5 Best Value Cycling Vacations in Ontario

Where to stay, eat and hang out for an inexpensive, but awesome, bike trip.

Cycling can be expensive—bags, gear, clothes and the bike. Not to mention the cost of going away somewhere on a cycling holiday! But we’ll let you in on a secret: there are still fantastic destinations where you can cycle and save.

We’ve amassed five places in Ontario with incredible cycling, affordable accommodations and cheap but yummy eats, with lots of opportunities to earn rewards or take advantage of discounts.

It’s true: the best things are often free! Read on to find our list of the best value cycling destinations in Ontario.

three cyclists ride along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail
Find incredible waterfront views along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. Source: Martin Lortz // The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

Blind River to Thessalon

West of Sudbury, starting in Blind River, cyclists can hop on the free Waterfront Trail which meanders along Lake Huron. The beauty of this section of trail is the number of amenities: beaches, Mennonite shops, and natural wonders such as glacial rocks and waterfalls. The trail was created to enjoy life along the waterfront—swimming at white sand beaches, visiting markets and admiring farms. This section of trail is particularly lively in the summer. Bring a road or gravel bike to complete the 65 kilometres to Thessalon.

Start in Blind River at the Timber Village Museum and cycle the 23 kilometres to Iron Bridge. This route runs along the Mississagi River and takes you past a waterfall and the spectacular birder’s delight: the Mississagi Delta Provincial Park. It’s here where you can see the birdsfoot delta; at the mouth of the river, the rocks have formed in the shape of fingers or a bird’s foot.

In Thessalon, about 65 kilometres from Blind River, Carolyn Beach Inn is a good value place to stay—rooms are under $100. The inn also has an affordable and tasty restaurant attached where you can enjoy crispy fish and chips from local fisheries.

While there, hike to Aubrey Falls Provincial Park—a unique place where the ripples in the rocks were formed from glacial melting. The falls are also a secluded gem; you might be the only travellers here.

Timmins

Base yourself in Timmins for an affordable cycling trip. You won’t have to pay city prices up here in this cycling wilderness!

Gravel riding along country roads is the beauty of Northern Ontario—they’re everywhere and they’re free. With such avid cyclists setting up routes in the area, it’s also easy to hop on a self-guided route.

From Timmins, there’s a 100-kilometre gravel ride along Highway 560; it’s a secluded road, so bring snacks and enough water. Be careful of spring washouts.

For mountain bikers, two trail systems—the Hersey Lake Conservation Area trail system and the Timmins Trail System—meet up to create over 90 kilometres of trails, mostly blue and greens. The trails traverse beautiful jack pine forest and lakes.

Staying in Timmins is also inexpensive. For under $100, the Ramada by Wyndham Timmins has free breakfast and a great gym (if you want to exercise more!). Plus, the hotel has a cool rewards program: save up to 10 percent when you have an auto club membership (e.g. CAA) or up to 15 percent when you book a week in advance.

After the ride, you won’t break the bank on food, either: three toppings on an extra-large pizza at Francesco’s Pizza costs $21. And if anything goes wrong on your bike, Trails n Slopes will fix you up, fast.

If you want to reach out to local cyclists to ride or find out more information, the Boreal Cycling Club is a not-for-profit group who support local cycling initiatives.

two women and a dog ride along a forest bike trail
Karen and Kristi enjoying the trails at Hidden Valley. Source: KellyTheShutterBug // @kellytheshutterbug

Huntsville

Road cyclists have many options in the picturesque cottage country surrounding Huntsville. The country roads have wide shoulders and are quiet, less-travelled spots to safely ride.

The region is also great for a variety of skill levels. For a real hill challenge, the 45 kilometres from The Bike Shop parking lot, the epic centre for your bike needs, is a hilly and lovely loop back to the shop. Another beautiful loop around several lakes, the Lake of Bays Loop is 74 kilometres with some challenging climbs, but with great lake views.

For mountain bikers, there are many trail choices. An intermediate mountain bike rider can spend a good two hours flowing through the Hidden Valley Mountain Biking Trails. Even though there are only six kilometres of trails, the nearby Deerhurst Resort has another 10 kilometres. The terrain is rocky and technical, but nothing too extreme.

Huntsville has a few good options for accommodations under $100. The Rodeway Inn King William not only has exceptionally clean rooms, it offers free coffee, anytime of the day.

If you love a frosty drink and plate of fries post-ride, a favourite spot among local cyclists is the Maple Pub, located right at the Deerhurst trails parking lot.

Downtown, check out 38 murals for free. The Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery features recreations of paintings by Canada’s famed Group of Seven artists, many paintings inspired by Muskoka.

South Temiskaming Shores

The South Temiskaming Active Travel Organization (STATO) has created 36 paved and gravel path routes in and around the lakes and country roads. Glaciers carved out wonderful undulating terrain that is perfect for cycling. It also helps that the community members are active cycling advocates. Bike Temiskaming Shores is an informal Facebook cycling group who love group rides.

The routes in this region range from one kilometre of beginner to 65 kilometres of more advanced cycling (aka: more hills). A moderate favourite close to town is the STATO Trail, which begins or ends at Farr Park or Dymond Ball Park. The route hugs the shoreline of Lake Temiskaming for almost 20 kilometres.

For a bit more distance and seclusion, continue on the Dawson Pt. Road route (another 10 kilometres) which follows the east side of the lake. Cycle along the paved path to the end—this is a magnificent ride along the White Cliffs of Dawson (not to be mistaken for the White Cliffs of Dover!). Be sure to take in the view from the wharf at the end.

A 10-minute drive from town, Sunnydale Cottages offers deals for longer stays: $180 per night for one to six nights, $150 per night for seven to 20 nights, and $100 per night for 21 nights or more. The cottages have fireplaces, kitchens and barbecues.

For post-ride eats that won’t break the bank, you can find a meal for under $20 at the Whiskeyjack Beer Company. Beer battered cheese curds pair nicely with a chocolate chaos stout.

And if you need to cool off, Haileybury Beach is family-friendly. The 150-foot waterslide is free, and you can bring something to barbecue while the kids play at the playground or swim. During the summer, lifeguards are on duty.

young child rides off a boulder along a forest mountain bike trail
Take the whole family for a ride on the Three Towers Trail Network. Source: Connie Hergott // North Bay Mountain Bike Association

North Bay

North Bay’s bike community has been working hard to grow. The local mountain bike group, the North Bay Mountain Bike Association, grooms fat bike trails, builds mountain bike trails to add to their trail system and heads out on epically large group rides all the time.

There are also bike maintenance tools like Allen keys and tire levers available for free throughout the region in North Bay, Callander, Astorville, Bonfield, Eau Claire and Mattawa.

The cycling region is quite spread out and full of gravel country roads, tiny communities, lakes and parks for stopping. The Discovery Routes team has also created themed road and gravel rides—one of the most popular is the Farmstand 40. The 37 kilometres (with the option of adding 23 kilometres) is chock full of local markets and farms selling everything from maple syrup to natural health products like those from Dirty Girls Farm. Cycle with panniers to fill up with your goodies of jams and more.

Another adventure, upwards of 178 kilometres, takes cyclists through historical Francophone regions of the area. The Vive le Nord! follows the west arm of Lake Nipissing, crossing many bridges and travelling through parks. Make a stop to hike 1.5 kilometres to the beautiful Eau Claire Gorge waterfall.

The region is also popular with mountain bikers. The Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area Trails and Three Towers Trail Network have dozens of trails for many skill levels.

If you want to stay in the area, Torbay Suites has three rustic cottages with firepits, kitchenettes and barbecues. The $160 a night rate also includes access to paddle boats, canoes and kayaks. Nearby, you’ll find Orchards Fresh Food Market for local produce and products. The website includes weekly discounts, too.

For post-ride dining, it doesn’t get much better than Burger World. Imagine that $5 will get you a small fry or hamburger. A full dinner with potato, salad and local pickerel comes in at $22.

The region also has 43 free beaches. Located between Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake, three of these are supervised beaches: Shabogesic Beach, Birchaven Cove and Olmsted Beach.

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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