach to enjoy a patio beer and burger overlooking the beach at the Harmony Beach Resort. I strongly recommend avoiding the Mile Hill north of Heyden for the more scenic ride along Hwy 556 to Hwy 552 where you hit the new paved shoulders going North on Hwy 17. You also get to go down the longest hill in the region: a 6 km twisting climb in and out of the Goulais River Basin on Hwy 552. You can also take a short detour on old Hwy 17 going by Stokely Creek Resort, another famous MTB and cross-country ski resort trail head.
Manitoulin Island (50–300 km)
Manitoulin is a mecca for road cyclists, especially those from southern Ontario who can choose to leave their cars behind in Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and take the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to South Baymouth. From there, choose from a variety of destinations where there are few cars and hundreds of kilometers of scenic roadways. If you want to have a bit more structure, you can contact Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates who provide organized group rides, unguided tours and can arrange lodging for your trip. A great place to stay at the edge of the world at the historic almost 150-year-old Meldrum Bay Inn to really get away from the bustle of civilization.
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Northern Ontario offers some of the best road rides in the province. Enjoy quiet country roads, unique communities and warm hospitality. Cycle the North.