At Ontario Parks, we are constantly looking for ways to promote both the health and well-being of our visitors and the parks we protect.
The importance of spending time in nature is well documented in scientific research and we embody our efforts to promote spending more time in nature through our Healthy Parks Healthy People movement.
Provincial parks are great places to enjoy nature, but have you ever thought about incorporating time in nature into the way you enjoy it? get to your favorite park?
Introducing the Bike Package!
Also commonly known as cycle touring, bikepacking is by no means a new phenomenon. There is a long history of traveling by bicycle embedded in our collective cultural fabrics around the world.
While it may seem complicated, the concept is actually quite simple: the next time you visit a park, consider riding a bike to get there!
Whether you’re visiting for the day or at night, your bike is a great tool for getting you where you want to go. Not only is it one of the most efficient tools for human-powered travel, but it is also environmentally friendly, healthy and fun!
Ontario has a growing community of “bikepackers” and we are joining this trend.
To help you experience life on two wheels, we’ve compiled some information to make your next bike tour go smoothly.
What you will need
A bicycle! That’s practically all.
Seriously, one of the best things about bikepacking is that all you need to get started is a bike in good working order.
While there are certain features in a bike that cyclists appreciate, almost any bike will work for a bike trip on a fundamental level.
And of course, don’t forget your helmet!
There’s an ethos in the bikepacking community that captures this simplicity: “Run what you brought,” meaning you should use the gear you already have at your disposal.
Traveling by bicycle should be simple, economical and relaxing.
For those planning an overnight bike trip, your existing camping gear will probably suffice. Backpackers and canoe campers, you’re probably ready to go with your existing camping gear.
One of the best parts of riding a bike? Your bike does all the heavy lifting!
There are countless ways to load your bike with all the gear you’ll need (and then some) for your bike trips.
This includes everything from special racks and bags designed specifically for bikes, to DIY solutions for transporting your gear by bike. The Internet is full of ideas for both, so take some time to explore your options.
Over time, you will develop preferences that work best for your riding style.
Planning your trip
Once your equipment is ready, it’s time to plan your first trip.
It is generally recommended to choose a destination close to your home to use as an “experience” tour, allowing you to test out your bike and gear on a shorter trip before embarking on more distant destinations.
When planning your first trip, consider a route that has plenty of options, such as nearby public transportation or multiple camping locations at various points along your route in case you get delayed.
Other considerations include the actual route you will take and whether you will spend time on roads or trails.
For many, avoiding roads (especially busy ones) is a strong route planning preference.
In Ontario (especially southern Ontario), we have numerous trails that lead to various parts of the province, many of them near provincial parks.
To plan a route, there are many resources on the Internet that will guide your planning.
There are websites dedicated to cycling that have articles on how to plan your first trips, as well as mapping resources like Google Maps that have specific layers for cycling infrastructure.
When planning your route, it may be helpful to consider the information available from trail organizations such as the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and TransCanada Trail to see which parks are near these established routes.
Ultimately, the most important part of visiting parks by bike is staying safe. A key factor in safety is planning trips that are within your limitations.
By keeping trips manageable, you’ll ensure that your next bike park visit is a relaxing, enjoyable and healthy way to spend time in nature.
Once you arrive at the park, remember properly store your food, especially if you are camping in bear country. We recommend contacting your destination(s) in advance to see if there are food storage lockers available or if food supplies are available for purchase. Alternatively, learn how to properly hang a food bag.
Here are some bike packing ideas to get you started.
Whichever destination you choose, thoroughly research your plans before embarking on your visit. These routes are for superficial informational purposes only.
Everyone’s situation is different. From comfort, capability and experience, make sure the routes you take are right for you.
Route 1: Toronto to Darlington Provincial Park
For those in the GTA, take this great walk following the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail from Toronto to Darlington.
Located near the city of Oshawa, Darlington is a great destination for new and experienced cyclists due to the established and well-traveled route along Lake Ontario, the opportunity to easily find food and other supplies along the route, and the possibility of using GO. Transit’s Lakeshore East train line to customize the distance and difficulty of your route.
The trail from Toronto to Darlington is quite scenic, with frequent views of Lake Ontario. You’ll also pass through different environments like Scarborough Bluffs and Rouge National Urban Park as you progress along the trail.
Since the trail runs through downtown Toronto, it is accessible both by other trails and by public transportation from many surrounding communities.
Route 2: From Barrie to Awenda Provincial Park (and beyond!)
Travel from Barrie to Awenda on the Simcoe County Loop Trail.
The approximately 75km stretch from Barrie to Penatanishene (near Awenda) runs mainly along a former railway corridor that was converted into a multi-use trail.
This means the trail is very level with few elevation changes and the riding surface is well compacted and smooth.
The route is mostly car-free, apart from a short stretch from Barrie to the trailhead and from Penatatainingene to Awenda.
Overnight parking can be found in Barrie and GO Transit passengers may consider taking a GO train or bus to downtown Barrie to begin the trip.
Those looking for a bigger adventure should consider the rest of the Simcoe County Loop Trail, which continues east from Penatatainingene to Coldwater, then south through Orillia.
Stops at Bass Lake Provincial Park, Mara Provincial Park, and McRae Provincial Park make this a weekend-worthy, up-close and natural bike trip experience.
Create your own trip to parks along Lake Huron and Lake Erie
The shores of Lake Huron and Lake Erie offer excellent biking potential!
There are countless provincial parks along the shores of these lakes that are connected by the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.
On the Lake Huron side, most provincial parks are located approximately 40 to 100 kilometers away, allowing visitors to completely customize the length of travel required per day to best fit the experience they are seeking.
Examples of Lake Huron Provincial Parks to consider include:
On the shores of Lake Erie, provincial park options include:
Next time you plan a visit to Ontario parks, consider leaving the car at home and take your next trip on two wheels!