The 20 Best Roads, Trails, and Mountain Biking Routes in Canada
Canada has worldwide recognition for its natural beauty and the sheer size and diversity of terrain.
Whether it is the rushing waterfalls of the great lakes or the lush forests of the Rocky Mountains, there is something for everybody to enjoy. A seemingly infinite number of possibilities await the adventurer cyclist, making the country one of the best to take to the roads or trails.
This article will explore a mix of bike routes, including mountain biking trails and road biking routes. Along the way, we cover leisurely rail-to-trail prairie paths to the steep mountain climbs popular with professional Canadian cyclists with plenty of the rich culture to soak up in between.
Road Biking Routes
Road cycling in Canada is a pleasant experience as Canadian roads are generally well kept and serviced. Additionally, there are often large shoulders in rural areas or plenty of space for other vehicles to maneuver around cyclists.
With so many routes to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down to the best few, but here are our choices for Canada’s best road biking routes.
1. Confederation Trail, PEI
2. Viking Trail, NL
3. The Icefields Parkway, AB
4. Kettle Valley Railway, BC
5. The Golden Triangle, AB & BC
6. The Blueberry Route, QC
7. Niagara River Trail, ON
8. Route Vert, QC
9. Highwood Pass, AB
10. North Dinosaur Trail, AB
11. Cabot Trail, NS
Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island
Beginning our journey at the eastern coast of Canada on Prince Edward Island (PEI), we have the delightful 270-mile Confederation Trail.
This trail comprises part of the Trans Canada Trail developed on abandoned railway lines that cross the island from tip to tip.
The trail surface is primarily smooth limestone dust which you can ride with your road bike without any issues.
Along the way, you will traverse beautiful rolling hills, quiet woodlands, and quaint villages. The steady gradient of this route makes it perfect for a family vacation.
The trail begins at Tignish and ends in Elmira, with plenty of towns and villages along the way. This trail has many services, including shops and lodgings, so you are never too far away from a built-up area.
Viking Trail, Newfoundland
Staying on the east coast for a while longer, you’ve got the famed Viking Trail which runs over 370 miles along the New Gulf of St. Lawrence and through Gros Morne National Park.
This coastal trail passes through dozens of remote fishing villages, rocky cliffs, magnificent mountains, and past ocean strips where you can catch a glimpse of whales and towering icebergs.
The 7 Best US National Parks for Cycling: Part 1
The Best US National Parks for Cycling: Part 2
Additionally, while passing through the national park, you can hike to the top of Gros Mourne Mountain for breathtaking vistas or take a boat trip along the magnificent fjord.
Note that this route is varied enough that any rider could find a section suitable to their fitness levels. However, there are guided and self-guided tours of the entire path that last 7 – 10 days.
For more information, check out a comprehensive breakdown of the entire route and its sections.
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), Alberta
Alberta’s Icefields Parkway is one of the most stunning drives on the planet, let alone Canada.
The 186-mile route between Banff and Jasper showcases some of the most incredible natural scenery, including dozens of ancient glaciers, breathtaking lakes, rushing waterfalls, and towering mountain peaks.
Along the way are some famous stops, including Lake Louise, Sunwapta Falls, and the Columbia Icefield, where you can walk on Athabasca Glacier, the 1,180ft thick ice giant.
Throughout the route, you will take on two mountain passes rising to almost 6900ft of elevation. However, the gradients of this route are not too severe (2-6%) and are suitable for riders of moderate fitness levels.
Riders can take advantage of various lodging options along the way, including hotels, hostels, and BnBs.
Kettle Valley Railway, BC
The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail in British Columbia is hugely popular and the longest rail trail in BC. This route stretches from Hope to Castlegar with 372 miles of connected rail tracks.
The sheer scale of this route in such a stunning province guarantees an array of jaw-dropping scenery and breathtaking views without ever tackling gradients above 3%.
The route also passes through the Okanagan Valley, packed full of vineyards, forests, and lakes. In addition, riders will come across dozens of railroad features, including bridges, trestles, and abandoned buildings.
The nature of this route makes it ideal for family trips who can take advantage of the many unique accommodation options and camping facilities along this way, be it a day trip, a weekend, or an extended trip.
Most notably on the trail is the Myra Canyon section near Kelowna, which packs in 16 wood trestles, two steel bridges, and two tunnels in a short(ish) segment of the route.
The Golden Triangle, Alberta & British Columbia
Returning to the intersection between Alberta and British Columbia, you will find The Golden Triangle.
This iconic area covers more than 190 miles of riding in a loop that offers awe-inspiring vistas and magnificent natural monuments while crossing The Great Divide twice.
The route passes through areas like Golden, Radium Hot Springs, and Lake Louise, to name a few. Highlights include three national parks, Yoho, Banff, and Kootenay.
The nature of this landscape means plenty of challenging climbs and rapid descents, including over 10,000ft of elevation gain, which makes this ride ideal for more experienced riders.
This route has tons of services, including food and accommodation throughout.
The Blueberry Route, Quebec
La Véloroute des Bleuets in Quebec is a magnificent and lengthy 160-mile loop through the region north of Quebec City.
This peaceful trail crosses through mile after mile of lush green fields, tranquil forests, and rustic towns along bike trails and signed roads.
Primarily flat, the Blueberry Route is perfect for riders of any level. In addition, there many services along the way and even companies you can hire to transport your gear over the 3-4 days it would take to complete it.
You can find itineraries of single or multi-day trips on the route’s dedicated website, including a brewery route or a museum route. In addition, you can find all of the services you for planning your next trip perfectly.
Niagara River Recreational Trail, Ontario
The famous Niagara River is home to one of the best recreational paths in Canada, developed in 1986.
The Niagara River Recreational Trail spans roughly 35 miles running parallel along the banks of the river. The trail begins in the historic Fort Erie and finishes at Fort George in Niagara on the Lake, passing by the stunning Horseshoe Falls midway.
Along the trail, you will pass by stunning vineyards and orchards, as well as plenty of services like historical sites, coffee shops, markets, restaurants, and various lodging options.
This peaceful and flat trail is packed with gorgeous scenery and fun activities for people of all ages, making this route excellent for families or couples of varying fitness levels. In addition, there is no motorized traffic allowed on the trail.
Finally, note that you can take the Bike Train from Toronto to Niagara Falls to travel from the capital.
La Route Verte, Quebec
Quebec’s Route Verte is a monstrously large network of trails with almost 3300 miles of bike paths interconnected through the province connecting the two ends of the province and everything in between.
In 2007, the route officially opened and has provided countless adventures for cyclists and visitors to the French-speaking area of Canada.
The official route guide from the website boasts 170 detailed map routes, which you can choose from to build your perfect adventure.
One of the most notable routes is the Eastern Townships section near Montreal, which runs for 139 miles through quaint towns full of rich culture.
This section is a food lover’s dream, passing local producers of cheese, pates, maple products, and wine, as well as freshly picked fruits and vegetables if you time your ride to the harvest season.
The Gulf Islands, British Columbia
BC’s Gulf Islands lie off the west coast between Vancouver Island and the mainland and provide the opportunity for top-notch cycling adventures.
With many islands to choose from, as well as the beautiful city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, you could easily spend a week or two.
The unique thing about these islands is the climate. This area is one of the sunniest and dry in all of Canada, making for excellent cycling weather for a good part of the year.
On the islands, you can ride along quiet roads with spectacular ocean views. The most popular islands to visit are Salt Spring Island, Saturna, and Mayne, where you can sample some of the best fresh shellfish in the country.
These islands are perfect for relaxed single or multi-day trips to enjoy the islands’ natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and surrounding waters.
Aside from that, there are tons of things to do or see, including beautiful beaches, browsing local produce at the craft and farmers markets, or dining out.
Highwood Pass, Kananaskis, Alberta
This guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Canada’s highest paved road. Sitting at an elevation of over 7,000ft, Highwood Pass offers some of the most spectacular views in North America.
The road stretches 91 miles along the TransCanada Highway to Longview. A popular section is the out and back ride that departs from the Kings Creek Ridge Trailhead and rises over the pass, descending to the other side, about 19 miles from the start point.
Upon completing the 37-mile return trip, you will have smashed a total of 3421ft elevation gain, making this challenging section ideal for experienced riders and mountain goats.
On June 15th of every year, this road reopens to traffic following the winter. However, in the month or so prior, cyclists can experience the road snow and traffic-free, allowing them to soak up the breathtaking sights, smells, and sounds of this high pass.
North Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller, Alberta
The North Dinosaur Trail in the Badlands of Drumheller is one of the world’s most unique ride experiences, thanks to the vibrant natural history in the area.
This 29-mile loop makes for the perfect day out and passes incredible canyon viewpoints, vibrant wildlife, and the snaking Red Deer River.
The most challenging part of the trip comes with a climb to the Horse Thief Canyon viewpoint, where you take on a steep hill before soaking in the views. After that, the rest of the trail is pretty flat, with just a few mild rises and falls.
One notable feature of this loop is the chance to cross the Red Deer River on the free Bleriot Ferry around the halfway point. This ferry is one of six in the province and runs from May to October each year.
The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton in Nova Scotia is home to one of the east coast’s most challenging yet rewarding trails.
This 186-mile road cuts through the rugged coastal region of the Cape Breton highlands and high they are.
This trail offers up incredible forest scenery and viewpoints of the roaring ocean below. The old woodlands of this area offer the perfect distraction from the stinging gradients that you face along the way.
The route begins at Baddeck, home to inventor Alexander Graham Bell. From here, you can choose to take the path clockwise, with steadily progressing hills, or counterclockwise, where you can ride at the edge of the road overlooking the ocean.
The peaceful beauty of this remote island ride makes it one of the most enjoyable in Canada. In addition, it is almost completely paved and best enjoyed June to October, with the beautiful fall colors of October a particular treat.
Mountain Biking Trails
Canada has some of the world’s best mountain biking trails, and specifically downhill mountain biking.
British Columbia has the best downhill mountain trails of the ten provinces, with an incredible variety of options spread across the many mountain ranges. However, it is easy to find an excellent track in many parts of the country.
1. Effin Lakes Trail, BC
2. Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC
3. Collingwood Trails, ON
4. Reeve’s Ravine Trail, MB
5. Whistler, BC
6. Bromont, QC
7. Hardwood Hills, ON
8. Rossland, BC
9. Montana Mountain, YK
Elfin Lakes Trail, British Columbia
The Elfin Lakes Trail is a truly spectacular out-and-back route that takes you through Garibaldi Provincial Park.
This trail rises to an elevation of 5250ft, where you can soak up the awe-inspiring mountain lakes. Then, beginning at 3120ft, you climb 6.6 miles at an average grade of around 6% to get to the peak.
This trail’s rocky surface and high elevation add to the difficulty, making the 13.2-mile route seem much longer, lending well to wider tires to help with comfort.
On the way up, you will come across a stunning waterfall, which can be dry if there hasn’t been a lot of rain in the previous weeks. On the rest of the route, you can enjoy the tranquility of the vast pine forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Quebec’s Mont-Sainte-Anne is recognized internationally as one of the best downhill mountain biking areas in North America.
Mont-Sainte-Anne is a regular feature in the MTB World Cup and has over 112 miles of official trails, some with 2000ft of vertical drop. In addition, the whole course has five different gondolas which run while the park is open to bikes from June to October.
Start from the top of the mountain and soak up the incredible views before tackling one of the dozens of rapid descents on offer. Most of the mountain’s trails are doubletrack, with a few wicked singletrack options for the more daring rider.
Mont-Sainte-Anne has held a special place in MTB history since its first inclusion in the World Cup in 1991, and it is also beloved by recreational cyclists. Finally, the park even has a bike school and a pump track to work on your skills.
Collingwood Trails, Ontario
The Collingwood Trails are mountain biking routes a couple of hours from Toronto, featuring 37 miles of riding of different levels.
Collingwood itself is on the beautiful Georgian Bay, allowing riders to make a beach trip following a few hours of riding. In addition, close to the park, you can tackle the downhill riding of the Blue Mountain system.
The trails pass through magnificent forests of trees, making for a spectacular explosion of colors in the fall months or a blanket of green in the summer.
One notable characteristic of Collingwood is that each point of interest in the town has a trail that leads to it, including the beaches mentioned above.
Finally, when cycling in the town, you can take advantage of the excellent bike infrastructure.
Reeve’s Ravine Trail, Manitoba
Manitoba’s Reeve’s Ravine Trail is an essential stop for any mountain biker visiting the province.
Located on the east side of Riding Mountain National Park, the trail is a 7.1-mile loop that includes a 541ft climb up to the summit.
From the top, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Manitoba’s seemingly endless lowlands. Then, once you’re ready, drop down the other side for a fast but technical challenge.
You can also ride just the descent by accessing the track from the Bald Hill trail, which you will see signposts for about one-third of the way down.
Finally, this trial was designed by the International Mountain Biking Association, which speaks to its quality.
Whistler’s Mountain Bike Park, BC
No Mountain Biking route guide would be complete without mentioning one of the world’s premier MTB parks.
Whistler’s MTB park was the first lift-serviced alpine park in North America and fully deserves its recognition among riders as an elite-level playground of XC, all-mountain, enduro, and trail riding.
In the Garbanzo Zone of the park, you can enjoy 2165ft of vertical drop along the world-class singletrack. The Peak Zone holds the Top of the World Alpine Trail, which descends from the peaks through dense forest on one of the most incredible trails in the world.
Another excellent park feature is the 8400square foot indoor air dome, where you can practice jumps and half-pipes with a foam landing.
The best time to come to the park is in early summer before the intense heat or in fall when the temperatures and conditions are ideal, and the colors are most vibrant.
Besides riding, you can enjoy jaw-dropping views of the mountains from the town and the gondolas on the way to the top.
Whistler is truly an unbeatable destination for riders of all levels that you could explore for weeks without seeing the same route twice.
Bromont park is a short drive to the east of Montreal and home to some incredible mountain biking.
The park has roughly 31 miles of trails spread across more than 30 official routes that range from beginner to black diamond expert.
The most technical trails are loaded with huge drops, jumps, bridges, and tight corners. Riders can also take advantage of one of four gondolas to reach the trailheads at the top.
With such a variety of options, Bromont is an excellent place for a family getaway. The kids can cut their teeth on the beginner-level routes while you rip the intermediate to advanced sections. In addition, there is a waterpark right beside the MTB park that is perfect for an entire family day out.
Bromont Ski Park also hosts various competitions throughout the season and has a bike school where you can learn the basics of mountain biking before you take on the trails.
Hardwood Hills, Ontario
Another excellent mountain biking destination in Ontario is the Hardwood hills, around 47 miles from Toronto.
Spread across the hills is 52 miles of trails, 31 of which is singletrack, and the remaining 21 miles is doubletrack. Some of the most popular of the courses include Radical, Gnarly, and Crank’d. Additionally, you have eight different loops, ranging from 2 to 14 miles in length, and can be light rolling or challenging rides.
Most of the trails in the area have stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside and forests, which light up spectacularly in the fall.
One great feature of the Hills is that they have many varied services such as food, accommodation, and bike rentals.
Rossland, British Columbia
BC’s Rossland is a mountain bikers paradise featuring an astonishing 177 miles of pristine trails of all kinds and has been home to world-class racing since the early ’90s.
In total, there are 51 individual runs to choose from, ranging from green to pro double black diamonds. In addition, there are endless miles of repurposed old wagon roads, rail grades, and pack trails left over from the town’s mining industry.
A full-time crew maintains the trails throughout the season, many of which you can access from the town.
Among the most popular in the area is the Seven Summits Trail, recognized as an International Mountain Biking Association Epic ride and the ‘Trail of the Year’ by Bike Magazine in 2007.
This route is 22 miles long and delivers an incredible alpine ride experience with astonishing views of the Columbia River Valley and Selkirk Mountain. The descent includes 6300ft of vertical drop and is a just reward to a stinging 3500ft climb up to the summit.
The route itself is incredibly technical and demanding and is suitable for experienced riders of at least intermediate ability. In addition, the trail is very remote, meaning you should be self-sufficient when you are riding it.
Montana Mountain, Yukon
In Canada’s Northwestern province lies Montana Mountain in Carcross.
Riding in this area provides some of the most beautiful vistas in the whole country. However, the stunning Yukon backcountry is home to sprawling mountain ranges and diverse wildlife, which is best to keep a safe distance.
You have 25 miles of purpose-built singletrack and the Mountain Hero XC mountain biking trail on the mountain.
This trail is 17-miles long, with an incredible 4600ft climb that would leave even the strongest riders weak at the knees.
The route begins with a climb along old mining roads to the mountain’s summit and offers windows into the old life through mining ruins along the way that provide an opportunity to catch your breath.
The descent rips from the alpine meadow at the peak through mountain forests with many technical sections to test your ability.
Finally, when you arrive back, you can enjoy the town of Carcross. Its culture and history, and a well-deserved rest.
Best Touring Bikes in 2023 to Travel the World
Best Electric Touring Bikes for Your Next Adventure