Pack Light, Go Far

Why my Ride the Highlands Tour was the perfect escape from the GTA.

If you’re looking for a getaway that fills your adventure tank without breaking the bank (in money or time), then look no further than a trip to Ontario's Highlands!

For me, it all started during the early days of the pandemic, when I was looking for an escape from my small shoebox of a condo in downtown Toronto. With a clean bill of health, a rare chunk of free time, and a motorcycle sitting in the garage, I signed up for the free Ride the Highlands map and the rest was history.

Ride the Highlands
offers a free touring map to help plan your adventure. Photo credit: Cecilia

Tens of thousands of kilometers later, the Highlands still tops my list for a multi-day motorcycle trip destination in Ontario. Here are a few reasons why:

Your sexy bike needs sexy roads

Photo credit: Jake Jones

City folks know it takes at least an hour to get out of the city before you hit any decent roads for riding. Punch a destination into Google and you’ll inevitably end up on the faster (read: boring) route over the fun, scenic route. There are days when you ride through an endless grid of pin straight roads, just to get to one beautiful twisty one. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way!

The collective network of roads in the Highlands area is a joy to ride. With the twist of your throttle, a smile spreads across your face as the adrenaline pumps through your veins. Every lean you take into the endless bends and curves of the open road connects you back to why you ride. It is far too easy to lose track of time and get carried away when riding here - motorcycles are designed for roads like these!

No two trips ever need to look the same

There is so much to explore in the Highlands that I have never done the same trip twice.

Taking one of the Top 10 routes (511 north to Calabogie), we stopped in at the cutest cafe Oh-el-la for a caffeine break. Following the Highlands Loop led us to the Back Forty Artisan Cheese Shop and Bistro for lunch with owners Jeff and Jenna, and we were just blown away by their great food and hospitality. Pulling up to Woody’s Cycles was by far the most unexpected surprise of all - this was no ordinary bike shop. We had stumbled upon a Mecca for us two-wheeled riders! With its decades of motorcycle history, you just know there’s no shortage of interesting stories.


A post shared by cecilia (@wherescecilia)

Reel credit: Cecilia

My last trip to the Ontario Highlands was entirely different. Every route has its own gems, and the local community will make you feel right at home.

They love motorcycle riders!

Look for the Ride the Highlands motorcycle parking sign out front of any establishment, and you can rest assured the business has invested its resources to cater to motorcyclists. With designated parking and an appreciation for us riders, motorcyclists are welcome here.

On- or off-road, adventures for all

Lakeside snaps with the group. Photo credit: Jake Jones

Whether you are a new or experienced rider, love a smooth road ride or prefer a challenging off-road adventure, the Highlands is home to a network of roads and trails suitable for whatever your wild heart desires. Take the road bike one weekend, and return the following weekend with the dual sport or dirt bike - the beauty of the Highlands is that it’s close enough to the city to do both. There truly is something for everyone!

Now that you’re ready to plan your trip out from Toronto, the best advice I can share is to do a multi-day trip. Get out of the city early in the morning and you can cover a solid chunk of any route, then settle into a town for the night. I recommend staying at least one night to make the most of it; Perth has been my go-to spot because a few Top 10 routes in the region intersect there. This will give you a chance to hang out with your riding crew: check into a hotel, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant, get a good night’s rest, and then you’ll have a whole new day to clock in more miles before you need to start making your way home. If you have more time, use the hotel as your home base and explore a new route every day, or just keep moving.

The possibilities are endless. So where to next??

About Cecilia Lai

Cecilia Lai is an enthusiastic community builder and avid motorcyclist who is passionate about exploring the world on two wheels. From managing the retail shop and tech nights at Town Moto, to hosting monthly events for The Moto Social Toronto community, Cecilia strives to build inclusive spaces where everyone can experience one of life’s most rewarding adventures. Connect with her at @wherescecilia.

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