Why Ontario Is The Best Destination for Quebec Cyclists

Ontario’s best road cycling, recreational riding, mountain biking, and fat-biking is within a short drive of the Quebec border.

You don’t have to travel to Europe for great road cycling or the American Southwest for the best mountain biking. Believe it or not, if you’re a cyclist from Quebec you’re right on the doorstep of some of the planet’s best routes—in Ontario. Here’s a list of some of the finest road riding, mountain biking, fat-biking, and recreational cycling within a short drive from Quebec.

Two men riding bikes on dirt trail.
Going green on Ontario trails. Photo: Martin Lortz

To find out more about these destinations, visit Ontario By Bike to find great itineraries, events, tours, and maps highlighting bicycle friendly businesses, including accommodations, restaurants and pubs.  

You can find more information on cycling clubs across the province through Bicycle Ontario. You’ll find more great Ontario cycling options on websites (and mobile apps) like AllTrails, MTBProject, and BikeMap.

Ottawa

A man holding a bicycle upside down over his head with orange sunset in background.
Ottawa features over 170 km of urban cycling routes. Photo: @ottawatourism

No doubt you’ve heard about the fantastic outdoor activities in Canada’s National Capital Region, right across the (bike-friendly) Alexandra Bridge from Gatineau, Quebec. Escape Bicycle Tours is your go-to source of essential local knowledge and rental bikes. Or check out the Right Bike bicycle share program for a more general-purpose, urban ride. There are no shortage of cycling routes in the nation’s capital. Accessible from downtown Ottawa, the aptly named, 38-km “I Like to See Water When I Ride” loop, which crosses the Ottawa River and takes in all of Ottawa’s urban waterways, is one of 15 self-guided road and recreational cycling routes starting in the city. 

Ottawa mountain bikers gather just east of the city in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, home of the Larose Forest Mountain Bike Trails. Two networks of purpose-built single-track (view and download maps of the North and South networks) are available for summer mountain biking and fat-biking in the winter. Kanata’s South Marsh Highlands features fast and technical trails, located off the 417 expressway west of downtown. The Ottawa Mountain Bike Association provides a list of rental outlets serving mountain- and fat-bikers.

Ottawa Valley

Two mountain bikers riding though a forest in the fall. A white dog is in the lead.
Autumn riding on the Ottawa Valley’s BORCA single track. Photo: @borcatrails

Experience a relaxed way of life in the Ottawa Valley, located just west of the nation’s capital. Rent a bike at GearHeads in Petawawa and check out some of Ontario’s finest mountain- and fat-biking. The Beachburg Offroad Cycling Association maintains year-round single track at Forest Lea, near Pembroke, and along the famous whitewater rapids of the Ottawa River in Foresters Falls—with a trailhead at Whitewater Brewing’s Riverside Pub. Meanwhile, there are 16 designated rides on quiet roadways and rail-trails throughout the scenic Ottawa Valley, ranging in distance from 18 to 269 km.

Rideau Lakes

Man on a bicycle riding by a welcome bikers sign.
Experience the hospitality of eastern Ontario on the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. Photo: @ottawabicycleclub

In June, sign up for one of Canada’s finest group rides—the two-day Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour—which takes in the historic route along the Rideau Waterway from Ottawa to Kingston and back. Multiple route options take you through quaint villages like Merrickville and Westport, with daily distances ranging from 110 km to 210 km. Fully supported and self-supported options are available.

Voyageur Cycling Route

One of Ontario’s newest long-distance road rides will span over 600 km and will connect 29 communities between Ottawa and Sudbury. It’s called the Voyageur Cycling Route—inspired by the ancient canoe route, it parallels across the rugged geography of central and northeastern Ontario. Best of all, it will connect to Quebec’s famed La Route Verte, creating a convenient cycle-friendly corridor for interprovincial bike journeys. Please contact Discovery Routes to find out which sections of the route are currently signed and ready to ride.

Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

Man riding a bicycle on a paved path beside a lake.
Great views of a great lake on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. Photo: @waterfront_rt

There are countless other cycling options on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, which links southern Ontario’s Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River to Lake Huron’s Bruce Peninsula, the famous cottage country of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron’s wild North Channel in northern Ontario. You can experience some of the Waterfront Trail’s scenic highlights on a fully supported journey in August. 

If you’re looking for a more remote, self-guided adventure, look north to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail’s North Channel section, a 380- to 570-km (depending on side-trips) ride on paved, primary and secondary highways, from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury. The route is part of Canada’s massive Great Trail, featuring gentle grades and favouring quiet roadways, with multiple options for overnight stays, along the scenic North Channel of Lake Huron.

Prince Edward County

Beautiful view of grassy parkland, autumn trees and a lake.
A scene from Prince Edward County at Sandbanks Provincial Park on the Lake Ontario shore. Photo: @visitthecounty

Southeastern Ontario’s Prince Edward County boasts a wide range of attractions—from some of Canada’s finest wineries to rich biological diversity (including a multitude of migrating birds) and world-class road cycling in a vibrant, pastoral landscape that will make you believe you’re in the Napa Valley or the vineyards for France. Rental bikes are available as well as great accommodations, ranging from the guest suites and cottages of the Isaiah Tubbs Resort to the Lake Ontario campsites at Sandbanks Provincial Park. Check out a two-day riding itinerary that takes in some of the County’s greatest hits.

If you prefer a group ride experience check out the County Gran Fondo, a one-day fully supported ride in September that takes in Prince Edward County’s finest countryside. For a truly unique experience sign up for a full-day, 20-km guided wine-tasting ride on the gravel Millenium Trail with The County Wine Tours. The tour includes comfort cruiser bikes, stops at four wineries and a sample of at least 12 wines.

North Bay

The “Gateway City”, located a short drive from Quebec, is often overlooked amongst cyclists. North Bay is a beautiful community on the shores of Lake Nipissing that embraces its nearby nature, featuring road riding on the Voyageur Cycling Route and an under-the-radar mountain bike scene, with 6.6 km of trails near Laurentian Ski Hill and the 20-km Campus Trails adjacent to Nipissing University and Canadore College. Check out a map of trails within North Bay city limits.

Sudbury

Man riding on a mountain bike over rough terrain.
Dropping in on Sudbury slickrock. Photo: @theryanlaf

Quebec residents will feel instantly at home in Sudbury, a vibrant city that’s invigorated by a strong Franco-Ontarian community. It’s no surprise that a place best known for its rugged landscape would boast some of Ontario’s finest mountain biking. Rent a bike and grab some local knowledge at Sessions Ride Company or the Outside Store.

Mountain bike enthusiasts have three trail networks to explore in the Sudbury vicinity: Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, adjacent to Science North near downtown; Kivi Park in the city’s south end (with on-site rentals and winter fat-biking); and the Naughton Trails, located west of Sudbury in the suburb of Walden. Each area has its own appeal, unified by plenty of exposure to bare rock—like a Northern Ontario Moab.

Ontario Parks

Two cyclists riding in autumn leaves.
Biking in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. 

Unique cycling experiences are available in two Ontario Parks, both located near the Quebec border. Algonquin Provincial Park features wilderness mountain biking on the Minnesing Trail and family-friendly riding on the gravel Old Railway Bike Trail, spanning between the Mew Lake and Rock Lake campgrounds. Meanwhile, Silent Lake Provincial Park features 26 km of some of Ontario’s finest mountain bike trails, rated intermediate to advanced, located in Eastern Ontario alongside a full-service waterfront campground, featuring RV and tent sites as well as cabins and yurts.

FIND OUT MORE

Visit Ontario By Bike to find great places to cycle, bike rentals, and bicycle-friendly businesses, including accommodations, restaurants, and pubs.  

About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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