Canada is a cycling haven, and since it’s the second-largest country in the world (after Russia), there’s plenty of land to log. Add to that the fabled Great Trail — the longest recreational trail network on Earth at 15,000 miles, spanning the country and passing through all 13 provinces and territories. Tour Canada’s most popular routes on two wheels through modern cities and historic towns, along coastlines and into untouched wilderness.
On wild Cape Breton Island, the Cabot Trail is 299 km of twisting and turning top-of-the-world coastal highway frequented by moose, bear and bald eagles, and in the water, Atlantic pilot whales. Experienced cyclists tackle the full loop, while tourists ride from B&B to pub, sampling Celtic and Acadian culture. Freewheeling Adventures leads guided tours.
In downtown’s forested Stanley Park with panoramas of English Bay and the snow-capped Coast Range beyond, the scenic Vancouver Seawall is the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world (28 km) — a prized recreational route for cyclists, with pretty beaches and trendy restaurants along the way.
The Lachine Canal multipurpose path is Montreal’s nature-in-the-city thoroughfare: a 13-km walking/cycling path along a man-made waterway, with stops in historic Old Port of Montreal for a café lunch, Atwater Market for picnic supplies, and a stint along the 4 km Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Formula 1 Grand Prix race track.
Part of The Great Trail, the 140-km paved Greater Niagara Circle Route is optimal cycle-touring country: Farms and orchards, quaint villages and leafy vineyards, green rolling hills, waterfront and beaches, with chances to stop for city fun or lunch at a sidewalk café.
The annual Pemberton Slow Food Cycle each August is a much-loved foodie event. Passionate locavores of all sizes, ages, and abilities cycle the fertile area 40 kilometres north of Whistler farm to farm, celebrating the bounty, stopping for picnics, sampling local produce and artisan edibles, and browsing homespun crafts.
You can literally see all of rural Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, from top to bottom via the easygoing 435-km Confederation Trail. The former rail line traverses patchwork farmland, sleepy seaside villages, picturesque bays and maritime cities. Stop for golf, birding, culinary touring and an afternoon in Charlottetown, Canada’s birthplace.
Ride and hit all the culture stops on Ottawa’s urban Sightseeing Cycling Route. The 7.5-kilometres path follows the historic Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, plus the major museums and landmarks of Canada’s capital. Get equipped with Rentabike or Escape Bicycle Tours.
Considered one of the world’s most scenic rides, 100-plus glaciers line the postcard-worthy Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies. Cycle the 200 km between Jasper and Lake Louise over two to six days on your own or join Mountain Madness Tours.
The most impressive segment of British Columbia’s Great Trail is the 401-km Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a historic route from Brookemere to Midway on the 1915 railway that once transported silver ore from mountains to coast — considered an engineering marvel by the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. For canyon views from 18 gorge-spanning trestles, pedal the 12-km Kelowna-Myra Canyon cliff-hanger, a national historic site.
For the hardcore, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Viking Trail is 500 km of tough coastal riding. The payoff: Dramatic, fjord-cut Gros Morne National Park, friendly far-flung fishing villages, not to mention geological wonders, icebergs, whales and moose.
Beginners can explore Saskatchewan’s 12-km paved section of The Great Trail on two wheels in the Battlefords region along the scenic North Saskatchewan River or pedal the natural terrain along the 25-km North Shore Trail. Though not far, the route rewards with a lovely view over the Battle River-North Saskatchewan convergence.
Try wide-open prairie grassland or boreal forest, or pedal alongside clear-water streams looking for bears, moose and elk in Duck Mountain Provincial Park on the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. Trails are all marked by level of difficulty. A good starting point is the Mossberry Lake campground. One popular stretch is the varied Crocus Trail.
This might be a shorter adventure than some at 21 miles, but the Ridge Road Heritage Trail is the Yukon’s oldest road, constructed after the Gold Rush. It’s also part of the historical Klondike Mines Railway. Pedal this scenic route in one long day or extend the trip to three and camp along the way.
Part of The Great Trail criss-crossing Canada, the multi-purpose Fredericton Valley Trail is a tranquil route that begins in historic Fredericton and ambles through the countryside on both sides of the Saint John River for six miles. Afterwards, refuel at five craft breweries. Join a group club ride and rent or pick up gear.
Quebec ranks as Canada’s most cyclist-friendly province with some 3,107 miles of trails and counting. Watch breaching humpbacks in the St. Lawrence River as you cycle the Whale Trail from Tadoussac to Baie-Trinite, part of the Route Verte completed in 2012. When it debuted, National Geographic named the well-signed “Green Route” the world’s best.