6 Reasons Fall is the Best Season for Cycling in Ontario

And why you should plan an autumn bike trip to some of the prettiest places in the province.

British Columbia has the mountains, the Maritimes have the ocean, but Ontario has the most glorious autumn colours. Pair that with cooler temperatures and no bugs, autumn is the time to get the last riding of the season. It’s hard to restrict ourselves to a few reasons, as there are many, but from pumpkin pastries to epic climbs, here are a few reasons we think fall is the best season for cycling in Ontario.

bicycle rider's POV on an autumn leaf-covered path with bright foliage surrounding
Take it slow so you can take in the fall colours. Photo: Robert Miller // @boppabob007

1. Fall Foliage

Take to the trails or roads in the autumn in Ontario to witness the spectacular colours of the trees filled out in vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. Northern Ontario in particular is magical, speckled with birch trees, red sumacs, river birch, dogwoods and maples that light up the forest.

To see the colours at their best, at the north end of the Hiawatha Highlands bike trails in Sault Ste. Marie, you will find a secluded and special place. You can either ride a gravel road in from the north, or, if you like technical mountain bike trails, ride the black diamond Farmer Lake trail (seven kilometres in and out). At the end of the trail you can sit on a giant slab of Canadian Shield rock and take in a panoramic view of the colours.

While you’re riding at Hiawatha, check out the newest trail system: Crystal Creek offers about 20 kilometres of machine-built fast and flowy mountain bike trails.

2. Night Riding

With crisp fall temperatures and star-studded skies unobscured by city lights, night riding in Northern Ontario is enchanting. With proper headlamps and lights mounted on your handlebars, you can have an entirely different cycling experience. Owls hoot as you zip along the trails, moonlight peaks through the trees and, if you’re lucky, you just might see the Northern Lights.

Before heading out into the dark, check if the sky will be clear on the day of your ride at ClearDarkSky.

Sudbury is a particularly great place to go for a night ride, offering safe pathways and dark skies. Park in the New Sudbury Conservation Area parking lot and hop on the Rainbow Route, a safe and fun path to ride in the dark. Starting in the north end of Sudbury, the Rainbow Route meanders through downtown to the south. The13-kilometre, one-way ride traverses a crushed gravel/asphalt path alongside creeks and some industrial areas, providing open views of the night sky. Expect some gently rolling hills but nothing extreme so you can tilt your head back often and stargaze. Note: bring a downloaded GPS map of the route as it can deviate a few times.

For a great moonlight mountain bike ride through the forest, bike North Bay’s Three Towers Trails. Take the Hillside Trail to the end to see the full moon over Hillside Lake.

If you need a set of lights, you can visit Sudbury’s Sessions Ride Company, Adventure365 or the Outside Store and North Bay’s Cheapskates, Wheelhouse or Cycle Works.

3. Fall Fairs & Markets

Imagine breathing in crisp air and pedalling past colourful pumpkin patches, rows of apple orchards, and markets with fresh baked goods and hot apple cider. After a ride, there’s nothing better than a flaky pastry made with local apples.

One of the best places to eat and ride is the road cycling loop around Lake Rosseau near Parry Sound. The 65-kilometre ride on paved and gravel roads is a hilly ride past historic boathouses and giant cottages (1,500 of them!). Beginning in Port Carling, you can ride solo or join a tour with Humdinger Bicycle Tours. The village of Rosseau not only has a fall fair in late August, but also a General Store that sells local produce and baked goods. Arrive hungry.

For the ultimate fall food ride, the Farmstand 40 in North Bay passes more markets than trees. The route starts in Powassan, just outside of North Bay, and explores the rolling countryside, linking up many markets and farm stands—bring your panniers to stock up.

Pick up preserves and pastries at Groulx Acres, local maple syrup at Matthews Maple Syrup, and custom cakes, preserves and baked goods at JH Farms.

a person riding a bike down a damp path in fall
Put on your layers and get out there. Photo: Robert Miller // @boppabob007

4. Cooler Temperatures

In Northern Ontario, the average daytime temperature in the fall hovers between eight and 12 degrees. That means this is the perfect time of year to smell the woodsmoke and ride without sweating too much.

To make the most of the cool temperatures, ride the iconic Ramsey Lake Loop (21 kilometres) in Sudbury, which starts at Science North. The route traverses gravel and paved roads through Lake Laurentian Conservation Area and past beachfronts. If you find yourself a little chilled, Adventure365 carries popular brands of merino wool—which is great for layering—such as Smartwool and Icebreaker.

In Thunder Bay, just south of downtown, you can do an easy 40-kilometre loop on gravel and asphalt past meadows and lakes. For insulating warm layers, Tapiola Ski and Nature sells major merino wool brands. Bring a backpack to carry the layers when you start to warm up.

man rides a bike while wearing a Halloween costume
Dawn your best costume and participate in the events at Batty Cross each October. Photo: Adam Morka // The Trail Hub

5. Halloween Costumes & Scary Rides

Dressing up for Halloween is fun, riding bikes is fun. Why not combine the two? Sudbury is the place to ride and dress up. The Blezard Valley Fields of Fear has a scary haunted hostel tour in a century-old school house, with midway games and movies. In nearby Kivi Park, The Great Pumpkin Hunt has over 1,000 pumpkins hidden throughout the park. Kids will love the face painting and scavenger hunt while parents can also get in some great riding.

Kivi Park has over 35 kilometres of groomed singletrack trails for the new mountain biker all the way to the double black diamond rider. Rolling over smooth slabs of Canadian Shield, some trails have spectacular views of Long Lake.

Ontario mountain bike legend Emily Batty hosts a cyclocross event called Batty Cross in her hometown of Uxbridge where she learned to ride bikes. The one-day event has a Goblin Grind Relay Race requiring riders to switch up team costumes every lap. The family event also has a kids race and trick-or-treat themed rides. All skill levels are invited and no race licence fees are required.

a person cycling down a fall path
Get ready for a winter full of fun. Photo: Robert Miller // @boppabob007

6. Great Training for Winter Sports

A vigorous hour-long mountain bike ride can burn up to 600 calories, but on top of that, the low impact exercise is a great way to cross-train for the upcoming ski season. Strength, power and endurance on the ski hill will improve after more time in the saddle before the snow falls.

Challenge yourself to an endurance ride like no other, which begins on the bike and ends with a steep hike to the top. Located in the Temagami region, Ishpatina Ridge is the highest peak in Ontario at 693 meters high. This remote bike ride on fire roads is located in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. It takes about an hour of riding to cycle the 7.5-kilometre fire road, before reaching the spot where you’ll drop your bike. Don’t forget your lock! Next, hike approximately two kilometres to the Ellis Fire Tower which overlooks the Canadian Shield. The pain is worth it for the beautiful view.

Another epic endurance challenge is a round-trip mountain bike ride in Sault Ste. Marie called the CTS - King Mountain to Searchmont. If you want an even longer ride, start with the King Mountain Singletrack—an 11-kilometre descent near Stokely Creek. The rest of the 26 kilometres is a blue ride, mostly uphill, to Searchmont, which takes about 2.5 hours.

And you can enjoy that view, entirely bug-free. Another wonderful benefit of fall riding in Northern Ontario.

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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