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10 Iconic Bikepacking Routes Across Canada

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Pedal through your next adventure.

Just a few years ago, bikepacking was largely considered a fringe adventure sport, the exclusive domain of foolhardy cyclists who raced the Tour Divide from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, each June. Today, multi‑day bicycle adventuring is one of the fastest‑growing segments of the cycling industry and almost every manufacturer offers multiple bikepack‑ready models. The boom in popularity has led to extensive route development, too, which gives cyclists nearly endless options based on ability, terrain type and duration.

What is bikepacking?

The easiest way to describe bikepacking is to consider two distinct sports: traditional bicycle touring and ultralight backpacking. From bicycle touring, bikepacking borrows its multi‑day, long‑distance travel focus, but takes it off the highway and onto gravel roads and mountain bike trails. To make the bikes less burdensome over difficult terrain, it adopts the ultralight backpacking ethos of carrying only the essentials. In place of bike racks and panniers, most bikepackers opt for simple handlebar rolls, frame bags and seat bags that often total as little as a 30‑litre carrying capacity to fit everything, including a tent, sleeping bag, warm clothing layers and enough food to travel between resupply points.

Best bikepacking routes in Canada

From weekend‑length gravel‑road rides beginning in Quebec, to 10‑day epic trips on rail trails across British Columbia, deciding where to go might prove as challenging as the multi‑day adventure itself. Here are some of our favourite bikepacking routes across Canada to get you started.

April 13, 2021
A bike resting against a tree on a trail in British Columbia
BC Epic, Merritt to Fernie.   Photo: Kirsten Mills
  1. Bikepacking in British Columbia: BC Epic, Merritt to Fernie —

    British Columbia is the epicentre of the Canadian mountain bike scene, so it should be no surprise that it’s also home to one of the best bikepacking routes. The BC Epic is a point‑to‑point 1,000‑kilometre bikepack route connecting the Okanagan Valley, the Kootenays and the Canadian Rockies between Merritt and Fernie. The route follows a mostly rail‑grade trail, with enough loose sand and washboard to add to the endurance challenge. While most riders will opt to ride the BC Epic over 10 days, the official course record is a blistering two days, 16 hours and 45 minutes, set during the unsanctioned annual BC Epic Race.

Bikepacking on a suspended bridge along the High Rockies in Alberta
High Rockies, Canmore.   Photo: Jeff Bartlett
  1. Bikepacking in Alberta: High Rockies, Canmore —

    Nearly half the routes in the recently published Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies guidebook begin in Canmore or Banff. It’s hard to beat the combination of scenery, single‑track and resupply opportunities found along the 182‑kilometre High Rockies route that passes through both towns. The route mixes everything from purpose‑built mountain bike trails to paved roads, and typically takes three days to complete. The highlight is the 80‑kilometre High Rockies single‑track through Kananaskis Country. There are endless viewpoints along the way, but the most unforgettable moment is crossing the Blackshale Suspension Bridge. The biggest challenge is, unquestionably, the stretch connecting Canmore and Banff, which follows the technical Highline and Rundle Riverside trails.

Biking on a dirt path of the Audible that runs through Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
The Audible, Cypress Hills.   Photo: Carter Gramlich
  1. Bikepacking in Alberta and Saskatchewan: The Audible, Cypress Hills —

    Quiet gravel roads and stunning campsites are highlights of the three‑day, 161‑kilometre Audible route through Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. (It can begin and end in either Saskatchewan or Alberta, but Elkwater, Alberta, is an ideal starting and stopping point for the loop.) In 2004, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated the park as an official Dark Sky Preserve to recognize incredible stargazing opportunities. During a new moon, an uninterrupted 180‑degree view of the night sky is revealed because of the unique geology, which lifted the Cypress Hills 600 metres above the surrounding Prairies. Although the route is light on climbing, it does run near Saskatchewan’s highest point, which measures 1,392 metres above sea level.

A dock overlooking the waters of Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba
Loop around Riding Mountain National Park.   Photo: Norm Andreiw
  1. Bikepacking in Manitoba: Loop around RMNP —

    It’s difficult to find published routes in Manitoba. However, passionate local cyclists share local info via the public Bikepack Manitoba Facebook group. The 390‑kilometre all‑gravel loop around Riding Mountain National Park showcases the best of the Prairies: wide‑open gravel roads, impossibly wide views, and just enough rolling hills to keep it challenging. Resupply points are frequent, but cyclists should go prepared for long distances between communities and quiet country roads with little available assistance.

A cyclist on the Butter Cup 700 route in Ontario
BT700, St. Jacobs.   Photo: Matthew Kadey
  1. Bikepacking in Ontario: BT700, St. Jacobs —

    The 760‑kilometre Butter Tart 700 route helped introduce bikepack racing to eastern Canada, but it can be ridden at any time throughout the summer. Because it uses a mix of gravel roads, ATV tracks and bike trails to avoid unnecessary paved sections, it’s more a mountain bike route than a pure gravel bike ride. Set in southwestern Ontario, the route touches the Lake Huron shoreline and traverses the escarpment region to take in the many highlights of this part of Canada. The annual Grand Depart for the BT700 race takes place in June or July.

Biking along the wooded path of the Forêt‑Ouareau Loop in Montreal
Forêt‑Ouareau Loop, Montreal.
Messkit Magazine.
   Photo: Trevor Browne
  1. Bikepacking in Quebec: Forêt‑Ouareau Loop, Montreal —

    Beginning at Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, the Forêt‑Ouareau Loop might be Canada’s most accessible bikepacking route. Once out of the city, it loops through the Laurentian Mountains and the Forêt‑Ouareau Regional Park. This 280‑kilometre, three‑day ride is an excellent route for beginners, as the mixed surfaces are suitable for almost any gravel or mountain bike, resupply points are frequent and it never strays far from the comforts and help of civilization.

A waterfall within the Fundy Triangle of Sussex, New Brunswick
Fundy Triangle, Sussex.   Photo: Danielle Langlois
  1. Bikepacking in New Brunswick: Fundy Triangle, Sussex —

    Beginning in Sussex, the 150‑kilometre Fundy Triangle connects three mountain bike trail networks via gravel roads and ATV trails. The route passes through Fundy National Park, where the International Mountain Bike Association partnered with Parks Canada to build a progressive trail network suitable for riders at every level. Although campsites in Fundy National Park must be booked in advance, it’s the best place to spend the night on this two‑day ride.

Four people biking on a wooden bridge on the Rum Runners Trail in Nova Scotia
Rum Runners Trail, Lunenburg to Halifax.   Photo: Tourism Nova Scotia/Acorn Art Photography
  1. Bikepacking in Nova Scotia: Rum Runners Trail, Lunenburg to Halifax —

    By bikepacking standards, the Rum Runners trail is short and flat; however, this 119‑kilometre route between the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town Lunenburg and Halifax highlights vibrant maritime communities, beaches and local seafood. Whether it’s a lobster dinner at the Shore Club in Hubbards or a swim at Cleveland Beach Provincial Park in Black Point, there are plenty of reasons to slow down and get off the bike along the journey.

A group of people biking along the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island
Confederation Trail Tip‑to‑Tip, Tignish to Elmira.   Photo: Paul Baglole
  1. Bikepacking in Prince Edward Island: Confederation Trail Tip‑to‑Tip, Tignish to Elmira —

    This is a 273‑kilometre ride across PEI from Tignish to Elmira on the Confederation Trail. It’s an easy ride, too, that can comfortably be completed over five days along a mostly flat gravel trail. If quaint maritime villages and views across the Northumberland Strait aren’t enough to keep this ride exciting, bikepackers can use their GPS to track down up to 1,600 geocache sites along the route.

Brook Pond in Newfoundland
Newfoundland T’Railway, Grand Bay West to St. John’s.   Photo: Wikipedia
  1. Bikepacking in Newfoundland: Newfoundland T’Railway, Grand Bay West to St. John’s —

    Ten days and 880 kilometres of rail‑grade gravel trails link St. John’s and Grand Bay West along the Newfoundland T’Railway route. The scenery is spectacular, especially along the Long Range Mountains, Codroy Valley and Gaff Topsail region. Plenty of rail history remains, as well, in the small towns along the route and over the original bridge spans in Stephenville Crossing and Bishop Falls. While it’s impossible to count on good weather, an August or September ride should bring warm temperatures and coincide with prime blueberry season – the fruits are abundant along the entire trail.

 

Jeff Bartlett is an adventure photographer and filmmaker based in the Canadian Rockies. Bikepacking is an integral part of both his work and his personal life, including his recent short film Choosing to Live and his various adventures across Canada and around the globe.