Bikepacking, a thrilling fusion of cycling and backpacking, has gained tremendous popularity among adventure enthusiasts in recent years. One region that stands out as a prime destination for bikepacking adventures is Ontario, Canada. With its diverse landscapes, picturesque trails, and a rich tapestry of natural beauty, Ontario offers an ideal backdrop for unforgettable bikepacking journeys. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of bikepacking in Ontario. From understanding the essence of bikepacking to discovering the top routes, planning your adventure, and mastering the essentials, this article aims to equip you with all the knowledge you need to embark on an incredible bikepacking expedition in Ontario.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Bikepacking
- Preparing for Your Bikepacking Adventure
- Safety Considerations and Tips
- Top Bikepacking Routes in Ontario
- Cannonball 300 – A Challenging Multi-Day Adventure
- Simcoe County Loop Trail – A Scenic Journey Through Simcoe County
- North of Seven 770 – Exploring Northern Ontario’s Wilderness
- Central Ontario Loop Trail (COLT) – A Historic Rail Trail Adventure
- Additional Noteworthy Bikepacking Routes in Ontario’s Highlands
- Planning Your Bikepacking Trip
- Tips for a Successful Bikepacking Experience
- When to Go Bikepacking in Ontario
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Essence of Bikepacking
Before we delve into the specifics of Ontario’s bikepacking routes, let’s first grasp the essence of bikepacking itself. Bikepacking is a dynamic outdoor activity that combines the freedom of cycling with the self-sufficiency of backpacking. Unlike traditional cycling, which often involves paved roads and support vehicles, bikepacking takes riders off the beaten path. It embraces dirt roads, rugged trails, and remote terrains, providing a genuine sense of adventure and connection with nature.
What Sets Bikepacking Apart
What sets bikepacking apart from traditional cycling or backpacking is its emphasis on minimalism and self-sufficiency. Bikepackers carry everything they need on their bikes, from camping gear to food and water. This self-contained approach allows for extended multi-day journeys into remote areas, far from the trappings of modern civilization. It’s about exploring the wilderness at your own pace, uncovering hidden gems, and experiencing the raw beauty of nature.
The Appeal of Bikepacking
Why has bikepacking gained such popularity? There are several reasons:
- Exploration: Bikepacking takes you to places you might never reach by car or on foot. You can venture deep into forests, traverse rugged mountain trails, and discover pristine lakes that are inaccessible to vehicles.
- Freedom: With your gear strapped to your bike, you have the freedom to change your route on a whim. You’re not tied to reservations or set itineraries, allowing you to embrace spontaneity and adventure.
- Physical Challenge: Bikepacking is physically demanding, making it an excellent way to stay fit and challenge your limits. The terrain can vary from easy gravel roads to challenging singletrack, offering something for cyclists of all skill levels.
- Disconnecting: In our hyperconnected world, bikepacking offers a rare opportunity to disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in the natural world. It’s a chance to unwind, destress, and recharge.
Now that we’ve established what bikepacking is and why it’s so appealing, let’s turn our attention to Ontario, a province that offers a diverse range of bikepacking experiences.
Preparing for Your Bikepacking Adventure
Essential Gear and Equipment for Bikepacking
One of the first steps in preparing for a bikepacking adventure in Ontario is assembling the right gear and equipment. Your choice of gear can significantly impact your comfort and safety on the trail. Here’s a breakdown of the essential items you’ll need:
Bikes and Bike Modifications
The foundation of any successful bikepacking trip is, of course, your bike. While you can bikepack on various types of bicycles, dedicated bikepacking or gravel bikes are designed to handle rough terrain and carry gear efficiently. Consider factors like tire clearance, frame material, and mounting points for racks and bags when selecting a bike.
Additionally, consider these bike modifications:
- Wider Tires: Opt for wider tires with good traction to handle off-road conditions.
- Lower Gears: Install lower gears to help you conquer steep climbs while carrying a load.
- Bag Mounts: Ensure your bike has attachment points for bags and racks.
Since bikepacking often involves remote camping, lightweight and compact camping gear is essential. Here’s a list of camping gear to consider:
- Tent or Shelter: Choose a lightweight tent, bivy sack, or hammock that suits your preferences and the expected weather conditions.
- Sleeping Bag and Pad: Invest in a sleeping bag and pad suitable for the season and climate.
- Cooking Equipment: A compact stove, cookware, and utensils for preparing meals.
- Water Filtration: Carry a water filtration system to purify water from natural sources.
Navigation is a crucial aspect of bikepacking. While GPS devices and smartphones are handy, they can run out of battery or lose signal in remote areas. Consider these navigation tools:
- Maps: Topographic maps of your route and a compass.
- GPS Device: A reliable GPS device with offline maps can be a valuable backup.
- Paper Maps: Always carry paper maps as a backup.
In addition to these essentials, you’ll need clothing suitable for varying weather conditions, bike repair tools, spare parts, and a first-aid kit. It’s crucial to strike a balance between carrying enough gear to be self-sufficient and not overloading your bike, which can make riding challenging.
Choosing the Right Bikepacking Route in Ontario
Ontario offers a myriad of bikepacking routes, each with its own unique charm. The key to a memorable adventure is choosing a route that aligns with your skill level and interests. Here are some factors to consider:
- Beginner-Friendly Routes: If you’re new to bikepacking, consider routes in Ontario that are less technical and offer easier terrain. These routes typically have well-maintained gravel roads and fewer challenging sections.
- Intermediate to Advanced Routes: For experienced bikepackers seeking more adventure, routes with rugged terrain, singletrack trails, and challenging climbs provide an exhilarating experience.
- Scenic Routes: If you’re drawn to breathtaking landscapes and serene views, opt for routes that pass through Ontario’s stunning natural wonders, such as lakes, forests, and valleys.
- Historical Routes: Some routes offer a glimpse into Ontario’s rich history, with stops at heritage sites, abandoned railway lines, and historical landmarks.
- Wildlife and Nature Routes: For nature enthusiasts, routes that take you through wildlife habitats and natural reserves offer opportunities for wildlife sightings and birdwatching.
To make an informed decision, research the difficulty level, length, points of interest, and trail conditions of each bikepacking route in Ontario.
Safety Considerations and Tips
Bikepacking in Ontario’s diverse landscapes can be exhilarating, but it’s essential to prioritize safety. Here are some safety considerations and tips:
- Emergency Communication: Ensure you have a reliable means of communication, such as a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB), for remote areas with no cell coverage.
- Weather Preparedness: Ontario’s weather can be unpredictable. Check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly. Be prepared for temperature fluctuations and sudden storms.
- Leave No Trace: Respect the environment by following the principles of Leave No Trace. Pack out all your trash, avoid disturbing wildlife, and camp in designated areas.
- Trail Etiquette: Be courteous to other trail users, whether they are hikers, cyclists, or equestrians. Yield the trail when necessary and practice good trail etiquette.
With these essential preparations and safety considerations in mind, you’re ready to explore the top bikepacking routes that Ontario has to offer.
Top Bikepacking Routes in Ontario
Ontario boasts an array of bikepacking routes that cater to different preferences and skill levels. Let’s dive into some of the standout routes that showcase the province’s natural beauty and diversity.
Cannonball 300 – A Challenging Multi-Day Adventure
- Distance: Approximately 300 kilometers
- Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
- Highlights: Rugged terrain, remote wilderness, pristine lakes
The Cannonball 300 is a challenging bikepacking route that promises a multi-day adventure through Ontario’s rugged wilderness. This route is designed for experienced bikepackers seeking an adrenaline rush and a profound connection with nature. The trail takes you through remote areas, testing your endurance and navigation skills.
Points of Interest:
- Algonquin Provincial Park: Explore the breathtaking landscapes and serene lakes of Algonquin Park along the route.
- Barron Canyon: Admire the striking geological formations of Barron Canyon, a natural wonder in the heart of the wilderness.
- Highland Backpacking Trail: Embark on a side trip to tackle the Highland Backpacking Trail, a challenging and rewarding hiking experience.
The Cannonball 300 is not for the faint of heart, but it promises an unforgettable journey for those who dare to conquer its challenges.
Simcoe County Loop Trail – A Scenic Journey Through Simcoe County
- Distance: Approximately 160 kilometers
- Difficulty: Beginner-friendly to intermediate
- Highlights: Picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, charming towns
The Simcoe County Loop Trail offers a more accessible bikepacking experience, making it suitable for cyclists of various skill levels. This route takes you on a scenic journey through Simcoe County, showcasing the region’s natural beauty and charming towns.
Notable Stops Along the Way:
- Barrie: Explore the vibrant city of Barrie, known for its waterfront parks and cultural attractions.
- Horseshoe Valley: Enjoy the picturesque views of Horseshoe Valley, a popular ski and outdoor recreation destination.
- Creemore: Discover the quaint village of Creemore, known for its craft breweries and historic charm.
The Simcoe County Loop Trail provides a delightful blend of natural landscapes and cultural experiences, making it an excellent choice for a leisurely bikepacking adventure.
North of Seven 770 – Exploring Northern Ontario’s Wilderness
- Distance: Approximately 770 kilometers
- Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
- Highlights: Remote wilderness, scenic lakeshores, challenging terrain
For those seeking a true wilderness adventure, the North of Seven 770 route beckons. This epic journey spans approximately 770 kilometers, taking you deep into the heart of Northern Ontario’s pristine wilderness. Be prepared for rugged terrain, remote campsites, and awe-inspiring vistas.
Wildlife and Natural Attractions:
- Lake Superior Provincial Park: Immerse yourself in the beauty of Lake Superior and its rugged shoreline.
- Agawa Bay: Witness the stunning Agawa Bay with its picturesque beaches and crystal-clear waters.
- Algoma Highlands: Traverse the Algoma Highlands, known for its diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife.
The North of Seven 770 route is a true test of your bikepacking skills and an opportunity to connect with nature in its purest form.
Central Ontario Loop Trail (COLT) – A Historic Rail Trail Adventure
- Distance: Approximately 450 kilometers
- Difficulty: Beginner-friendly to intermediate
- Historical Significance: Abandoned rail trail network, scenic landscapes
The Central Ontario Loop Trail, known as COLT, offers a unique bikepacking experience that combines history and scenic beauty. This route explores an abandoned rail trail network, offering a glimpse into Ontario’s transportation history while showcasing its natural splendor.
Historical Points of Interest:
- Trestle Bridge: Cross the historic trestle bridge over the Bonnechere River, a marvel of engineering.
- Ghost Towns: Pass by abandoned settlements and ghost towns that harken back to Ontario’s past.
- Scenic Railways: Follow scenic sections of old railways, which provide a glimpse into the region’s history.
The COLT route is perfect for history buffs and those who appreciate the serenity of abandoned rail trails.
Additional Noteworthy Bikepacking Routes in Ontario’s Highlands
Ontario’s Highlands offer a treasure trove of bikepacking routes, each with its own allure. Here are three additional routes to consider:
Haliburton Forest Route:
Distance: 50 kilometers
Highlights: Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, serene lakes, and dense forests.
The Haliburton Forest Route spans 50 kilometers, offering a tranquil bikepacking experience within Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. Expect serene lakes, lush forests, and the chance to spot wildlife like deer and moose. It’s a peaceful journey immersed in nature’s beauty.
North Frontenac K&P Loop:
Distance: 68 kilometers
Highlights: Frontenac County landscapes, K&P Rail Trail, scenic overlooks.
The 68-kilometer North Frontenac K&P Loop showcases Frontenac County’s diverse landscapes. Highlights include rolling hills, the historic K&P Rail Trail, and scenic overlooks offering picturesque views of the countryside. It combines natural beauty with historical intrigue.
Griffith Highlander Route:
Highlights: Griffith Uplands, scenic vistas, terrain challenges.
The Griffith Highlander Route explores the rugged Griffith Uplands. With steep climbs, technical descents, and rocky sections, it’s ideal for experienced bikepackers seeking a thrilling challenge. Scenic vistas along the route provide stunning visuals of the Uplands’ beauty.
These routes in Ontario’s Highlands offer diverse experiences, from tranquil lakeside rides to challenging trails through rugged terrain. Each promises a unique adventure for bikepackers.
Planning Your Bikepacking Trip
Now that you’ve gained insights into some of the top bikepacking routes in Ontario, it’s time to plan your own adventure. Effective planning ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are some essential aspects to consider:
Setting a Realistic Itinerary
When planning your bikepacking trip, create a realistic itinerary that factors in your skill level, the distance you intend to cover each day, and the terrain you’ll encounter. Take into account variables like elevation gain and trail conditions, as these can significantly impact your daily progress.
A well-structured itinerary allows you to pace yourself and enjoy the journey rather than rushing to reach your destination.
Resupplying and Refueling Strategies
Bikepacking routes often take you through remote areas where resupply options are limited. Research the availability of food, water sources, and accommodations along your route. Consider these strategies:
- Food Resupply: Plan your food supplies and identify towns or villages where you can restock your provisions.
- Water Sources: Know where you can access clean water, and carry purification methods if necessary.
- Accommodations: If you prefer not to camp every night, research accommodations like lodges, cabins, or motels along the route.
Camping and Accommodation Options
Camping is a fundamental part of the bikepacking experience, but it’s essential to choose suitable campsites. Look for established campgrounds or designated backcountry camping areas along your route. Make reservations if required, especially during peak seasons.
If you’re open to more luxurious accommodations, research lodges or cabins near your route. These options can provide a comfortable break from camping when needed.
Permits and Regulations
Before embarking on your bikepacking adventure, familiarize yourself with the permits and regulations specific to your chosen route. Some areas may require permits for camping or have specific rules for trail use. Adhering to these regulations helps protect the environment and ensures a hassle-free journey.
Planning your bikepacking trip meticulously allows you to focus on the adventure itself, knowing that you’ve covered the practical aspects. With your itinerary, resupply strategies, camping options, and permits in order, you’re well-prepared to set off on your Ontario bikepacking adventure.
Tips for a Successful Bikepacking Experience
Bikepacking is an exhilarating endeavor, but it can also be physically demanding and mentally challenging. To make the most of your adventure, consider these tips:
Fitness and Training Advice
Bikepacking involves long days in the saddle and navigating challenging terrain. Prioritize your physical fitness and conditioning in the months leading up to your trip. Here’s how:
- Regular Riding: Build endurance and strength by going on progressively longer rides, mimicking the conditions you’ll encounter during your bikepacking trip.
- Strength Training: Include strength training exercises, particularly for your legs and core, to handle the physical demands of biking with a loaded bike.
- Practice Loaded Riding: Before your trip, load your bike with gear and practice riding it on various terrains to get accustomed to the added weight.
Effective navigation is critical in bikepacking, especially when exploring remote areas. Here’s how to navigate with confidence:
- Route Familiarization: Study your chosen route thoroughly, noting landmarks, intersections, and key waypoints. This will reduce the likelihood of getting lost.
- Use GPS Devices: Consider using GPS devices or smartphone apps with offline maps as backup navigation tools. Ensure these devices are fully charged and carry a power bank.
- Compass and Maps: Carry a compass and paper maps as a fail-safe option, particularly in areas with unreliable GPS signals.
- Trail Markings: Pay attention to trail markings, if available, and follow them to stay on course.
Packing Efficiently for Your Journey
Packing efficiently is an art in bikepacking. Every piece of gear should serve a purpose and contribute to your comfort and safety. Here are some packing tips:
- Ultralight Gear: Invest in ultralight camping gear and clothing to reduce the overall weight of your load.
- Multi-Functional Items: Choose gear that serves multiple purposes. For example, a lightweight tarp can double as rain protection and a groundsheet.
- Pack Strategically: Distribute weight evenly on your bike to maintain balance. Keep heavy items low and centered.
- Water Storage: Use collapsible water containers to maximize your water-carrying capacity while minimizing space when empty.
- Leave Non-Essentials Behind: Be ruthless in eliminating non-essential items from your gear list to minimize weight and bulk.
By following these fitness, navigation, and packing tips, you’ll enhance your bikepacking skills and ensure a more enjoyable and successful adventure in Ontario.
Bike Maintenance and Repair Skills
Bikepacking often takes you through remote areas where bike shops may be scarce. Having basic bike maintenance and repair skills is invaluable. Here’s what you should know:
- Tire Repairs: Learn how to repair a flat tire and carry the necessary tools, including spare tubes and a patch kit.
- Brake and Gear Adjustments: Familiarize yourself with brake and gear adjustments, as they can affect your ride quality.
- Chain Maintenance: Keep your chain clean and lubricated to prevent wear and ensure smooth shifting.
- Emergency Repairs: Know how to address common issues like a broken chain or a bent derailleur on the trail.
Carrying essential tools and spare parts, such as a multi-tool, chain tool, spare spokes, and brake pads, can save your trip if mechanical issues arise.
Ontario is home to diverse wildlife, including bears, moose, and deer. While wildlife encounters can be awe-inspiring, it’s crucial to know how to handle them safely:
- Bear Safety: If you’re traveling through bear country, learn bear safety practices, such as storing food properly, making noise to alert bears to your presence, and carrying bear spray.
- Moose and Deer: Approach moose and deer cautiously and give them space, especially during the mating season.
Solo or Group Travel
Decide whether you want to embark on your bikepacking adventure solo or with a group. Solo travel provides solitude and self-discovery but requires self-reliance. Group travel offers companionship, shared responsibilities, and safety in numbers. Whichever you choose, communicate your plans with someone responsible who knows your itinerary and expected return date.
When to Go Bikepacking in Ontario
The timing of your bikepacking adventure in Ontario can greatly influence your experience. Ontario experiences distinct seasons, each offering unique opportunities and challenges for bikepacking. Here’s an overview:
Spring, typically from March to May, offers cooler temperatures and lush green landscapes. However, trails may be muddy, and lingering snow can affect higher elevations. Spring is an excellent time for lowland routes and enjoying the awakening of nature.
Summer, from June to August, is the most popular season for bikepacking in Ontario. The weather is warm, and trails are generally dry and accessible. Longer daylight hours provide ample riding time. Be prepared for occasional rain showers and biting insects.
Fall, from September to November, offers cool and crisp weather, making it a pleasant time for bikepacking. The changing foliage adds vibrant colors to the landscape. Trails are usually dry, and the absence of insects is a bonus. However, be aware of shorter daylight hours as the season progresses.
Winter, from December to February, is the least popular season for bikepacking due to snow and freezing temperatures. While some adventurous cyclists embrace fat biking on snow-covered trails, it’s essential to be well-prepared for extreme conditions.
When planning your bikepacking trip, consider the season that aligns with your preferences and the specific route you intend to tackle. Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary widely in Ontario, so always check the local forecast before setting out.
With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse terrains, and abundant natural beauty, bikepacking routes in Ontario beckon bikepacking enthusiasts to embark on unforgettable adventures.
Now that you have a solid foundation of knowledge, it’s time to gear up, map out your route, and set off on your bikepacking journey through Ontario’s diverse landscapes. Whether you seek the thrill of rugged trails, the serenity of pristine lakeshores, or the exploration of historical rail routes, Ontario has it all waiting for you.
Remember that every bikepacking adventure is a unique experience, and you have the opportunity to create lasting memories, connect with nature, and discover the untamed beauty of Ontario.
With your planning and safety knowledge in hand, you’re well-prepared to undertake an incredible adventure through the bikepacking routes in Ontario. As you embark on your journey, remember to stay safe, respect the environment, and enjoy every moment of the breathtaking landscapes and diverse terrains that this province has to offer.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Before embarking on a bikepacking trip, ensure you are adequately prepared, have the necessary skills, and follow all safety guidelines and regulations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bikepacking in Ontario can be safe for solo travelers if you take necessary precautions. Inform someone about your itinerary, carry essential safety gear, and be aware of your surroundings. Joining group rides or connecting with local bikepacking communities can enhance safety.
Yes, Ontario hosts various bikepacking races and events, such as the BT 700 and other endurance races. Check local cycling clubs, websites, and social media groups for updates on upcoming events.
Each provincial park in Ontario may have its own rules and regulations regarding bikepacking and camping. It’s essential to check with the specific park authorities for information on permits, fees, and camping restrictions.
While GPS devices and smartphones are valuable tools, they may not work in remote areas. To navigate effectively, use topographic maps, a compass, and landmarks along the route. Offline maps on GPS devices or smartphone apps can serve as backups.
Bike maintenance is crucial on a bikepacking trip. Carry a basic repair kit, learn essential repair skills, and conduct regular bike checks. If you encounter major issues, consider having a satellite phone or locator beacon for emergencies.
If you’re traveling to Ontario from another region with your bike, consider shipping your bike, using a bike box or bag for air travel, or utilizing bike-friendly transportation services. Consult with airlines, bike shops, or shipping companies for guidance.
Some popular bikepacking routes in Ontario may have bikepacking-specific accommodations or campgrounds. Research your chosen route and check if there are bikepacking-friendly options available, but also be prepared for backcountry camping when needed.