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Going Across Canada by Bicycle

Going by Bicycle

Our Route Itineraries now include elevation charts, so you can see how hilly a segment is, and plan your rest stops appropriately.
The Canadian Cycling Association has a great book about touring by bike (Elliott Katz, 1994), though for a variety of reasons, they take significant detours off the Trans-Canada.

Can you bicycle on the Trans Canada Highway? Yes, for most of its length bikes are permitted and (other than Northern Ontario) the shoulders are generous. There are a couple of stretches that are high-speed traffic limted-access divided highway were cyclists are not allowed:

But these routes have good side roads that  are reasonably direct, lower traffic and bicuyle-friendly, and often on the original routes of the Trans-Canada (like Highway 17 east of Ottawa, along the Ottawa River), and these routes are offten more scenic, have more places to stop, shop, and rest than the main route. This makes these side routes more suitable for cyclists.

Cycling across Canada

Cycling Route Detours

Because the Tran-Canada is relatively high traffic, there are some adjustments recommended to the route, especially if cycling alone, without a “chase” or “pack” vehicle. May cross-Canada cycling treks have such a vehicle for logistical reasons.

  1. In BC’s Lower Mainland, bicycles are not permitted on Highway 1, since it is classified as divided highways, and cyclists should travel on Route 7 on the north shore of the Fraser.
  2. From Hope, the CCA recommends following The Crowsnest Highway #3 though Manning Provincial Park and through Osoyoos along the south edge of the Okanagan east to Castlegar and then scoot north on Highway #6 to Revelstoke. The Crowsnest Route, though has higher mountain passes than the main Trans-Canada Route.
  3. BC Goverment restrictions on Cyclists in a nutshell: Stay off the #1 between Horseshoe Bay and Hope (we’ve mapped the detours)
  4. In Western Alberta, from Canmore, take Highway 1A, which takes a leisurely path along the north bank of the Bow River past Ghost Lake and the town of Cochrane into Calgary (with only one big hill on the east side of Cochrane), into Calgary.
  5. At Strathmore, east of Calgary, CCA recommends heading north, then east on highway #9, which takes you through Drumheller (Scenic, historical, but with hills), and then east across the flat Alberta prairie past Oyen to Alsask on the border.
  6. In western Saskatchewan, #9 turns into #44, which connects to 342, which connects to #4 to Swift Current, back on the Trans-Canada
  7. In Manitoba, most of the Trans-Canada is avoided, by taking #83 north to Minota, #24 east to Rapid City, #10 north to Minnedosa, and #16 east to Portage La Prairie, From there, take #26 which detours north through Poplar Point, ending up on the western outskirts of Winnipeg.
  8. East of Winnipeghead along #15 east to Elma and then #44 through Whiteshell Provincial Park past Falcon Lake, finally hitting the Trans-Canada at the Ontario border
  9. From Kenora, take #71 south to Fort Frances on the Minnesota/USA border, and then east on Highway 11 into Thunder Bay. From there, head SOUTH INTO THE USA (bring passport) east along the well-settled south shore of Lake Superior to Sault Ste Marie. This avoids a very remote and heavily truck-trafficked highway, with narrow shoulders and stretches with lots of carnivorous wildlife (like bears, wolves) which can make roadside camping awkward.
  10. From Espanola, a bit west of Sudbury, head south via Manitoulin Island, taking the ferry from Baymouth to Tobermory, and down the Bruce Peninsula to Owen Sound, and then east on country roads through Orillia, Halliburton, Bancroft and Renfrew in the lush Ottawa River Valley.
  11. From Renfrew head along #3 and then #5 alongside the River, avoiding the very heavily trafficked 417 divided highway into Ottawa, where you start in Kanata on Carling Avenue and then follow the Ottawa River Parkway into the city.
  12. East of Ottawa take the old highway #17 through Orleans (now an eastern suburb), again avoiding the 417 divided highway, and crossing into Quebec over the Ottawa River at Hawkesbury to Grenville, and then following #344 southeast into Montreal, via Oka.
  13. Ontario rules for bikes and e-bikes In a nutshell: Stay off any “400 series” highway!
  14. East of Montreal head along the south shore of the St Lawrence along#132 all the way to Levis, across the river from Quebec City. This avoids the busy AutoRoute #20 on the south shore and the #40 on the north shore. A very wise move, considering the reputation of that province’s drivers.
  15. From Levis, take #132 east along the south bank to Riviere du Loup, where you connect to #185 / 85, the Trans-Canada into New Brunswick.
  16. From Grand Falls, New Brunswick, take route #105 down the east bank of the might Saint John River, instead of the busy #2 Trans-Canada Route. This will take you all the way to Fredericton.
  17. From Sussex, NB, take #114 southeast along the Fundy Coast, and then up the Peticodiac River to Moncton. From Moncton, take #106 closer to the waterway than the #2 highway, into Sackville on the Nova Scotia border.
  18. Instead of crossing western Nova Scotia (where there is a very hilly toll-route betwen Amherst and Truro) , they recommend taking a shuttle across Confederation Bridge, cycling the scenic (and flat) coastal route through PEI, east on the #1 into Charlottetown and taking the ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou, Nova Scotia and New Glasgow.
  19. From Caribou, take #245 and #337 along the Northumberland Strait to Antigonish, and country road #4 instead of the busy Trans-Canada #104, crossing the Canso Causeway at Ault Cove, from which point there is only one road through Cape Breton to North Sydney.
  20. Through Newfoundland, there is only one route. No detours are possible.

Cycling near foothills, just west of Calgary


Item 9 is not a possibility for those precluded from entering the United States, who have a criminal record (in some cases even an arrest record), or who did not apply for a Visitors Visa in advance (this applies to citizens of countries other than Canada, and some Canadian citizens who were born in certain other countries – their rules, not ours!)

Ontario & Alberta require bicycle helmets for riders under 18 years. Other provinces have all-ages legislation requiring bike helmets behind New Brunswick (1995), British Columbia (1996), Nova Scotia (1997) and Prince Edward Island (2002). Both BC and Nova Scotia helmet legislation also includes inline skates and scooters.

E-bikes are generally treated the same as un-motorized bicycles, and have a maximum speed of 30 km/h. See e-bike discussion by Fight Your Tickets.

To-From Toronto

From the east, Toronto is approachable for cyclists by using Highway 2, which runs alongside the St Lawrence River (Seaway), and along the north shore of Lake Ontario, connecting many small town centres in a manner very convenient to cyclists. Once inside Toronto, use Kingston Road to head into the downtown area.

To the north of Toronto, Highway 400 is the main route north, extending past Barrie up to Parry Sound, and very shortly to Sudbury, where it connects to the main Trans-Canada Route on Highway #17. Since 400-series highways are verboten for cyclists, we recommend cyclists head through York Region north on Yonge Street, and meander around Lake Simcoe to continue north on Highway #11 near Orillia, and ride north to North Bay and the Trans-Canada #17 from there.