Ultimate Guide to Biking at Shuniah Mines

Find everything you need to know to enjoy some of Ontario's finest riding.

Thunder Bay is one of the biggest cities in Northern Ontario and it has a strong community of cyclists. The Shuniah Mines trail system is the result of the hard work of forward-thinking volunteers at the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club, who made arrangements with the city to develop trails in the Trowbridge Forest. Riding here will make you envious of Thunder Bay locals—with a healthy dose of appreciation for effort and pride they’ve invested into creating some of Ontario’s best mountain bike trails.

At Shuniah Mines you’ll find a network of singletrack linked by gradual double track, with 17 km of trails specifically designed for mountain biking. You can fly down smooth, flowy trails or challenge your technical skills by weaving through rock gardens on some of the tighter trails. The trails are a short drive or even a bike ride from most parts of Thunder Bay; you can easily fill a day riding here.

Getting there

The easiest way to get to the Shuniah Mines trails is to park at Trowbridge Falls Park at 125 Copenhagen Road. Take Hodder Avenue from downtown Thunder Bay. The city’s trail networks link most of the parks in the north end, so you can also ride the multi-use paths from Boulevard Lake or Centennial Park for a bit more exercise.

Once you’re on the trails, maps are posted at frequent intervals. It’s a good idea to download the TrailForks app, which is often updated with the latest trail conditions.

man riding bike approaches boardwalk feature on forested Shuniah Mines trail
Find all manner of mountain bike features. Photo: Erin Simmons

Summer Trails

Both hardtail and full-suspension mountain bikes work well in the Shuniah Mine trail system. The trails follow the standard Green-Blue-Black rating system, with something for everyone. There’s a great mix of berms, rollers and built wooden features like boardwalks. The trails incorporate natural features, too, taking advantage of the varying topography and Canadian Shield they intersect.

Most of these features on Blue trails have bypass options as well. The Grand Chasm is the capstone of Shuniah Mines and a must-ride for any visiting mountain biker. This aptly named trail circles historic Shuniah Mine, an abandoned (and well-fenced off) shaft once used to extract silver.

Expect more technical, challenging riding on the Black Diamond trails, including steep drops and rocky climbs without as many bypass options. Ride the Blue trails to get a sense of the system before you plunge into these tougher trails. Bold riders may even be inclined to take their gravel bikes on some of the smoother flow trails, such as the newly completed Drift trail.

Winter Trails

It’s winter for half the year in Thunder Bay, but that doesn’t stop the cycling opportunities. Fat biking has taken off in the north. The Shuniah Mines’ trails stay open through the winter, and riders can connect to the easier Kinsmen Park trails to warm up before hitting the singletrack. The trails are groomed as needed, and riders can check condition updates from the Blacksheep Facebook page or via the Trailforks app.

two people ride mountain bikes through the forest at Shuniah Mine trails near Thunder Bay
Get deep into the woods. Photo: Erin Simmons

When to Go

Lake Superior, the coldest of the Great Lakes, blesses Thunder Bay with a near-constant cool breeze. It slows down the arrival of spring by a few weeks but keeps the summers a few degrees lower than the sweltering heat of Ontario’s southern cities. Some riders consider the mosquitoes and blackflies motivation to keep moving; but we recognize not everyone shares this sentiment! Mid-June into September is fantastic for cycling in Northwestern Ontario. Hit the trails after July and you’ll miss most bugs.

Fat biking season often starts in December, but the trails can be iffy through the month. There’s a good snowpack by February, and the weather warms up just a little bit in March to make riding more comfortable. March break is one of the nicest times of winter up here and certainly worth visiting.

What to Bring

The trail network is reasonably remote, so you’ll want to have a phone with you for emergency communication. Bring enough water, as there are no fill-ups on the way, and a small kit with standard tools if you need to carry out any trailside fixes.

Rentals

Thunder Bay bike rentals are available at Petrie’s Cycle and Sport (125 North Archibald St) and Rollin’ Thunder (485 Memorial Avenue).

man rides bicycle along a cycling trail at Shuniah Mines in summer
Singletrack you won't want to miss. Photo: Erin Simmons

Fees

There are no fees for using the trails, but consider donating to Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club in gratitude for all their hard work in building and keeping the trails pristine.

Events

The summer caps off with Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club’s signature race, the Shuniah Forty Miner. This two-day event offers four tiers of races: 5-, 12-, 24- and 48-km routes. It’s hosted at Trowbridge Park, with live music and other festivities.

Group rides happen every other week in the summer. There’s a general adult group ride and a women’s ride. Learn to bike clinics also take place monthly throughout the summer.

Nearby Accommodations

For a weekend of pure riding, consider staying at Trowbridge Falls Campground. The municipally-owned park has 28 electrical-only and 31 sites with power and water service. There are turnarounds for trailers and other amenities you would expect at a campground. Jump on your bike from the campsite, and you’ll be on the trail in minutes.

There are some great accommodation options closer to Thunder Bay’s downtown for something a bit more lively. The Courthouse and Prince Arthur Waterfront hotels are both in excellent locations, just walking distance from fantastic restaurant options.

man rides a bicycle along forest trails at Shuniah Mines
Spend all day riding. Photo: Erin Simmons

Food and Drink

For a relatively small city, Thunder Bay punches well above its weight in the dining department, with a variety of top-notch independent restaurants offering different food at all price ranges. Hit up The Foundry or Red Lion Smokehouse for pub food and a wide craft beer selection. One of the newer causal spots on the block is Lakehead Beer Company, with in-house craft beer. Order a Detroit-style pizza from the adjacent Subdivision Pizza and kick back in the outdoor beer garden. Upscale dining options like Tomlin or Bight are also nearby.

Breakfast is a must while visiting Thunder Bay: the Finnish influence is strong here, and there are not many cities where Finn pancakes are as prevalent. If you’ve never had a Finnish pancake, it’s quite different from the fluffy ones most North Americans are used to. Thinner than typical pancakes but thicker than a crepe, Finnish pancakes are usually served in stacks and folded over as they are bigger than your plate! Most breakfast spots in Thunder Bay have them as an option; although the iconic Hoito Restaurent is currently closed, you can still scratch your Finn pancake itch at Rooster’s Bistro or Kangas Sauna.

There are many coffee shops around to start your day or unwind after a ride. The Bean Fiend Cafe, St. Paul’s Roastery, The Sweet North Bakery, and Bay Village Coffee are just a few you’ll find in the city.

Learn more about Thunder Bay’s food scene and what makes it so special.

About Jake O'Flaherty

Jake O’Flaherty is a freelance outdoor guide who loves to explore the remote corners of the world, but Lake Superior is where he feels most at home.

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